Thoughts on Racism

This story is slightly old. I was a student in a school in north India. In our class was a boy from a European country. I will skip the details about his name, country of origin to avoid hurting anyone’s sentiments.

His father was a pilot, and they were in India as part of a delegation instructing Indian Air Force pilots how to fly a fighter jet that had come in from their country.

I am from South India. My skin tone a shade darker than the rest of the children in my class. Every time I passed this kid, he would throw racial slurs at me.

Even today, forty-three years after this incident, I remember every word he said. It never occurred to me to complain to the teachers. Nor did I ever have the urge to kick him. All I would do was walk by, feeling sad. I would have loved to be his friend. Talk to him, learn more about his country and maybe a little bit of his language! He left our school after a couple of months. Over the years, I have met and worked with folks from different parts of the world. I realized that not everyone has this air of racial superiority. There are good, decent, hard-working human beings in every corner of the world.

That said, even today, after all these years, what amazes me is how an eight-year-old child could bring himself to abuse another eight-year-old. Did he somehow feel that he was superior to me due to his skin tone?
Is this feeling of racial superiority inherited or indoctrinated? I never got the answer to any of these questions then.

Watching the news, I guess I will never get the answer to some of these questions.

Never give up

Decades ago, I was working for the Government and posted in a remote village nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. The place did not have proper roads. There was no way to communicate with the outside world in case of an emergency. A bamboo hut with a steel sheet for a roof was my office cum residence!
There were about ten shops in the entire village. One of the shop keepers was Anil. He ran a tea shop. It was a one-room affair which hardly attracted any customers. He was about my age, married, and lived with his wife behind the shop.
We became good friends. I love to eat samosas, and he would make them for me and serve it with piping hot cups of tea. He would refuse to take any money from me. I would still pay the money to his wife. I noticed he would close the shop early, usually minutes after I had left.
People in the village said he was lazy. I spoke to him about it and realized he was not interested in running the hotel. He used to talk about his plans in life. He compared his life and mine. He rued his lack of education. With him, it was all complaints.
Every month, I had to travel to the state capital on official work. I was there for a week. As I stepped out of the bus on my return, I heard the news that Anil has committed suicide. He had hanged himself in his shop. His wife had left the village and now stayed with some relatives of hers.

I could not understand why he had committed suicide? He was young, healthy and had a family to look after. For some time, I felt guilty. Somehow I felt, I had not done enough for him. It was not that life was smooth for the rest of us in that village. There was no regular electricity supply nor piped water. We all survived on rainwater !! Life there was tough, but we never gave up. I learnt a few lessons from that incident and from that village.

Hiding from problems in life is not a solution. Face your problems head-on and find a solution to them. You are the best judge of what your strength and weakness are. Based on that, decide the best course of action. Most of us have faced job loss, salary cuts, been in an accident or faced some life crisis. Like everyone else on this planet, I have had my share of setbacks in life. I have found that each experience only adds to your knowledge and learning. As the saying goes

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.

You are stronger than you think. ‘Never give up!’