Racism limits us as people: Kalki Koechlin

By Hindustan Times

I have to rant. I was stuck in my car in the gully just outside my building because of a truck parked on the road and blocking the passageway. The driver refused to move as he was filling water for a building. Suddenly, out of nowhere came an elderly woman who, without any pretext, came walking to the car and said, “Yeh log aise hi hai.” Then she looked at me and said, “Kya kar rahi ho? Piche jao.” I replied, “Aage mera ghar hai.” The truck driver told me to take some other route to my building. When I said I didn’t know any other way, the woman took the opportunity to say, “Bol rahi hai iski ghar hai, phir bhi isko koi aur rasta nahin malum.” When I asked her why she was insulting me, her eyes looked down for a moment and then she said in English, “I am not insulting you, this is my road to walk on, not yours.” She walked on. I reversed the car and tried to find another way to get to my building.

This racism is something I’ve had to deal with all my life, been born and brought up here, but damn I still can’t get used to it. I go to a small town and men start talking to me in broken English saying things like “Hey baby” and “Saxy lady.” I get asked questions by journalists such as “Why aren’t you in Hollywood?” and “Do you like India?” as though I had just arrived in this country yesterday. I get people, usually of an older generation, telling me, “Yeh log aise hi hai.” Sure, being white has had the opposite effect too, where people have treated me with a lot more kindness as though I’m their guest, I’ve probably been shortlisted in auditions for being ‘fair’, but this too is a kind of racism, a separation. We like to separate people into neat little categories through their religion, the colour of their skin, the way they speak and dress etc… and I can’t help but feel that this racism and this fear of the different is what limits us as people (I would also like to say as a nation but that requires one really long essay: read Arundati Roy’s Capitalism: A Ghost Story in this month’s Outlook, she gets it spot on).

For this short rant, I just have one last thought. Whether you own a Mercedes or a cycle, you still have to trudge through the same potholes. What’s the point in moving up when the nation is a gutter? There’s something in that, a gaping common cause, but maybe we’re too busy bickering amongst ourselves to deal with gaping causes.

Finally, thanks to all my fans, who wrote to me after reading my column last week...
Hi Tanushree, I agree with you.
Thanks Aadhar, thanks Akriti.
Shatabdi I’m glad there are other people disturbed by this!
Gautam I’ll try to keep up the good work :)

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