Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blood Is Red

Have you ever seen a color TV?

Well, first out I got a bunch of rejection letters which made me feel like crap about myself. But when I finally got in to this school in Boston, I was psyched about leaving home, beginning a chapter of life and finding out who I was going to be…oh to be wide eyed and naiive again!

But I hated that place. I guess the growing up part hit harder than usual. The school I went to was rich, white and not-WASP’y but rich-frat-rat with a BMW kind, girls all tall blondes who wanted boob jobs for their 21st birthday. Kill me, kill me now...oh wait, I already went through that place, no need, you can put the gun down…on second though, pass it over here please

And I guess I was mentally prepared for having a whole new lifestyle, of approaching work and interacting with people, I knew there would be this whole exotic-fruit thing as Bobo puts it and the novelty, both on for me and for the guys I lived with.

PS: I hate dorm style to this day…you never have any privacy, you can never be alone in the room, there are always people outside. One year was enough for me, next three was in an apartment that was part of the housing department. But there are other reasons as well which I will now go into.

I remember quite a few kids being unfriendly and I figured it would take them more time to warm up what since they figured I knew nothing about American culture…yeah right! No, seriously, I had a girl ask me if women in India wore bras…if I had seen a colour television, if I was used to wearing shoes, if I had elephants instead of taxi’s

Dumb cunts.

But I was prepared for this (not this level of ignorance though, my first exposure to Americans). But when one guy wouldn’t let me into his room (when the rest of the floor was invited…well, except this black kid) or another one said stuff like ‘Hindu bastard’ or ‘towel-jockey’, I wondered if American’s were just twats or stupid. One guy was making fun of me being Indian because his dad was laid off from Union Carbide after the Bhopal gas tragedy. Trust American’s to have such centric points of view….

Anyway, I hated my room, hated the sounds of other people around. And there would be days when I could go without saying a word to anyone. Look, don’t tell me, ‘oh but you could have joined student groups or clubs’. I didn’t know any better. You take a 17 year old who hasn’t lived away from home before, in another country with no one he knows and who is not used to anything, studying the American college way, the interactions and top it off with guy’s who give shit to another white guy who hooked up with a black girl, yeah, you got a great recipe for depressions…

And there were barely any Indian kids in the place either…the one’s who were, were of Indian descent…the ones who were fresh off the boat, well, they had their summer homes in Maine and BMWs (kids of some of the biggest families you can think of in India) and had their own cliques…then there was me who worked part time at the cafeteria and on weekends at the call centre

This college charged about $40k per year to attend. I had to call up alumni to ask for donations. Most hung up on me. One burst out laughing saying that they had taken enough. Another gave me a long string of continues expletives and said, “there, that’s how I feel about that place, really wanna ask me for money?”

I don’t blame them. When I transferred out of there, I got a call asking for money, I told the girl exactly what I went through at the place and asked her if she would give money back…I think I upset her…oh dear

And then every other weekend were dorm dinners and the ones who wouldn’t go…because they didn’t know about these dinners were this black kid, this Asian kid and me. And even then I didn’t do the math. Because this is Boston. Because it’s the twenty-fucking-first century baby…that’s why.

I didn’t want to believe it.

And I don’t want to think about depression either. Why? Because I don’t want to and don’t ask either. Those months are one set I wish never happened and I don’t want to remember what I was back then… or where and I don’t mean location wise either

Anyway, I remember when I transferred out of there, I remember getting the letter and I was ecstatic. And there was this one semi-decent guy who was a nice guy (was 6’2, Irish, drank like an Irishman, wanted to teach middle school kids…I hope he is doing that now)…and he asked me why I wanted to leave…I guess I had had way too much vodka (don’t ask with whom because I wont answer) and I guess I broke down and told him everything and remember saying ‘I can’t help it if I’m brown’.

I remember being so happy packing the next day, I was going to go to India for the summer break and the Resident Assistant stopped by and told me that that guy had spoken with him and that I should have come to him, the RA if I had issues. I told him that one, I didn’t think it would ever be an issue, two I was too blind to accept that that was the reason and no one who has any level of education can have prejudices like that and third, there was nothing he could do about a mindset that is so irrational that you can’t even believe it exists.

