Taking off from the Shilpa 'Shitty' issue (I love the surname and that comes from my ever so humorous and intellectual friend Latha or Lotty with love and Angel No. 1 to some :)), here are some reflections on being a north easterner in the capital of the world's largest democracy. Also, Lotty, on a serious note, says I should have a NE angle to what I write. She has a point. I have enough material there, enough to give vent to.

I begin with 'oye Chinky'. When I came to Delhi in the mid 1990s to do a professional course, I wasn't sure what the word meant. Maybe I was too busy paying heed to my new found independence and the certain sense of security -- the fact that I could go to the market even at 10 pm without the peering eyes of the army or the CRPF personnel patrolling the streets and stiffling our existence. It wasn't until my course was over and I got myself a break as a sub editor with the country's premier news agency, that I had my first hand experience of a racial slur. I walk into a sex-starved newsroom on my second week and a senior colleague, part amused, part bullying, calls me 'hi chinky'. It hurt my north eastern sensibility. Fortunately knowing where he came from, I did retort 'hi, so you have not left your Bihari background.' For me, it's been just that one incident but friends recall worser stories.

Ten years on in Delhi and the independence and the sense of security is a little misplaced. I still feel like an alien... I have had to combat men/landlords who have a sneaking suspicion that something is not quite alright with our morals. Because we dress differently, speak differently and look different, we are outsiders; the racist assumptions are too deeply ingrained in people here. Take the case of my neighbours too. For months, they didn't make an effort to even smile seeing two women, that too with non-Indian faces, live alone. Ditto with the rude sweeper or the kabariwallah (rubbish collector) who even had the gall to ask if we had only beer bottles to dispose off until my sister caught him by the collar and slapped him hard, literally. Not that the rest were meted out the same treatment, but they soon came around on their own. That north Indians have the highest number of incest and then make a beeline for the Ganges to wash their sins is another story. But that partly explains why north easterners stick to themselves and do not readily assimilate with the rest of the region. Disturbing...

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