Some Indians and foreigners in India are openly prejudiced and will do nothing about it

A brown-skinned Indian’s first-hand experience of racial discrimination and discrimination against cycling discrimination in his own country.

 

A fellow wiser than me once said,

“Learning a foreign language not only reveals how other societies think and feel, what they have experienced and value, and how they express themselves, it also provides a cultural mirror in which we can more clearly see our own society.”

And, so I decided to take up learning French at the Alliance Française, a credible and reputed French learning centre in New Delhi.

I took the morning classes with my friend, J, who is Hungarian. Since the beginning of the course, she has been commuting on her bicycle. She parks her bicycle in the institute premises, where the security guards park their cycles. I’m an avid cyclist myself but I haven’t been riding for a few months after an ankle injury. I decided to bike to class for the first time today. But, that’s where my smooth ride ended and I confronted the sad reality of discrimination in my own country. Here is what happened…

As I got there and tried to park my cycle, in the usual place where my friend parks, I was denied entry. I was told the parking was ‘off bounds’ for visitors and was for security guards only. I was a bit surprised, already knowing that my friend parks there regularly, but, nonetheless, I complied and waited outside. J arrived 10 minutes later and as usual, parked her cycle in the same spot. The security guard noticing my presence, immediately got into action and told her she can’t park there either. After watching their argument for a few minutes, I questioned him about the preferential treatment and how he allowed a white person to park there all this while, but when I tried to do the same I was handed out a completely different treatment. He replied in the negative and went on to say in Hindi that she was the instructor’s daughter. What he didn’t realize was we go to the same class and we have the same instructor. He is an Indian man. I asked him does she even look like his daughter. Also, J speaks fluent Hindi and jumped in to restate what I asked. He was embarrassed. I was disgusted and insisted that I will park my bike there. That’s exactly what I did.

Now, it could have been passed off as a one off incident, as I know that expats sometimes do get special treatment for the obvious reason — they are white! But, to my surprise, after our class got over, the Academic Director, a French national, wanted to talk to J and me about the incident. Apparently the security guard had informed her. We went over to her office, she immediately acknowledged J’s presence and started discussing the situation with her. She did not look at me, it seemed like I was non-existent to her. Trying to avoid awkwardness, I joined the conversation, but was immediately silenced. Now, I can understand her affinity to a fellow European, but given her position, this was not expected from her. She gave me vague reasons about insurance policies not covering bicycles. I asked her about the row of bicycles already parked there. These belonged to some of the employees but hey, you’re an organization that collects fees from students and why would you not provide parking space for bicycles? As for my friend J, she was termed plain “lucky” to have gone unnoticed and invisible in the eyes of the security guards.

As for me, I was “unlucky” that the security guard noticed me. I called her out on such blatant prejudice. At this point, the director got defensive and was swift in telling me that the guard has been fired. If that was not enough, she went ahead and asked me if I’m happy now! And thus, bringing forth her “humane” side, which I obviously didn’t have, for I was the reason he got fired. Feeling her blunt psychological blackmail, J and I left the room. Update: I later found that she has no power to fire the guard. The guard did not lose his job, he still has it. He has been transfered to another location. She represents Alliance Française and one would expect her behavior to be fair and unbiased. This hurts the credibility of an institution that promotes French language and culture in India.

Should one just accept such preferential treatment?

At the very least, should she have apologized on behalf of the organization she represents?

Is she right to have supposedly fired the guard, making him the scapegoat and using it to taunt me? Update: She has no power to fire him. He has not actually lost his job, merely transfered to another location.

Can someone in her position, representing a credible institution of learning and France’s culture, be so openly racist be so undiplomatic and rude?

Should cyclists be given parking in a building open to public, where fees are collected from students?

“That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes…

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race…”

— Bob Marley

Edits:
This article was previously titled: “Indians and foreigners in India are openly prejudiced and will do nothing about it”.
Added a Bob Marley song.