The flip side...

Anyway, I left without a regret. And thank god for the other place I got into. I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to go back to Boston.

But yeah, in hindsight,

  1. I realize I don’t have to put up with crap from anyone about anything, least of all being India. If anything, looking around and what I do and how I got here, I love being who I am and a large part of that is being Indian
  2. if I meet an idiot American, I have no problem telling him exactly what he is and what I think about him
  3. I know I never want to settle down in the US ever. Boston taught me where home is and where it always will be
  4. If I can live through that, bring it on, I can live through most anything
  5. if I ever hear a racial epithet, I will lose it and now that I am completely justified in doing so

And heck, it isn’t something that gets me emotionally choked up any more. My room-mates at school (the one I graduated from) where great guys. In the third year it was me, two white guys and this black guy. We used to make so many racial jokes toward each other, me pointing at them during parties at our place, telling a girl really loud ‘look at ‘em white boys, they can’t dance for nuts!’ and those guys laughing their ass of, me making my way with great fan fare…or the black guy looking at his palms one day (which were really white) and quietly going, ‘oh, I’m finally evolving…’

And all of us just sat stunned because normally it’s the most insulting thing I can think of but we all treated racism as such a fantastic concept, that we just had to joke about it because who can take it seriously?

So, between camel-jockeys, differences between Indian (no, you aren’t the Big Chief kind, you are the dot kind…you know, Native Americans vs. the bindi kind)…we were just so irreverent about it…course, the penis jokes just flew what with one black guy in the apartment, two white cracker and me … hell, like we were laughing about it (and the girls in the apartment were shocked we were insulting each other like that…they caught on when I explained to them, that between the white boy and the black one, I was just right)…

Then one Halloween, Leo, the black guy was doing laundry, and he walks out into the living room with a sheet draped on him…and he goes (he always had a deadpan voice), “I’m the Grand Wizard (of the Ku Klux Klan)…now watch me lynch myself” and dove into the carpet. Or Jason, the other white guy who came out wearing all Fubu and a Hoody and fake bling rapping about being a white boy…of course, no one took it outside the apartment but it was just hysterical.

My roommate came from a small town in Virginia where there were hardly any black folk (as he put it). We were all sitting around discussing racism (trying to anyway considering we horsed around most of the time) and Ben said his family was coming up during Thanksgiving. I said I would be in DC and he said okay but I was just warning you, my grandmother wouldn’t talk to you. And I go, what the hell, I’m not black! He goes, yeah but you aren’t white either…Leo asked what would happen if he went and visited Ben at his grandmothers…apparently she wouldn’t have let him into the house…

But again, see, Ben’s grandmother was from another era…how do you explain kid’s who are my age, live in a metropolitan city in the world and still believe this stuff.

One of my favourite imaginings is to be working where I am, perhaps a few more years senior, have one of those kid’s CV’s land in front of me, call them for an interview and teach them a thing or two…anyway, if karma has anything to do with it, I hope they end up working for a non-white guy…

And this is why, I never want to settle anywhere but in India…fine, that may be a bit of a knee jerk reaction, but heck, do you blame me?

Let me leave you with this...just so you shake your head in wonder and go, What. The. Fuck?


basho said...

dude, that is so totally out there!

i just moved to america. new york city, having spent ten years in england and i never faced this kind of discrimination or attitude. is it really this primitive here? on the way over, the cab driver, a black dude, was telling me, "i'm tellin' you bruddah, america, it all about the color, the white man, the yellow man, the brown man, the black man" .. in that order.

i thought he's full of shit. its the 21st century. this is america, no?

but maybe he was right..

Zaphod said...

I dont know what to make of unbelieveable as it was in Boston, it still happened. But i refuse to accept it can happen in Manhattan. Walk down the street and you can see any race and then some...I don't think Manhattan can afford to be like that, ever since it was created, it has been the point of entry to the US from the rest of the world...but yeah, it IS america and NY isn't representative...but yeah you can be born in the US of A, it's still got to do with color...welcome to the age of enlightenment

simmi said...

