Sunday, July 10, 2011

An incident that happened yesterday has me upset and seething.

I was in the bus with a couple of Indian friends of mine, one of whom was seated between a person who I later realized had some form of mental disability and his lady friend.

My friend said something to me in Hindi and I replied. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the guy smile at me so I smiled back (till this point I hadn't realized he had a disability). And that's when his friend took off on me and my friend - she accused us of making fun of her friend in "our own language", saying it was so obvious the way I looked at him and rolled my eyes (which I didn't) that we were laughing at his expense!

There are two sides to this - one that while in a foreign country we should avoid speaking in Hindi (or a language that people around us don't understand) in public places, which I try and do as much as I can. But there's the other voice in me that says I have the liberty to speak in my mother tongue if I wish to, and no one should have the right to question me or accuse me of something based on a conversation they don't understand.

Since the incident I've been trying to give the woman the benefit of doubt - she's probably defensive about her friend all the time. But I still think she was out of line accusing us of something she couldn't have been sure of.

I was too stunned to react then, and when I gathered my wits I tried explaining to her that we weren't talking about her friend and rolling our eyes. But now that I think about it, I should probably have given her a piece of my mind.

Does this incident reek of racism, do you think?


Serendipity said...

I dont think its racist... I think if i were her id probably be thinking that y'all were saying something about my friend too..
She's probably just very s4ensitive.. shouldnt have lashed out at you i agree,but i guess it was just one of those things.

Dont keep this on your mind.. hope ur having a great weekend!

Moonshine said...

I agree with Serendipity. I think she must be sensitive to it.. probably other people must have passed comments .. you chill and dont think about it too much.

the-mommie said...

u know, i've seen and personally had enough experiences where people have been speaking in another tongue when they know there are people in the room who don't understand. and this has happened in formal work situations! not the informal or even completely stranger infested environment you found urself being hauled up in! in this part of the world, anyone who can speak any language other than english, will jolly well go ahead and speak it irrespective of who it inconveniences. even in an official environment. i think it might actually be only us Indians who make it mandatory to speak in english at work and do not allow other local languages - specially at mtgs etc (more so when the firang's are attending).

i think the woman was completely out of line accusing u of smthg without any proof. just coz u spoke in a different language and smiled at a friend does not automatically mean u were sneering at her disabled partner!! i mean really, that's being a tad hyper-sensitive!

eye-in-sty-in said...

In Australia? Yep, it is racist! It was wrong of her to ASSuME that you were talking about her friend. She also assumed that just bcoz you are Indian, you are an uneducated lot (comes from a line of thought thats laden with racism and superiority and ignorance). Trust me, I have seen enough of such people in my stays overseas. You should have nipped it in the bud and given the lady a piece of your mind. As you didnt do that, she right now probably thinks she was right in lashing out at you as you would have said something back if you were not poking fun at her friend in a native language. Next time, confront - thats my 2 cents :-)