Friday, January 19, 2007

The Shilpa Shetty Row

For those Stateside, who're missing the Biggest Story on the News ... here's a neat summary at the English section of Der Spiegel on the racist treatment that Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty has gotten on a reality TV set in the UK, and how this has almost become an International Incident. And some wisdom at the blog of the Telegraph's Delhi correspondent, Peter Foster.

Tempest in a teacup. Not that the treatment she got wasn't bigoted. Racism is quite real in the UK. But puh-lease, Indians are as racist as the rest. How do we treat African students in this country? (I recall all the "bandar log", "monkey-folk" nonsense back in college) Or how the diaspora talks about blacks? (And God forbid our daughters date a black guy!) And let's not even start on the treatment of domestics, or caste in India.

Yep, we're hypocrites. And since India is in the global spotlight, and everyone loves making Westerners guilty, let's make this into a tamasha.

(Oh, at some point I guess I'll put up the "effing-Paki" taxicab story from Vegas a few years back. It was stunningly funny to hear that in the US! Especially since the cabbie obviously dind't think I was a "Paki" ... :))


mike b said...

hey macaca, why do i care what you think.

assiniboine said...

Oh yes, do put up the story about the Paki comment in the taxi cab.

Actually my stories along those particular lines all have to do with "Indian" taxi drivers who of course ask me where I am from. (After all these years in this little town of two million I am still asked on a weekly basis about my accent, though always with some caution -- entirely misplaced in my case: doesn't bother me to be asked what part of America I'm from; takes two seconds to say, "Well, Canada, actually." Evidently feistier of my co-nationals have made that a dangerous question. On the other hand, a very quick-off-the-mark and rollicksome Irish shopkeeper came right back with [I paraphrase] "Sure and begorrah and Oi'm from Scotland meself, at all at all" -- or something like that -- and we both collapsed in mirth.)

Whereupon I of course do the friendly thing and reciprocate: "And where are YOU from?" "I'm Australian." "Yes, yes, of course, but what were you before that?" "Indian." "And what part of India?" "Punjab." So I trot out my stories about sojourns in the Punjab, some in East Punjab, but mostly in West Punjab, and then it all comes out. He's really from Lahore, but ve Pakis are having too much of wery bad press these days isn't it. (The purportedly Bombay proprietors of a rather nice "Indian" restaurant in town actually turn out to be Hindus from Larkana! "So why do you have a painting on the wall of the Udaipur Lake Palace instead of Manchar Lake in Sindh?")

I of course had the self-same thoughts as you as to the hue and cry over the racism on "Big Brother," not that it isn't roundly to be condemned, of course: the attitudes of the Sindhis and Gujaratis towards their Shidi brethren were what actually came to mind -- 1300 years after the Arabs brought them from Africa to India as slaves and they are STILL marginalised. Not to speak of Santosh and the Hubshi in V.S. Naipaul's In a Free State.

On the other hand, I do forbear when decidedly beige-looking African Americans here in Australia describe themselves as "ebony" from recounting the incident many years ago in a beer parlour in the jungles of Bougainville when a New Irelander -- brown-skinned, that is -- made bold to wonder rather obstreperously why the masta, me, that is, was being so cravenly tolerated. I had a few anxious moments and thought I might slip out the back, till he was bodily hoisted out the front by a crew of properly black Bougainvilleans who opined that if it came to a choice between a harmless white like me and an obnoxious redskin like him....

There are times when one heartily joins in with the generalised misanthropy of Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, eh.

Gashwin said...

@assiniboine -- I will put the taxicab story up soon, promise!

@mike b -- it's cause you're a stupid honkey crackah. Where the frig have you been?