A profound conversation with English-speaking, educated, middle-class women over lunch in Delhi.
There are things you do for some neighbours that you wouldn’t for others. A few days ago, I attended a lunch meeting at Mrs Lawrence’s house. It was her turn to organise the monthly meeting for some 15 middle-aged aunties from the nearby blocks of Vasant Kunj. Eight turned up dutifully. I was the ninth, the youngest and the newest entrant.
After a thorough round of interrogation, with questions ranging from how many children I have, why am I not seen on television if I am a journalist to why haven’t I joined any “kitty” till now and why don’t I look married, I was kind of relieved that lunch was finally over and tea was on its way.
One middle-aged aunty, who sells a local floor cleaner, had just left Mrs Lawrence’s house. The women in the room, almost immediately sat up, as the door shut.
“Who was she?” asked the woman in a yellow suit.
“It is not like that in Colombo at all. The footpaths there are so clean, the roads spic-and-span. We were there just last week. Both Kandy and Colombo are so picturesque and our hotel, too good,” said Mrs Ram.
The woman with the red lipstick and nail polish agrees: “Yeah, foreign countries are so much better when it comes to cleanliness.” The two Hindi-speaking women are, meanwhile, feeling left out, but they keep smiling and nodding, very much part of the conversation.
A moment of silence follows.
“Still, the US is the best. My daughter does not want to come back at all. She says “mamma, everything is so first-class here. Everything on your doorstep. No naali, kachra, badboo’,” the woman with burgundy hair said.
Mrs Lawrence’s maid has started to serve chai now.
“But crime rate is very high there too. They have so many blacks! They come and snatch chains, loot and stab. My son lives in Maryland. They don’t step out in the evenings… Today there are so many blacks in Vasant Kunj also. It is so scary,” Mrs Lawrence said.
“Black matlab?” asked Mrs Sinha.
“Arrey, hapshi!” explained the woman with burgundy hair.
“I know. Bangalore is so much better that way. Very nice weather. We lived there for a couple of years. Never saw any blacks also,” said Mrs Ram, as she sipped her tea.
Mrs Gokhale added, “But the city is also expanding like Delhi. I don’t know why the government is not doing anything to stop people from coming to the big cities. The property rates have risen so much and it is getting so crowded.”
“Absolutely correct. They come to cities to work and have several wives. One in the gaon and one here and then have several kids here and there. That is why all the rapes and violence…”
“Don’t you know that all these maids are beaten by their husbands? That is why they are so indifferent and stubborn. You keep telling them things to do but they dismiss it like you never told them,” cribbed the woman in a yellow suit.
“Mini, say anything, it is people of this class that get the best sleep at night. They don’t have to worry about A/C or cooler. All they long for is the roadside khat!”
+(Some names have been changed.)
Published in the DailyO on October 13, 2014
Original Link: http://www.dailyo.in/life/racism-xenophobia-indian-mentality/story/1/359.html