My first overseas trip and that too to the land of dreams, the U. S. of A! California made up in their lifestyle for what they lacked in landscape. I had gone to attend a couple of workshops and a symposium. I met a lot of people, made friends with quite a few and had a great time. Not surprisingly, everyone was very surprised that I was an Indian. “You don’t look or sound like an Indian!” had become part of my conversation with everyone. And quite graciously I did my part to educate many about the north-eastern region of our country.
Bar hopping in the downtown area was one activity I indulged in thoroughly. One such evening after dinner and a few rounds of fancy cocktails, we decided to finish off with a tequila shot each. I ended up doing three shots! But that’s another story. Where we had our shots was a nice small bar with groovy music and some clear space by the tables which served as the dance floor. We ran into another group of people from the symposium, awesome people from different South American countries and one Indian guy, led by one of our hosts, a friendly latina working in the host university. We drank, danced and had a lot of fun. We talked to each other about science, America and our native countries.
Just then I overheard one of the Brazilian guys saying to the Indian, “She is also from India but she doesn’t look like an Indian at all!”. To that my countryman said, “Oh! She must be a Tibetan or a Nepali”. I hadn’t expected that coming from a man who’s traveled all the way to the USA to pursue the highest degree in academics. As an alien in a different country, my us-against-the-world camaraderie with every other Indian I came across lay in irretrievable pieces on the dance floor. What had become a mundane occurrence in the streets of Delhi, to which I had grown insensitive pinched a lot inside that American bar.
My initial shock of disappointment was overcome by a wave of anger but before I even reacted amusement washed over me at the fact that he looked ridiculously stupid! I went back to my dancing and my pleasant English company. I couldn't help wondering if another century or more of British rule could have knocked some sense into the racially exclusive and culturally bigoted Indian psyche and had they knocked up a lot more, we could have been one big happy family of bastard children of political harlots!