buffaloes are black and black is not beautiful.

I never thought that at the ripe age of 60+ I would be writing a post on colour, I mean the colour of your skin. But in a country where tracking down the robbers and returning the buffaloes to a leading politician has become the top priority of a district police, everything is possible. Apologies for using this example for a post that deals with something as serious as racism, but this is simply to show where our priorities lie. However buffaloes are black and black is not beautiful.

The simple reality is that we are racists though we are not man or woman enough to admit it. Look at our matrimonial ads!

Being different is not easy. I grew up being different and having to fight for my place in the sun. As my parents were diplomatic nomads I was waltzed from country to country every three years. The colour of my skin was never the right one. And what was the worst was that my name which sounded like something out of this planet. As a child I was lucky to find friends who stood by me and made me feel wanted. It was only when I went to boarding school in Switzerland at the age of 15 or so that racism really hit me. My classmates much older than me and from rather rich homes disliked me for being a good student. They made fun of my name, my rather humbler clothes as theirs were branded and ostracized me. In a dining room that had tables for 8, no one sat at my table as I was the 'noire', the black one. At 15 it is not easy and I decided to pack up my bags and go home to Ankara where papa was posted.

Later, when I was on the marriage market I was again faced with all this black and white business. Everyone wanted a fair bride. I bore the brunt of some remarks about the colour of my skin and put and end to all this drama and happily found my husband. I know of a dark girl whose family was asked for a car as the girl was so dark! And we say we are not racist.

The incidents that have occurred lately in our capital city targeting Africans and people from the North East have not only touched a chord deep inside me but also saddened me and made me hang my head in shame. What endeared me to my religion as I was growing up in lands of different faiths was the feeling of tolerance I found every time I flung what I thought were trying questions to my parents. Whenever I asked if I could fast with my Muslim friends, go to church with my Christian ones or be part of Sabbath festivities with my Jewish pals, the answer was always a resounding yes and as this game continued I felt stronger in my belief. So when I came across the ugly side of the religion that I had accepted so unconditionally, I was lost. Sadly this sense of loss has deepened as intolerance and aberrations came my way relentlessly.

Today, when I saw that following the terrible death of a young Indian from Arunachal, students from the North East were demanding a law against racism, my heart broke without a sound. Is this the India our forefathers fought for, the India my father told me not to lose faith in shortly before he breathed his last? Is this where we have reached 66 years after Independence?

Our intolerance now seems the rule rather than the exception. The stories that have poured out after the cowardly attack in the middle of the night against young Africans are heart wrenching, more so because that is not who we are. It seems  we have become lulled into stupidity by our so called politicians who have forgotten the spirit of our constitution and decry diversity instead of celebrating it.

Before I carry on, a breaking news that again shows the pits to which we have descended. The buffaloes have been found and 3 cops have been punished for not having done their job promptly enough. This assumes a different proportion in the light of the fact when it comes to dealing with people, the police is to say the least incompetent.

The reason why I am so angry at this intolerance towards people who are different is that I know this is not who we truly are. I would like to share a true life story with you. The story is about Stone, our very first volunteer who was from Uganda. It is true that it took a little time for the community to accept Stone, and it also true that some bad tongues did mention N and H words, but the children accepted him with open arms and as he marched the kids up and down the street, it did not take long for perplexed and even intolerant looks to turn into big broad and welcoming smiles. It was Stone who was the first to open his heart to Manu and to care for him when no one else did, notwithstanding the terrible state he sometimes was in, drenched in his own excrement. Stone would bathe him like you would your own child and never lose his smile. Over the few years he was with us, he not only taught the children but reached out to anyone who needed help. I was quite amused when one day, a woman known for her violence and foul ways slapped a passer by who had dared use the H word for Stone. The morning he left, the whole street was outside and even the most hardened souls were openly weeping. Stone was and African and he was black. As it taken 10 short little years to make us into intolerant wimps too scared to stand up for what is right.

Everything is now a mad scramble for vote banks. Students from the NE began a candle light vigil to seek justice for their murdered kin. Here was a cause to espouse in election times and all political parties jumped in the bandwagon: one aspiring PM screeched his take in a rally, the other chose to sit in with the students, whilst our new CM proposed to make his presence felt today. Where were all these people when a young woman was brutally raped last winter? Oops I guess rape victims are not vote banks to woo.

Will the young boy from Arunachal get justice. I wonder. Will people from the NE get the protection they have been promised is also a big question. Here again it is about changing mindsets and not win to vote banks. I was beside myself when yesterday the coordinator of our women centre told me that some kids were refusing to come to school today as it was Saraswati (Goddess of Learning) puja and they had been told that they were not to touch books and pencils. Now where did this come from and which vote bank does it woo.

Reservations, quotas and affirmative action have become the favoured weapons of our political class even if it goes against the very grain of the Unity and Diversity are kids dutifully learn in their schoolbooks. We are Indians last after being from a city within a state, a caste or sub caste within a religion and so on. And above all we remain stuck on our notion that black is lot beautiful.