About Me › Forums › Scorpio! › From the T-square to the Grand Cross! Whew! 31 original replies › Reply To: From the T-square to the Grand Cross! Whew! 31 original replies
Michelle Young – Jan 19, 2014
I wish that were true, Sireesha. But maintaining simple respect toward others–whether or not their cultures are included here–isn’t as easy as that. You were raised to have respect toward others and their cultures. That’s not the case everywhere–even in India: Consider how I was treated in several instances while I was there: I made jokes with friends about our apparently being in Martian territory (only I was the apparent Martian!) as we traveled and became aware that I was the subject of more than a few stares:
In Delhi, I–dressed in a kurta as many women who weren’t in sarees were–was waiting for the train at the Metro with a friend. A woman dressed in a black burqa, only her eyes showing, was staring at me. It seemed so out of place, considering that she was the only one in view wearing a burqa. Or how about the man on the train itself, staring at me? Now his stares weren’t unusual since many men were staring at me. But this man in particular was staring so much–never wavering from that fixed gaze on me–when another man got on the train and stood in the aisle in front of him, the starer seemed to develop a chicken neck and suddenly craned his neck around the other man’s leg to continue to stare! (Women, btw, often exchanged warm and genuine smiles with me and sometimes even brief conversations.) But these stares were enough to make one paranoid and wonder if one has suddenly developed a huge wart on the face!
Now I can point out not one or two but several instances like this, including teenagers who would look and start laughing at me. Do you have any idea of how horrible this made me feel? Or how unwelcome I felt when, in this land where “the whole world is a family” is a basic tenet, I learned the fee for entering a few of the sites I visited with friends was higher simply because I had the audacity not to be Indian! I questioned whether I shouldn’t wear a kurta because I was somehow offending someone. I questioned whether it was my being an obvious foreigner or if it was my porcelain skin or if I offended simply by my presence! And I wondered whether any of these people staring would ever come to the US and stare at me like that too.
In Mumbai, one person I met at a function (in fact, she picked me up to take me to the function) asked me if I might be Anglo-Indian. The thought of my ever being called “Anglo” in itself was amusing to me. I’m not. But being asked this particular question was something of a compliment to me. Yet all people in India are not one hue or one culture.
Not even in America! The peoples of the world are as many hues (and cultures) as nature itself is. Why should my having such fair skin even have to enter into consideration? Why should anything need to enter consideration???
I’ve even questioned how I have always accepted others far more easily than I’ve been accepted. Someone once asked me if I felt like a square peg trying to fit in to a round-holed world. The thought described my own thoughts accurately.
At times, Sireesha, I wanted to cry at how some of these people were staring or reacting. All because I looked different? Should this not also be a matter of respect people would simply get???
The one bit of hope I have for tomorrow’s world lies in a beautiful series of events I witnessed at a school in Bangalore. I’ll be writing a magazine article about it, and it’s not composed yet; but this school is private and all-inclusive. They give scholarships to children whose families can’t afford the tuition, and the ambiance–a word I rarely use–is simply incredible and awe-inspiring. I saw children of all hues and of all ranges of intelligence, from gifted to emotionally challenged to a Down’s syndrome child. But to see these children interacting, you’d never have known there was any difference. In fact, one of the things that impressed me the most was when the Down’s syndrome child wasn’t set apart and was participating in an activity with the other children. The child did not disrupt the activity, was patient, happy to interact, and parroted what another child of average or above-average intelligence was doing during the activity. There was an air of kindness, genuine compassion and understanding even among the students who were all under the age of 10.
So now you tell me: why, in a nation where people of so many ages, cultures, religions, traditions, languages, and so on, were adults and teenagers staring at me like I was laughable or something–and how did these beautiful children at that school know what those so many years older than they were still didn’t get?