Was Gandhi a racist?

 

Was Gandhi a racist? Are we Indians racists?

1700 signatures and copies of Mahatma Gandhi‘s writings where Gandhi described the Black South Africans as Kaffirs (a high offensive racist slur, the way Muslims referred to Hindus) was enough to persuade the Government of Ghana to remove the statue of Gandhi from the University of Ghana.
One of the quotes included a letter Gandhi sent to former Prime Minister of England Neville Chamberlain in May 1899, claiming that Indians were superior to “kaffirs,” an ethnic slur for black South Africans. Ironically, Gandhi was living in South Africa to fight anti-Indian discrimination at the time.
(This once again establishes that Gandhi, #Jawaharlal Nehru and even #Muhammad Ali Jinnah treated themselves as brown sahebs though Gandhi got rid of his western dresses in favour of a lion cloth.)
Ghana government and it’s people didn’t worry about causing annoyance to India and causing a diplomatic row.
In fact the petition by the Professors of the University read, “It is better to stand up for our dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a burgeoning Eurasian super power”, and quoted passages written by Gandhi which say Indians are “infinitely superior” to black Africans.
I am not surprised!
Indians are racist and there is no doubt about it. The way our people refer to those they consider lesser has an interesting narration.
The North Indians are called Chinki and the girls from this part of India are considered of ‘dubious character’. The story behind is the traffic in Nepali women and the confusion between the Nepali girls (who were, once, described as foreigners!) and the girls from North East.
Police describe the tall Nigerian drug dealers and scamsters as ‘blacks’ with contempt though, at least Mumbai Police is physically no match for the tall and muscular #Nigerians.
Ask yourself: will you ever hire a Nigerian?
We don’t stop there.
Our rigid caste system in existence since before the term ‘Hindu’ was coined to describe all has the civilised world laughing at us. The petition too says, “The caste system in India is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. The system divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups.”
Our elections are caste-oriented, and the candidates are allotted tickets on caste (or money) basis. We live in ghettos what with Parsis living in their baugs, Muslims in their clusters and Christians in their Gaothans. Why, even Sindhis, who don’t follow the rigid Hindu caste system, have their colonies!
And, as far the color goes, the tales of discriminations are too many to recount.
The fair and lovely gets to be posted in the front offices, get quicker promotions and raises in the salaries but the dark skinned are left behind, in the back offices away from the glares of the visitors.
Yes, we certainly are racists.

*****

On the shutting down of a branch of ‘#Bru’

I was surprised to see the waiters who had served me my cuppa Latte for the last three-four years, packing the furniture.
Bru, Lokhandwalla Branch, downed the shutters.
I liked the coffee and sometimes, when the machine didn’t perform well, they would happily make another cuppa.
I liked the ambience. Inexpensive functional furniture that could be easily moved. The rickety chairs, the sockets to charge the mobiles and laptops – half of them dysfunctional  – and the little loo where the staff changed the uniforms making it difficult for the customers. The a/c didn’t always function.
All just right for the strugglers in Bollywood and some familiar faces from the industry. Every occupied table had energy around it, the energy that comes from positivity and optimism. Films were planned and made here, TV serials were conceived and scripts were written here.
Faces that became familiar to me, people who would greet me and always accommodate me on the same table…
I felt the energy, loved it.
I like strugglers, their optimism and the sparkle in their eyes. I love success oriented people and their drive.
Before Bru, I used to have my coffee at Barista and Cafe Coffee Day. It was the same Bollywood strugglers. Oshiwara has many. They go to the acting schools, get their portfolios made, go for auditions and wait patiently for the calls.
I see a lot happening here.
My last novel ‘Color Me Rich’ is set in Oshiwara and the story develops at Bru. It also has Adarsh Nagar which houses small producers, sound studios, editing rooms and costumes shops. You can get the entire technical support for making a film.
And on the main road in bigger buildings are located the big time producers and even the offices of some of the studios.
I compare Oshiwara with Hollywood. Here too strugglers get jobs as waiters and waitresses till they get a break in films. I don’t really know any waiter who has made it to the big screen. The only name I can recall is Smriti Irani. But I never saw her waiting tables. She worked in McDonalds and I don’t like the atmosphere there. I prefer eating at Indigo. Here you see the familiar faces from the big screen. Oshiwara has more hotels, restaurants and bars than any where else in Mumbai. And if you visit at night you can see a lot of familiar faces from films and TV serials. You’d recognise the film stars by their names and the TV stars with the names of the characters they play. The channels and producers neither give their names on the large hoardings nor in the credits. They don’t want them to become TV stars and have an identity of their own. The cleverer one indulge in brawls, get dragged to Oshiwara Police Station and find their names in the newspapers’ crime pages.
But to return to my cuppa, I’ll have to shift to #StarBucks. I love the Cappuccino of Starbucks whether at Oshiwara or at the Horniman Circle.
Why, I loved the Starbucks in Manhattan and London too, much more than the Starbucks in Mumbai. Mumbai has a way of Indianising everything, even Starbucks coffee.

*****

 

 

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