It's not just america, I was brought up in Europe, one of the most liberal country's of the world and was still met with the same fucking discrimination...and back here in africa

...Im discriminated by africans for being indian, by whites for being black, by idians for not being like them, by all for being an exile, by men for being a woman...

another exile I met, contextualised it:
in europe we were discriminated against for being too black and here we are descriminated against for being too white.

then throw in the asian/female/artist/single parent equation...

atleast u still have a home to belong to.

...and I think to my self what a wonderfull world

basho said...

america IS primitive. or maybe the UK is just as bad. only in london, new york, they hide it better. or rather, you don't see it. everyone is pretending on so many levels ..

how about india? from your posts, im guessing you're north indian and live in delhi, so its all right. i'm a mix of different parts - assamese, south indian, maharashtrian ... look like any of these people, but none .. to an assamese, i'm a "mainlander" .. to a regular indian, im a "chapta"..u know what i mean?

im reading this book. "an inheritance of loss" by kiran desai. it won the booker so i had low expectations. its really good though. its descriptions of class in india, of being poor and brown in nyc .. i think you might like it.

simmi said...

basho, change that to 'the West is primitive'

i.e. Europe and all its 'former' colonies.

hedonistic hobo said...

basho: america is a racist society. walk with your eyes open. consider the populace that has the menial jobs, the hobos, it is about colour.

you should put up the name of this school in all fairness. no pun intended. then again princeton's a fucking white university too. i guess it's hard to believe that they'd have this mindset.

frankly basho it isn't just america the first time i realised i was brown was when i came to london with friends for 6 weeks four years ago. i was called ethnic smurf by my then fling-man. (sounds like wingman eh?) i let him, he was partially deaf in one ear so i figured no point yelling and taking the other one out as well.

simmi: i used to always accuse my danish ex of being racist. he wasn't actually, but he had no concept of understanding different races. for him immigrant=pakistani or sudanese=thief=narrow minded mossie fucks. and he was the more liberal variety. trouble with europe is their political correctness has fucked them over. i see the looks, i'm impervious to them.

besides indians are fuckin racist. we're racist towards each other caste system being case in point. we're nauseously obseqious around white folk case in point any shack in goa the white guy who comes an hour after you gets served first. it isn't because of big dollar tips it is because of skin. and we're racist against black folk. that first visit in london, as a grown up kid, i was 19 i realised the world is divided by race. as pathetic and sad as it seems it is true. and amongst expat communities no one seeed to discriminate as much as my own peoples so to speak.

so now i disown them all. i only have friends, no clours. they all shine, but.

we're a very small brood of genuine liberals.

i do confess to referring to chinese folk as ching pongs. then again ina flat of 8 i lived with 5 of them. and they're all still alive. fucker left chicken feet to thaw on the communal kitchen sink. why didn't they ever use the microwave? and this was everyone's experience. every tie the fire alarm went off i'd look aroudn and think hmmm..... i guess i live in the chinatown of the bubble. every town was chinatown in the bubble. :)

the chinese i do not understand. and i love latin americans. if you wanna learn how to be chilled out, you gotta learn from them.

eM said...

Loved this post, though I can't say my experiences have been similar, seeing as I stayed in the "safe zone" mostly, living in India all my life, hell, not even moving out of DELHI. Sometimes I think I should do something else, get out and go to oh, Timbuctoo or something, but then I might just be too scared.

Oh, and not to nitpick, but it's "clique", not "click". :)

Zaphod said...

eM, you have permission to smack me when and if we do meet (If you are TC come December, am sure will bump into you, is a stone's throw from my place)...I am kinda nitpicky about spelling as well, *especially* my own!

eM said...

only "if"? :) awww.. and here I was hoping for a joyful/tearful blogger's meet type thing when you got in. i am such a nerd.

hedonistic hobo said...

Zaphod: you're not as bad as eM, she's the freaking wordstapo!

Zaphod said...

eM will hold you to that, TC it is in December and don't welsh out on me! Besides, none of my friends will be in Delhi (hoping Bobo will be) and I need to go out and about Delhi...