The Irony of Stereotypes

22/10/2008 Wednesday

Mumma and I had our famous ‘Gilmore girls’ day out! We went to BKC to check out the very deceptively named ‘Times Bandra Festival’. Turned out it was just another consumer products exhibition. And as expected we ended up blowing a lot of money on junk we don’t really need. So dressed in white shorts and my favorite yellow empire-cut top, I marched down the aisle sampling food. I love that aisle. I had my lunch in that aisle. 😛

So the furniture section got us all excited and we decided (finally!) that we should redecorate our pigeon-hole of a house. There were a number of stalls displaying fine furniture and as we made our way through each and every stall inquiring for a sofa-cum-bed and sitting down pretending to check the upholstery but we were actually just tired of all the walking.

We eventually found the perfect sofa-cum-bed. It was accurately priced, looked sturdy, was soft and comfortable and matched our black and white color scheme. We spoke to guy manning the stall who seemed like the owner’s son. As we exchanged details, the young man stopped half way through his talk and said, “My name is Mustafa. I’m a Muslim”

Mum and I waited, thinking he had something more to add to his seemingly incomplete statement. He sensed our confusion and said softly,” If you’ll have a problem with that…”

Mumma and I in chorus, “No. Why would we?” The 23 year old boy said softly with childlike pain in his voice, “Because there have been people who walk away when they come to know this is a Muslim shop. I thought maybe I should tell you’ll before you’ll make any decision to buy from us.” Mumma and I nodded in despair as he spoke.
It hurt to see a fellow brother feel neglected just because of his belief. I wondered if it was really this hard to be ‘minority’. You could sense that this young wealthy Muslim boy had been on the receiving end of discrimination and had finally unwillingly resigned to communal hatred. He honestly believed he was hated for being a Muslim. And this was a really sweet chubby boy, well mannered and decent. My mother and I told him we aren’t like that and religion doesn’t matter but the person does. We told him that we as a family have friends from all religions. Amidst friendly chatter, he says “Accha tho aunty mere liye ek aachi Christian ladki doondna” (Translation: Ok aunty. Find me a good Christian girl)

We didn’t know what that meant. He continued, “Aap Christain ho na?” My mom corrected him for which he said, “Oh…mujhe laga…kyunki …kapde…” (Translation: oh…I thought…because…your clothes).
It took me a few seconds to realize what he said. I think I didn’t want to believe what I heard. This boy who detested being stereotyped for his religion turned right around and stereotyped us for the clothes we were wearing.

When will Indian learn to look beyond religion? When will stop compartmentalizing our own people? I have nothing against the novel man-made concept of Religion. It’s psychologically imperative for any smooth functioning society and for man’s Id (See: Freud). But I do loathe what Religion has become. I strongly abhor that it has become the criterion for judgment of other. I truly believe that it is religion that is the root cause of almost ¾ of the world’s problem.

How did it come to this? How did we let it come to this? How can something that’s suppose to make us better human begins end up sowing seeds of spitefulness in our soul?

It saddens me no end.

4 thoughts on “The Irony of Stereotypes

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