Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blog surfing, casteism etc...

I have been blog surfing for the last few days. I must say I came across quite a few interesting ones. The most attractive blog title was Anna Mosaranna. Being the eternal mosaranna (curd rice) lover, I realised that I shared this passion with at least one other person: the mystery writer of Anna Mosaranna from Boston. Anyway, another potential Thayir Saadam blog was that of Asal Tamizh Penn. It's humorous, and makes for good bedtime-reading. But, these blogs, coupled with a repeat telecast of the Big Fight on NDTV yesterday on racism, set me thinking about things that one is not supposed to take seriously anyway.

To start with Anna Mosaranna, à la Anna Karenina, it says very little about mosaranna of any kind. It devotes itself, rather disappointingly, to the principles of Economics, both real and imagined. :-( Moving on, Asal Tamizh Penn is, well, very Tamizh. While I recognise and appreciate the humour with which most of her posts are written, a tiny bit of me can't help but wonder why we Indians are so...clannish. It's not as if I am the most inclusive and tolerant person in the universe. But, I try. I try very hard to sound as cosmopolitan as I possibly can. Despite my best efforts I do sound very Tamizh sometimes, notwithstanding the fact that I am not Tamil, at least, not genetically. I mean, are we not better off without out caste-based, language-based, region-based, or whatever-else-based identities? Why must I be expected to behave in a certain way simply because I was born into a certain caste/religion/region etc.? Every post by Asal Tamizh Penn (henceforth known as ATP because the name is too long to type) reinforces a stereotype. Want to know what?
  1. All Tamilians are obsessed with Engineering and Mathematics
  2. Tamil = Brahmin = Vadama Iyer (or Vaathima or Brahacharanam or Iyengar depending on who the writer is)
  3. All Tamilians watch Metti Oli (or whatever else is on now) on Sun TV as against Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Girlfriend Thi (oops! Bahu Thi...) on Star TV
  4. All Tamilians can't speak (or refuse to speak) Hindi because it is injurious to their rather fragile Tamizh pride
  5. The only place worth living in (if you are Tamil and Brahmin) is the overly crowded and increasingly intolerable T Nagar.
  6. All Tamilian parents have this general obsession of getting their sons married to a nice, well-educated, homely, fair, intelligent, and cooks-like-Madisaar Maami Tamizh girl. Actually, that is true of most Indian parents irrespective of language or region. Just replace Madisaar Maami with Sanjeev Kapoor and you get the general idea.
This, and many more stereotypes are reinforced by Ms. ATP. Well, you know, there are people in Chennai. People who are not Brahmin, Tamil or engineers. As unlikely as it may seem, the rest of the world is not as...uhm...stuck up...as our conformists are. What's this about conformism anyway? Why is it so hep to be conformist? Guys, cmon! Lighten up. It's fun to break rules. It's fun not to be traditional. Ever tried sneaking into the kitchen when mum is not around to steal a sweet or a toffee? You must try it some day. It's thrilling beyond measure. I assure you it's just as thrilling not to be Asal Tamizh Penn. Try being not-so-asal. It's fun.

Ok...now, moving on to the Big Fight. It was pretty ridiculous to see intelligent individuals talk about how racist India is. Casteist, well...that's true. But racists? How the hell can Indians be racist when there are so many different skin colours within India itself. Of course, being fair is considered paramount for women. But not too many people really care about the complexion of men. And, the last time I checked, Andrew Symonds was a man. It's simply stupid to argue that Indians taunted Symonds because he was black. Other Australian, English, Pakistani and Sri Lankan players have been taunted by spectators. Of course, such behaviour cannot be condoned, but to call it racist abuse is simply going overboard. All I can say is, let's stop exaggerating issues and tackle those issues that really need to be addressed. Can't decide what is important? How about female foeticide, education for all, economic development and empowerment of lower castes? Symonds is a sportsman. He must learn to deal with crowd behaviour. Nothing can be done to 70,000 spectators. The mindset must change. And that change will take time. In the meantime, the Australians would do well to learn a lesson or two about not racially abusing people too.

3 comments:

chokka thangam said...