Don't keep calm, it won't stop racism


ShareTwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+

22 thoughts on “Some Indians and foreigners in India are openly prejudiced and will do nothing about it

  1. viraat harsh

    The guard being brown skinned himself probably was victim of the same racial discrimination that he was showing towards you.. He might not have been fired if he was French or White himself.. As for you, you are learning not just French language but also the culture.

  2. MountainLion

    Very sad, that too coming from the Head of a Cultural exchange Institution held in high regard by the public. One should not criticise her or the guard. Mere pawns…it’s the attitude of society which has evolved rather sadly in the large cities. My friends from Africa have had a bad time too. So let’s be aware and what about Atthiti Devo Bhava!?

  3. Jimmy DHINCHAK !!!

    Alright, here is my 50 paise.. I think the guard was not racist or discriminating. He was simply feeling inferior in front of J and so he never dared ask her to park her bike somewhere else.

    But today, a desi guy shows up on a ‘SAAI-KILL’ and so he instantly sprang into action for what he has been trained. He sees you waiting for J to arrive and so today he told her that she could not park here either. You got in a spat and things went out of control leading to the guard getting fired.

    Who is at fault here ??

    The guard deserved to get fired because he never stopped J from parking her bike where it wasnt permitted. He brought it upon himself. So if next time **** asks you if you are happy, say ‘yes you are’ because the guard was incompetent and ‘every’ incompetent person deserves to get fired.

    Besides, **** could have provided the guard with a second chance but she decided not to. So if there is anyone else who is responsible for what happened to that ‘poor guard’, its her and not you or J.

    Further, you decided to experience french culture.. and so you got it bro ! :thumbs up: :big grin:

    1. aftab

      I am totally agree with Jimmy. We indians are exactly like the Security guard. We give preference to a White people because we think they are superior.

  4. Raju

    Call me naive, but I fail to understand how this can be perceived as racism and not plain favoritism towards girls. I mean I’ve seen girls getting away a lot of times just because they are girls. This can be one such instance maybe?

  5. Prashant Budhani

    I am more angry than disappointed to hear that happening in India that too by a foreigner and indeed that guard did nothing but followed his foreign boss. This link will help you http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/petitions/.
    What you have described violated Section 5 of Indian human rights and therefore you can lodge your complain at National Human Rights Commission India.You may file a complaint by sending it via post or you may fax it at 91-11-23382911/23382734 or you can also email your complaint at covdnhrc@nic.in .
    It is advisable to submit the complaint in the prescribed format. You may download the format from http://nhrc.nic.in/Documents/Compformat.pdf
    You can also do it online at http://164.100.51.57/HRComplaint/pub/NewHRComplaint.aspx.
    And I believe that you must file your complaint, don’t just post make sure you make them pay for their mistakes especially the director Academic Director, ****

  6. Nivruti

    All my life, I have tried to not categorize or stereotype a particular race, culture, or country as a whole; because experience has taught me that every society consists of people with varied mindsets. I traveled to France once, and though I did encounter racism to a certain extent (being Indian), I also came across people who were warm, hospitable and extremely helpful.
    Narrow-minded people exist everywhere.

  7. Mia

    Well , this is expected from the French…its their “culture”. I have experienced it first hand , as there is a relative of mine who has married a french man , he calls Indians ‘savages’!!

    I have also experienced racism in Goa . Houses that say ‘available for rent – only to foreigners” , or a tattoo artist from Germany claiming that his shop is shut , when ever Indians go there for a tattoo … Menus that are only in Russian… why even Indians are racist to each other… the caste system is still prevalent…

  8. johnsmith501566996vik

    You are pulling the race card here, but i’d rather put it to the athithi devo bhava (guest is god) culture and upbringing that we are given to. We are a culture that puts the guest before self and I think the guard was just being courteous towards your ‘firang’ friend.

  9. Jardine

    Hey Arun….sorry about this incident…Having worked as a diplomat in India, I was also subject to such racism from fellow European diplomats…..It is an unfortunate reality!

