This week brought about a setback for some people, and by ‘people’, I mean ‘cretinous racist Indian slime’. I’m talking about the majority that gives us a bad name by referring to North-East Indians as ‘chinkis’, showing off their ignorance like it were some revered family relic that has been passed down from generation to generation through years of inbreeding.
They have many slurs at their disposal, but the word ‘chinki’ came into focus when the Home Ministry asked all states and union territories to book anyone charged with racial abuse against North-East Indians under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act). Usage of the word could technically earn you a five-year jail term. This seems a bit draconian, but I guess the Home Ministry wants to treat offenders the same way they treat actual North-East Indians.
The efficacy of this law is in question because in matters of race, our cops possess the brains of dirt. These are cops who, when recently asked to pick up potential Tibetan dissidents in Delhi in anticipation of the Chinese premier’s visit, rounded up as many North-East Indians as they could find, because hey, Tibetan equals Manipuri equals Jet Li. I’m sure they’ll someday arrest Hu Jintao on suspicion of being Tibetan. That’s bound to be awkward:
Cop: Hey! You’re under arrest for looking Tibetan!
Hu: But I’m Chinese.
Cop: Whatever. China Tibet same thing.
Hu: That’s what we’ve been saying all along!
Delhiites were shocked and angered by the police action, but only because they had to cancel their momo lunches and salon appointments. We’re talking about people who think Irom Sharmila is Saif Ali Khan’s mother, so yes, it’ll take more than a law to end discrimination.
It’s because India is so incredibly racist. We’re the country that hates being brown so much, we invented a colour called ‘wheatish’. I cannot think of a less sexy way to describe somebody. ‘Wheatish’ reminds me of wheat, which makes me think of starving farmers and Sharad Pawar, and in terms of sex appeal, that’s just one step away from taking a shotgun to your testicles.
Also, growing up dark-skinned in India (as I did) is quite an international experience, because every variant of ‘nigger’ is imported and Indianised for your convenience, be it “kaaliya”, “blackie” and even “ebony”, which is strange because that’s my secret stripper name. (You don’t even want to know what ‘The Dark Knight’ refers to.)
See, that’s the problem with most racist humour; it’s trite and unoriginal. If I had a buck for every time I’ve been told “Hey if we switch off the light, you’ll be invisible haha lolz so funny”, then I’d be able to buy Antilla, and use it to project a giant middle finger into the night sky.
We harp on about “unity in diversity”, but what really unites us is our uniform contempt for each other. We have a bunch of ready-to-use communal stereotypes at any given point. You know the ones I mean: Delhi men will hump a shadow on a wall if it looks feminine enough. A Bengali man’s idea of foreplay is calling up his mother and asking if it’s ok to proceed. The only thing louder than a Gujarati is his shirt. Ratan Tata’s Nano can seat his entire community. The only females available to Haryanvi men for marriage are buffaloes. It doesn’t matter if he is a comatose quadriplegic – a Goan man can always play the guitar. Also, if a Tam-Brahm kid hasn’t joined an IIT, mastered a classical instrument and visited 45271 temples by the age of six, his parents are shunned by the community and sent off to Sri Lanka.
If you found those jokes clichéd, then thank you, because they are. But as a stand-up comedian, I can tell you that they work beautifully across the country. So clearly, while race and community aren’t invitations for abuse, they aren’t subjects to be tip-toed around either. We’re an eclectic disaster of a country, and there’s some solace in knowing that no matter where we come from, we’re all equally messed up. Unless you’re North Indian. Those guys are nuts.
(This is my HT column dated 10th June 2012. Originally posted here.)