ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Race and Space

Ignorance, bolstered by stereotypes of external appearance, is a determinant in racism and is increasingly manifesting itself as hateful external aggression.

I have a face that raises eyebrows. Born to mixed parentage – my father is Assamese, and my mother, Bengali – I am told I have Mongoloid cheekbones reminiscent of the North East, but distinctly large Bengali eyes. While abroad, I am called exotic, with onlookers asking if I’m Filipino, or Mauritian, or Spanish, or Maldivian. Within India, the question becomes even more problematised. I cannot seem to be slotted, and confusion is subsumed only when I say I am from Delhi.

Delhi, that strange melting pot, grants me an edgy cosmopolitanism – like all great cities, Delhi washes away ethnicities and some levels of parochialism. But certain wayward questions remain. Guessing that perhaps I may be Bengali, I am asked if I have learnt Rabindra Sangeet. Guessing that perhaps I may be from “North Eastern India” – that blurry grey area in the North or South Indian mind, which is anything east of Kolkata – I am asked if I own tea estates and paddy fields, and if I know any extremists.

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