Friday, October 17, 2008

Racism, Casteism, Feudalism : Is there an end to human prejudice?

When I look at my image in the mirror I see a young woman.... a young woman with some aspirations and ambitions as any person that age. I see a young woman who is strong headed and is not bogged down by any kind of dogmatic or patronizing demeanour. I do not see the colour of my skin. But unfortunately other people do.Unfortunate........... because its the year 2008.

History is dotted with events where human beings have been most intolerant towards human it the second world war, the holocaust, abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement in America, the colonization and enslavement of several nations by the British......the list is endless. But even after several movements against this kind of prejudice and bigotry , even after leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King enlightened the people of the world, it could not be removed from the hearts of people.

Thus, when I got my PhD position in Germany, seldom was I aware of what was in store for me there. I did hear some hushed admonishing about racism but inadvertently the excitement of being there covered it up. After all it was the beginning of a new life for me.The next three years were about to change all of it.

Contrary to what you must be thinking by now, I did not get beaten up. However , what many of my countrymen face is a more subtle and insidious form of discrimination.When I walk on a street in my country, i walk with a sense of freedom, I feel liberated. When I walk on the streets in Ulm I feel intimidated. Be it the loads of people who ogle at me in the bus considering that i am the only colored person around, or the women in mensa who think they can subjugate a person from a poor third world country. Sometimes I sit and ponder to myself : what do these people have against us? The answer is simple. They really don't have anything against me or you per se ,but regrettably they are stricken with prejudice.

However, are they the only ones incarcerated in the prison of narrow mindedness and intolerance? Are'nt all of us enslaved by this vice? If we go back to India , it is seeped in all kinds of prejudices - on the basis of caste, religion, region, sometimes even color. We accuse other people of being racists but we ourselves exercise bigotry in all walks of life in India. A person from North India doesent approve of people from the south or vice versa, a Brahmin does not approve of Shudras, a Muslim doesent approve of a Hindu. Who can we condemn for the fragmentation and stratification of our society ?

I guess no one. As someone very rightfully said, if we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other causes for prejudice by noon. Look at whats happening in Palestine at the hands of Israel. Not to mention that the Jews underwent the trauma of one of the greatest spectacles of human prejudice just over sixty years ago. Yet they practice the same dogmatism for a different sect of people today. Palestine yearns to be emancipated - but how?

When you are a minority no one tests your magnanimity , its only when you are in a majority that your tolerance is questioned. Why does it get so difficult for us to accept people who are a disparate group? I guess it comes very naturally to humans. Since everyone is a prisoner of their own experiences they nurture their own sets of prejudices. We are each burdened with prejudice; against the poor or the rich, the smart or the slow, the gaunt or the obese. It is natural to develop prejudices. It is noble to rise above them. I wish i could do that.

Walking on the street in Ulm, one cold night , I saw a group of girls coming right in front of me. They looked quite gay,ecstatic and chirpy. I hastened my pace because I wanted to avoid their intense stares. When I crossed them I could see from the corner of my eyes the same gaze that I dread. My vocal cords were itching to shout "Dont look at me like that, I am also a girl, just like you". I suppressed my acrimony and walked on, walked on to a hypothetical world which to my utmost dismay, is an illusion.