Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Once again the prattle on Indian citizens’ physical appearances has our political parties, the media, individuals, vociferous champions of Northeasterners and those who have nothing better to do in tight granny knots. In short, the kind of people, who expose their superficial and “little knowledge” but are basically attention-seekers pretending to be relevant in the larger national discourse. All thanks to Sam Pitroda, former Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, who in an exclusive interview with The Statesman, while describing India’s diversity said it’s a country where “people in East look like Chinese, people in West look like Arab, people in North look like maybe White and people in South look like Africa”. Since we now live in a world where people are so easily offended, read so much more between and beyond the lines and have past mastered the art, culture, science and technology of distorting everything and every word uttered, so what Sam Pitroda said has been condemned as something terribly racist. But aren’t people of the Northeast of the Mongolian stock so don’t we look like people of eastern countries? If not, why do we Northeasterners make a big deal when we are mistaken as Nepalese, Chinese, Japanese, etc., in Indian metropolises? Having been mistaken for a foreigner in Mizoram, a Sikkimese in Sikkim, Nepalese in Nepal, Thai in Thailand, etc., which indubitably is a general experience of a lot of Northeasterners, why make a big deal out of it, especially because we don’t look like what is generally perceived, thought and believed as the “Indian” look. Besides, if we sulk on being mistaken for or called a Chinese, Korean, Nepalese, etc., what does it say about our own prejudices and biases, our own racism? It is time for citizens of India to learn and accept the difference between racial ethnicities and citizenship. India is a cauldron of numerous ethnicities and all of us together make the citizenship of India. In any case, who can authoritatively say this or that ethnic group are the pure/real Indians? Centuries of migrations from across the globe and inter-marriages have led to what we look like ~ there is no point is making a national issue of it now. Open, liberal democracies have generally welcomed legal migrants and immigrants, which have led to great development, growth, progress and prosperity ~ for instance the United States. Despite racial fissures, the democratic maturity of US has managed all ethnicities of her citizens, albeit with countless hits and countless misses but the project of integrating US citizens carries on. In India our focus ought to be on how to best nurture all citizens and create the most conducive atmosphere and environment to realize our potentials and not waste time, energy and print and technological resources on our appearances. Worse still, make a political issue of our physical appearances on the electoral platform ~ as if there are no other existential issues for the entire country to discourse on. Such focus on physical appearances at a national level during the parliamentary elections also exposes the immaturity of our political parties and leaders, the media and all kinds of know-it-alls, which contributes to the country’s low maturity quotient as a democracy. It is also imperative that the media carefully select people to interview, for individuals to know when to speak and when to zip it, what to talk about and how to present it. There is so much the media can highlight in the interest of the country but alas, today the media finds personality-centric journalism more profitable. Then we must soul-search why today we feel the need to react to everything and everyone. Were we born this way or is our upbringing flawed? Or, is technology responsible for loosening of our tongues? There are three things to keep in mind: (1) there is an ongoing election that deserves sincerity and seriousness for the outcome will determine our future; (2) Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth ~ so said Marcus Aurelius; (3) Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important ~ so said T S Eliot.