  10. castella

    I am white and English.I have visited India many times for holidays and have to agree that we are treated as being superior.Restaurants that are happy to see our white faces are less happy to greet us when we go with Indian friends.

  11. Clément

    Hey Arun, sorry to hear about the incident.

    There’s one question I’d like to ask you. Why did the article change in some parts between last night and tonight?

    I would be curious to know the reason why this morning the title was “Indians and foreigners in India are racist and will do nothing about it” and tonight it is: “Some Indians and foreigners in India are openly prejudiced and will do nothing about it”. And I would like to know as well why did this sentence about **** become this tonight “Can someone in ****’s position, representing a credible institution of learning and France’s culture, be so undiplomatic and rude?” instead of this last night “Can someone in ****’s position, representing a credible institution of learning and France’s culture, be so openly racist?”…

    You know, by modifying your article you have lost your credibility. At least you should assume what you wrote…

    A French citizen living in Delhi who got really hurt and shocked by this article, I mean, the other version, not this one, the one with the words Racist… Sorry, but I kept a copy of it !

    Clément.

    1. Arun

      Hello, Salut, Clément,

      Yes, I removed references to the words racist because I didn’t want to make the interpretation myself. By calling it racist myself, some people suggested that I’m after sensationalism, I’m not. I have experienced this ugly reality first-hand and continue to experience it. So I decided instead to clearly present the facts and let the audience conclude themselves. Yes, my own personal conclusion is that it’s racist.

      Since you have pointed out a very important element, I will update the blog right away and put the older edition in a different formatting, so that readers are aware.

      Also, just so you know, I’ve added a Bob Marley song about the colour of our skin.

      Cheers and have a good weekend.

  12. The great Indian

    I want to know the meaning of LIBERTÉ, EGALITÉ ET FRATERNITÉ from French people as it is the National Motto of France. La divise de la republique française. They are so untrue for their nation’s slogan. They don’t understand the liberty, the equality and the brotherhood…..

  13. Kaustav Chakravarthy

    Most people go through something like this and just shrug it off. Great that you decided to blog about it. The Head of AF Gurgaon who also plays a key role at AF Delhi is a friend. I’m going to make sure she reads this blog entry, for whatever it is worth.

  14. Clément

    I’ll tell you the truth, Now you’re just trying to make things a little bit smoother and try to avoid the use of words like racist an such. I am sorry but it’s too late, you already used it and changing your article like this, even adding the Bob Marley song and changing the poster mentioning the fight against racism is just pathetic, I am sorry to tell you that.

    Actually, what you do not know is that I know ***** very well and she is a friend of mine. I have heard today about the real story and what actually happened that day in the office. To be honest with you, you should be ashamed of openly insulting people like that and insulting the Alliance Française Institution which is not responsible for the behaviour of that guard. He clearly misbehaved towards you, but this ignorant guard does not act in the name of Alliance and French people since the security company hired by Alliance is managed by Indian people who actually decide about the rules and regulations.

    What you’ve done is called defamation and it’s punishable by law.

    I understand that your were shocked that day, that you felt ashamed. I would have felt the same if I had been you. You have the right to complain about this, that’s absolutely fine. But there is a difference between making up a story that arranges you and the point you’re trying to make –> foreigners being racist in India. But there’s something I think you’re not allowed to do: to insult openly and publicly the director of AFD, the Institution and French people.

    Furthermore, I would like to add that such things have an opposite effect, they actually enhance misunderstangins between cultures and people. When I read in a comment: “Well , this is expected from the French…its their “culture” by Mia, I am sorry but I call this pure hatred and you contributed to this with this made up story. I prefer not to comment on this one: “And I believe that you must file your complaint, don’t just post make sure you make them pay for their mistakes especially the director Academic Director, *****
    I REALLY HATE IT WHEN SOME FUCKING FOREIGNER DO IT HERE”. It actually makes me very sad.

    Please, be careful with what you write in the future and please weigh your words.

    Clément.

