Thursday, May 13, 2010

discrimination is not only based on caste!

has anyone ever noticed how discriminations are based on age, appearance and language in public spaces?

For me personally there have been several instances when i felt discriminated. most of these instances have been amusing for me but the incidents per se were not amusing. for instance, there are many times at airports when i am standing in front of the PYT (pretty young thing) at the counter, her smile or demenaor with me would depend upon what was I wearing; e.g. if i were wearing trousers or pair of jeans or a well turned out salwar kurta, etc, she would smile, would wish me and would make eye contact. on the other hand, on days when i am wearing cotton saree, carrying a "jhola" (cotton carry bag), my hair is tied in a bun and wearing bindi,etc, often there have been little eye contact, no smile and a cursory nod of head to finish the matter at hand. Initially I thought i was making a mountain out of molehill and hence decided to experiment - and I have experimented with this at various airports in India and worn different attires to just check the responsiveness from the counter and the experience has been more or less similar. Even the porters who usually load your luggage on the x-ray machine would ask you are you travelling by a particular airline (which is a low cost) as compared to the other similar sounding reputed airline, even if you were holding the ticket for the same.

Similarly I have experienced older men and women being treated differently than younger men and women, unless of course the older men and women were well turned out (i specifically mean in western attires a la corporate styles or in very expensive cloths)! The patience often wears thin on the faces of the sales person or the service person on the other side of the counter. what is more dehumanising is that more often than not, older people will be treated with patronising attitude and help will be offered as though being old means, one has lost the ability to think or act for oneself. Often i have seen dismissive behaviour with older people as though what they have to say has very little value in the current context. As though the reality is only shaped by the young and the able.

My third experience is one of language - you just have to sit in a coffeeshop, visit a upmarket hotel reception, a super market, a mall, a movie hall, airport counters, etc and you would notice that if the way you speak english is influenced by your mother tongue, and co incidentally if there is another person who is speaking English without any such intonation, the other person will be treated in a more privileged manner than you are. The behaviour towards you would possibly have veiled indifference with a hint of sarcasm.

In some ways, in urban areas we are rapidly hurtling towards a mono culture which looks at everything from a certain point of view (which incidentally is often the outsider's point of view) and hence does not know how to recognise, differentiate and be pluralistic and be respectful towards the rich diversity that India has.