You must be joking if you think Indians are not racist. Well I am from Chennai and I travelled with a sports team to Ajmer in the north and whenever we played, we could hear stuff like kaalia, kaala etc being bandied about in the crowd. We were of course a bit sad that they could not think of anything more creative and were just as dumb as the north indian stereotypes we were used to. But you get the point. I am pretty sure any northeast indian's experience in north india will be the same. Andrew Symmonds is a black man and black men dont get much respect in places like north india. Even Chennai and Bangalore may be colour concious, but at least not as much and not so overtly. North Indians on the other hand, it would be stupid to deny they grudgingly admire whites and openly despise blacks. So please dont preach such b.s.

Amrutha said...

Chokka Thangam: Many things...

1) I am not preaching anything. Please read the comment policy before you leave a comment next time. This is my blog and I will say what I please. You are free to disagree. I never said everyone must follow what I tell them to. That is neither acceptable to me, nor feasible.

2) I never said Indians were perfect human beings in any of my posts. If you had bothered to spend some time reading other posts, you would know what. I just said "racism" is an inappropriate term. We are casteist, colour-conscious, sexist, chauvinistic. But racist? I am not so sure because the concept of race is so...blurred in India. All the incidents you mention stem from the colour conscious attitude of the Indian people and not from the race of the person concerned.

Lastly, when you comment, I would appreciate it, like many of my readers would if you refrained from using harsh language. I will not delete the comment because you have made a point that is impossible to ignore, but you have gained no brownie points by sounding rude. Thanks for visiting my blog anyway.

rags said...

Well actually I quite don't agree with you that Indians are not racist. What does racism mean? Racism is to put it directly, discrimination based on a person's colour. And I see a hell lot of a discrimination based on a person's color right here in Tamilnadu( Yes, I'm a tamil too). They are not overt as in the West but they do exist in subtler forms. This should be seen through the lens of caste discrmination because in India racism and casteism is firmly intertwined. As a general thumb rule you will see that upper casstes are considerably lighter in color compared to the lower castes (there are exceptions too). Hence a person's color is commonly used to know that person's caste status. And this plays in many ways. I have commonly noticed that entries to pubs, discotheques and other such hep places are slightly color coded. They look at you differently as though you are out of place and not the right "crowd". I assume this is not directly casteist but because of the association between affluency and upper caste. You could apply the reverse rule and say that servants, domestic helps and those doing menial jobs are usually dark skinned and belong to lower castes. This is because of the historic discrimination that they have faced for several thousand years and because most of their parents could not secure a good education for them. If you do a survey based on per capita income you will see that the lowest castes will be at the bottom and most likely they will be dark. Let us leave society for a moment and come to popular cinema. Most of popular cinema (bollywood and regional cinema) reaffirm that white is right. Usually in movies have you noticed that the villains are usually the darkest (Tamil cinema now however has dark heroes too though the discrimination on dark skinned heroines continue). Infact bollywood has become so racist that the actors and actresses look more like Iranians and the closest you will come to see of a dark skinned person in the movies is a coolie. Nandita das is one of the few with a pan Indian appeal. Switch to advertisements. The horrid fairness creams ads which constantly beam the message that you are a nothing with a dark skin... isn't this racism? Infact if thses ads had been put in some other developed country they would have been banned on charges of racism.(i've written about this in my blog). Leave the fairness creams. What about general ads.? How many dark skinned persons do you see in ads (though India is predominantly dark skinned). I dont have to remind you about matrimonial ads either. How many people marry outside their caste? And why do people so commonly want fair skinned brides? The truth is that by color coding people you can effectively filter out the poor, dalits, untouchables and lower castes. That is how it is used in India. Isn't that discrimination? If this isn't then I don't know what is. Last of all I'll ask you a very simple question. If Mr.Rajiv Gandhi had married a black Afro American you think she would have reached the level of Ms.Sonia Gandhi? (I have to add that Sonia has never done anything spectacular to be where she is now). You think a country would have voted for a dark skinned woman? Think about it. How many Dalit Prime Ministers have we had? Casteism and racism are unavoidable realities of India and the sooner we realize this the better.