    1. S

      Dear Clement,

      I have been noticing this thread for a while, & I’d like to raise a couple of ideas too.

      I agree with some things you mention, & I too feel Arun should’ve added the edits in the proper fashion. I am happy to see the reasons now exist in public, for the change, etc.

      Your unhappiness at some of the comments that use foul language is also well-taken. In fact, I would suggest that caution may be exercised in moderating some of these comments, but that’s upto the blog-owner.

      I am, though, baffled by a few claims on your part. If ****/ Alliance (in her acting as the head, I see them as one) are not handling the security, how did she fire the guard so swiftly? Isn’t that a little fishy? And, if she can indeed address concerns on her premises this swiftly, then why make that distinction between what gets managed by who.

      Ideally, these logistics should not deter the acting head of an office to ensure certain guidelines. I guess, as her friend, you could advise her to be more vigilant of what passes under her nose in the future. I feel uncomfortable making such a statement, but given that you feel rather at ease making unofficial threats on behalf of her/ her office/ the institution, I’m sure some productive feedback could be sent her way too via the same medium.

      I am also anxious to note the ease with which you find Arun’s protest against the guard’s behaviour plausible (& hence, the action taken justifiable), whereas when he protests against ****’s behaviour, you deem the same person spurious. May I point out that this itself has implicit biases – I do not claim to know whether these are race, class, or ethnicity related, & I am willing to allow that they may just be populist conventions that one conveniently follows.

      But do remember that what transpired in the office has 3 witnesses. I for sure would like to take into account what J has to say about the matter.

      Also, since the official Alliance page was marked when Arun shared this for the first time online on Facebook, so none of this can be construed merely as whimsical defamation. If there is no truth to it, why would a student bait his peace & take on an institute’s head!

  15. Dina

    To answer Clement above, I think it is fair for the author to point out that he was treated as invisible when he went to speak to the Director. That is a type of racism. Why did she make him feel this way ? The only thing worse than priveledge is not being able to see it in yourself.

    I know this can be construed as sweeping generlaisations, but from my time in Delhi working for an international organisation, I also came across French people who were rude and borderline racist. Of course this is not all French people, but when you meet a mix of nationalities and consistently French folk among them are making inappropriate remarks you begin to wonder. I am not building on stereotypes and I have lived in Europe but this is not just from my own experience. A friend of mine said a French colleague called India a dump and the people stupid around a dinner table converstaion. Another guy (French) I met asked me how the landlord agreed to let me stay with foreigners in a expat shared flat as I was Indian??? Uhh ?? It took me a good few minutes to realise he what he was saying. I mean to most people these things are inappropriate. Dunno. Just my thoughts and experiences. I still like French wine.

  16. Sumit

    Having lived in the US for 7 years, I’ve learned that most people feel uncomfortable talking about prejudice/racism, let alone resolving a conflict like this face to face with a person from a different race. Maybe the Academic Director was too embarrassed to talk to you about this in the beginning, so she tried to discuss it with your friend? And perhaps that’s why she overcompensated for it all by firing this poor guard?

    Don’t know how it all went down, but I do understand how you might have felt for a moment. I would describe the feeling as being slapped in a room full of strangers and not knowing where to look. You’re angry and all kinds of thoughts race through your head.

    I’m glad you changed the title of this article. Its definitely a case of preferential treatment by the guard. I don’t know what it is, but our people have a real inferiority complex when it comes to dealing with Caucasians. After 400 years of imperial rule, we still want to please them and kiss their behinds (talking about the guard here). An example is how many people from our parents’ generation still refer to white people as “Shaheb” and “Memshaheb”, even though they never had to be slaves or anything. Stop being insecure people! We are as superior and can be as small-minded as any other race on the face of this planet. We are all humans!

  17. Brahma

    This is something we should be ashamed off, however this I have seen in the temples in Varanasi, that only Japs and Mongoloid faces are allowed and over that only they can buy those souvenirs which are sold in temple premise, not us, by the same Indian shopkeepers which are having the stalls inside.

Comments are closed.