Ever since I started writing this blog, I’ve never wanted to write about sensitive topics. This post, my first in 2014, would probably be the most controversial I could write.
This incident happened more than a week ago. Since then I have been tossing it in my head, thinking about it; sometimes unable to digest and the other times brushing it off as an incident not worthy of any attention.
Ganesh and I were driving back home, after a long day of apartment hunting. It was getting dark and was very cold. The road we took was a single lane one in a pretty posh neighborhood. The roads were not great, as it had snowed heavily the previous day. On days such as these, no one is expected to drive very fast. In fact it is advisable that one stays below the speed limit to avoid sudden accidents. So Ganesh was driving at 30 when the speed limit said 35. Well, that wasn’t the only reason. The car in front of us was also driving below limit.
Suddenly we see this huge car behind us flashing its headlights. On – off; On – off. This went on for sometime, until my husband realized that the woman who was driving the car was trying to tell him something. She wanted him to drive faster. He couldn’t do that, so he signaled saying that there was someone in front of him. But she wouldn’t stop and gestured rudely. I got a little worried and asked him to just ignore and drive.
This middle-aged white woman, passed us, lowered her windows and yelled some dirty words. Not to mention that she had a young girl sitting beside her. I couldn’t help but wonder the kind of example she was setting. Here is the conversation between her and Ganesh.
G: (in a loud voice) I can’t go faster than this. I am at the speed limit.
L: No you are not. The limit is 35 and you are driving at 30
G: Do you see that car in front of me? I can’t drive faster than him.
L: Oh yes you can. You are not just because you are an idiot.
And that when she said the most appalling comment.
L: You are an idiot. Go back to stupid country India where everyone is stupid.
G: Thank you very much. I know where I come from.
Well, what else can you say to a comment like this? Ofcourse he was fuming and so was I. It took a while for us to take it out of our system and get back to normal. I was not sure if I had to categorize this as a racist comment, an ignorant ‘frog in the well’ comment or an insecure comment. What shocked me was that this woman, who considers herself superior, thinks that she can hurl an insult at somebody she doesn’t know, at her will, for a worthless incident. And what shocked me the most was the fact she thought that we would even consider the comment ‘Go back to India’ as an insult. Would it ever be an insult to us? I doubt any Indian would think that way.
It has been 12 years for Ganesh in this country and almost 2 years for me. In the past 2 years, I have witnessed some racist comments like this, but none that I have faced firsthand. For the most part, I have met some very good people. I have never felt like a stranger in this country. Most of them have been very welcoming. Some people stare, some people ignore. But many people do return the smile. I love the country that I come from and I do enjoy living in this country.
I think the value and quality of life comes from how we treat our fellow humans. That’s exactly what education is supposed to instill in us. Money, expensive lifestyle and skin color do not define a person’s status. But it’s a hard fact that we live in a society that still judges people by the color and race.
I am sad that we had to listen to a comment like this. I wish we had a smarter response. But I am glad we took the high road and went our own way. I do not want to witness any such incident in future, but I doubt if it’s in my control.
I would like to end this post with a story about Buddha that I read when I was a child.
Buddha was traveling through many small villages. When Buddha reached one particular village, a rude, ill-mannered man started hurling insults at him. Buddha just smiled and continued his journey. When he reached the next village, another man showered Buddha with flowers and offered him lots of rich food. Buddha refused to take it.
This villager then asked Buddha,
‘Why did you listen quietly when he was scolding you? Why did you just smile and let him insult you? Can you tell me? I am very curious to understand the reason’.
Buddha smiled once again. He said,
‘When I refused the food you offered me, what did you do? You took it back and distributed it to the village. That is exactly what happened with the other villager. I just refused the insults and bad language he gave me. He has taken it back with him and it doesn’t affect me’.
This story has had a great impact on me. While it is difficult to become Buddha, I hope I let this kind of maturity guide my life. I also pray that my own country continues to give me such knowledge and peace of mind.
Finally, I wish everyone a stress-free, judgment-free 2014.