Nina Davuluri’s win at Miss America 2014 pageant has created ripples on the social network for all the wrong reasons. And looking at all the hate that is coming from the people around, my annoyance at the blatant discrimination has risen along with the rest of the world.
My first concern stems from the fact that it is coming from people who are themselves settlers in a foreign land, albeit 200 years ago, but settlers nevertheless. They are all – some of them very scarily ignorant – equating Indians/ Asians/ Arabs to terrorism.
Not only that... in ‘The land of Opportunities’, these people are blaming immigrants for everything that is going wrong with their country while reacting to a woman who has merely won a beauty pageant.
America – which stands on the grounds of giving anyone who comes to its shores, the opportunities to make a safe haven for themselves and their families - has turned into this ugly land of bigotry. And it is not just America that is suffering. The economic downturn all over the world has made sure that people are angry with the lack of jobs and are willing to vent it out on whatever outlet they get.
In any case, I don’t think she would have been able to become a beauty queen in India. She would have probably been sitting at home listening to her friends say how she should put on Haldi and Milk to lighten her tone and just concentrate on becoming the doctor she wants to be and marry the first boy she meets.
We Indians have some serious racism issues, very well charted by the media over the past few years. Internet memes have been doing rounds about our inherent racism and sexism about people within our own country regarding class, caste and language. We have problems with skin colour with my friends obsessing over the latest way to turn fairer or thinner for the purpose of getting married. And that’s not even scratching the surface of our mindset.
What made me want to write this piece was how the people around me, in India, have reacted.
Racism apart – for some reason, the minute someone from Indian origin starts becoming famous outside the country, he/she becomes ‘Indian’. For all facts and purposes Nina Davuluri is American. Just like Manoj Knight Shyamalan was when he shot to fame with ‘Sixth Sense’. Apart from the history that Nina’s parents are from India and the fact that she danced to a Bollywood number, she is ‘American’.
Ethnicity is different from a sense of belonging. You cannot possibly tell all the migrants from post-partition ‘Pakistanis’. They have well and truly settled in India for good.
By that logic, the Royals of Bollywood – the Kapoor Family – is from another country and we have no right to be proud about them either. Raj Kapoor, the Showman himself, was born in Peshawar.
While Nina Davuluri, with a Telugu parentage, was born in Syracuse, New York, and was brought up partly in Oklahoma and New York. Last time I checked, both Oklahoma and New York were in the United States of America.
It is the same way I consider myself a ‘Delhiite’. I understand, write and speak my mother tongue. But my upbringing has not been the way my father’s was who was brought up in his village. It will be ridiculous to say that my mother is Bangladeshi because her father lived there.
Everyone keeps in touch with their heritage. So has Davuluri, according to all the information available about her online. But it doesn’t make her Indian. And my heart goes out to her not because I’m an Indian, or I am brown and therefore have some connection with her. I feel for her for all the hate that she is getting for just being different.
And it feels that Indians are becoming more and more ‘optimistic’ opportunists. We lunge on anyone who we think can get us some attention, while disown those who we think have now become expendable and call them traitors for the brain drain they cause!