"You Indians are good in sweeping and mopping," an Australian commented on me while I was working part-time with a global fast-food joint in Brisbane. The lady's comment left me enraged, but honestly speaking, I could not respond because the statement came as a bolt from the blue. I had been in Brisbane for just two months at that time, and hence was not prepared for such a remark on my nationality. That was just the beginning of my tryst with racism.
Recent incidents related to alleged racist bias against Indians in IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders and at an airport by Air France has forced me to pen down my encounter with racism in Australia, referred to as a 'multi-cultural country'. Although I continue to have a number of Australian friends, I still feel the pain of being the target of racist comments during my stay in Brisbane, just because the colour of my skin was different and I hailed from India, still looked upon by many as the country full of poverty.
I was consciously reminded again and again that I am a Brown, an Indian, to downgrade me. Well, I proudly call myself an Indian, and pity those who look down on others because they have a dark skin, directly hurting their own country's image.
"I support underdogs," a British commented when a friend of mine asked him about the reason behind his support to the Indian cricket team. I was shocked to hear when another Indian friend told me that an Australian refused to take food from his hands because of his brown skin. Brown-skinned people, whether Indians, or Asians for that matter, are often the soft targets of goons or 'bad elements' in some parts of Australian cities. Recently, an Indian was robbed and beaten up in a moving train in Melbourne. And surely, there are a number of incidents that go unreported.
"How did you afford to come to Australia?" is an oft-asked question there, as for White-skinned people Indians are synonymous with poverty. "The country is producing billionaires, Sir," used to be my reply when faced with this question. I wrote White-skinned because the term actually includes Europeans, Americans, British and Australians. I wonder how they fail to recall the poverty in their respective country. Physicians, heal thyself!
Why is it so that we Indians (most of us, especially those who haven't travelled abroad) are crazy about foreigners and not vice-versa? Why do they not look at us with same excitement and enthusiastic smiles when we visit their countries?
One of my neighbours has trade links with a Russian. He invited the Russian lady to his daughter's wedding, and the whole 'desi mohalla' almost died for getting a picture clicked with that 'videshi mahila'. Strange!
Why do foreigners get more respect than us in our own country? While chatting with a colleague of mine the other day, I was told that a guard at a shop only reluctantly opened the door for him. However, the same guard did not only whole-heartedly welcome foreigners, but also bowed his head in respect.
I guess the almighty dollar plays a big role in our attitude towards foreigners. But are we really so poor that we are ready to sell our country's respect to gain a few dollars? We do not need to hang our heads in shame, I believe.
Speaking off-the-cuff, I feel most of the time that we get racially abused by foreigners, because we feel that way for ourselves. The colonial attitude has failed to peter out in our mindset. For most of us Indians, a White-skinned person is always right. We feel thrilled if we get to talk to a foreigner even once in our lifetime.
My experience teaches me that the more we try to imitate the English people, the more we lose ourselves. Here, 'we' refers to 'Indians'. We can wear international brands, copy the American or British accent, or for that matter, get the residency permits, but one thing can never change and that is the skin of our colour. We will always be Brown, and always Indians. I am proud to be one, are you?
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