There’s an old funny song my kids used to love about ‘Jack the Peg’ who had an extra leg:
"Wherever I go through rain or snow
The people always let me know
'There’s Jack the Peg…
With an extra leg'"
sings the character.
Guess many of us ‘chinky’ Indians get the same kind of treatment in some parts of the country. It used to be like that in Kerala where we went for vacations. People on the streets would turn back to stare. Same in Madras where we stayed a few months. Eyes would glare till i was tempted to poke with a finger to see if they could blink! It was like that in Hyderabad. And so on.
It’s not so bad these days, at least not here in Mumbai. I didn’t get it bad in Bangalore either. Can’t say whether things have changed in general, or it’s just the cities.
And in this church we attend in Santa Cruz, i even forget that i’m different. Meetings are in English, mixed with Hindi. The members are from diverse communities like Anglo-Indians, Goans, Maharashtrians, Mangalorians, Malayalees, Tamilians, Telugus, etc. I’m the only snub-nosed, chinky-eyed, yellow-faced one in the crowd. But the loving, caring folks make me forget that i hail from a remote place and have alien looks and ways.
But one Sunday it was brought back to me in a funny way.
After the meeting, a little NRI boy came up to me and said, “Hello, i’m J, i’m eleven years old. I’m from Dubai….”
“Hello, i’m M,” i responded, and we got chatting.
After a while he asked, “Are you Chinese?”
“No,” i replied.
“Are you Filipino?”
“What are you then?”
“I’m Indian” i said, curious about how he was going to tackle the question.
“But how come you look like Chinese or Filipino?” he came back.
“Many Indians look like i do,” i told him, still playing the game.
Then he got clever. “What language do you speak with your parents at home?”
I finally told him i’m a Mizo, from Mizoram, a state in Northeast India. I asked him to look up a map and find Mizoram in it.
Hope J’s knowledge of Geography or Social Studies improved a bit that day. Such a sweet kid!