“Lol you are not a Madraasi? But you look so much..er..Madraasi!”
“Yeah..common mistake”, I grin back spontaneously in good humor, but secretly take a moment to acknowledge it all the same.
So I look what I am not? Judging solely by my skin tone? People tend to rush to conclusions, maybe it’s an unbleached (pun intended) human thing, but nearly seven out of ten humans I chance upon make this assumption, without fail. I bet other lifeforms don’t give a damn about my skin tone.
Here’s one epic moment:
Situation: Induction program at office, we are 12 new recruits and two seniors sitting around a table. A QnA session on what we learnt during the last week. I have a loud Tamil boy (let’s call him Tamil Boy 1) sitting on my right and he is speaking to his other Tamil friend (let’s call him Tamil Boy 2) sitting on my left, in their mother tongue, fast and furious. I can only make out lots of ‘bro’-s and ‘dude’-s in their conversation. So anyway, we are divided into teams of three, and I get to team up with these two self-proclaimed dudes. Granted.
Twenty minutes on, the score board reads a fat 70 for our team, while the others cannot, yet, boast of a healthy figure. I get patted on, by my teammate in acknowledgement of my responses that helped fetch the 70.
The host beams at us, while pinching the other teams with his loud and clear “Why are the South Indians answering everything and the rest are not?”
I am like, “What?? Tamil boy 1 has answered quite a few; me, the rest! Am I invisible or what?”(Meanwhile, Tamil boy 2 was busy with his iPhone and was in some parallel universe).
Session over and the host calls us over and asks us on our schooling and college. As I go, “Jadavpur University, Kolkata” , he makes a fishhook eyebrow out of surprise and confesses, “O, you are Bengali? I thought you were from Madras or someplace South!” I give him the polite customary grin, assure him that I am a ‘Bangaali mey’, and part on good terms, doubts cleared.
Epic Moment 2:
Situation: I have this new girl friend at office and she is an Assamese. Fortunately or unfortunately she is tall, dark and pretty. We had hit off really well from Day-1 and always went on lunch together. Now you are bound to notice two young and lovely maidens strutting in the cafeteria,together, everyday, and one young man, did.
So one fine day my friend decides to skip lunch and I, being alone, am looking around for a familiar face. As luck would have it, I find an empty seat near this young person and get invited to sit. I accept and we get talking.
“So you are from South? Madras? I have been to Madras.”
“Cool, and no.”
“Kolkata”, I clarify.
“Ow. You look somewhat like a Madraasi, and you hang out a lot with that tall South Indian girl, right? So I thought..maybe..”.
“What South Indian girl?”
He describes my friend with practiced clarity. Here’s an admirer, I chuckle to myself.
“She is an Assamese. How come you thought what you thought?”
“Well her looks say something else..”
Looks. Everything boils down to looks. I am a Bengali woman, born and brought up in– no prizes for guessing– Calcutta, or Kolkata as we now fondly call it. I do not call myself a Bong, simply because I am not. I am Bangaali, and dear confused soul, some of us are dark toned too. Melanin did not judge us by caste. Why stereotype then? I personally know people from South, who would put Fair & Lovely to shame and I know dusky Punjabis too. Why let the naive pigment rule your judgement then? Though only a casual and harmless misidentity of the subject, but skin tone cannot be a giveaway. An individual can belong to any part of the world and choose to dress and doll up as she/he wishes, and it is pure folly to make an assumption just like that. Again, there is nothing wrong in some harmless guessing game, but no doubt, it is a moo point! Humans are no less than chameleons, (remember Mystique from X-Men?) and one plus one may not be always two, it may sometimes be yellow as well, maybe more often than you think!
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