"Vivek was telling me that Thursday might be a holiday for all of us," John said.
"Whose Vivek?" I asked, as we sat at the end of class.
"Arey, Vivek, dude. The short, spectacled guy, in Philip's class?"
"Oh, that Vivek."
"Rohit says there's no college tomorrow. We'll watch a movie?"
"Rohit? Who's that?"
"Rohit, macha. The maru who sits behind us in class."
"Oh, that Rohit."
Funnily enough, until I joined a college in India last year, I never knew what a maru meant. Of course, now I do. Not just marus. I know who mallus, iyers, firengis and the rest are.
The reason I never knew this was because I lived in Qatar. Over there, we Indians were a single group. Be in during evening football matches or visits to the malls, we stuck together beneath the tricolors. And the national anthem would blare out in full force, when we were being picked on by other nationalities. You see, we normally got whooped by the arabs. With their lean frames and well endowed biceps, they would normally make us run for our lives.
But back here in India, everything's different. Perhaps it's because there's no one who'll pick on us, perhaps its just because of the difference in language and culture, but more often than not, you'll find people grouped together by their regional similarities.
And the amount of stereotyping that we do on a daily basis makes me feel like I'm at a Russell Peters show. You have the Gujjus being cheap, Mallus having funny accents, Iyengars being nerds...the list can go on depending on the company your in.
Perhaps there's nothing wrong in a little stereotyping, and maybe that's all it is. But things like this stick out for me, simply because of an image that's engrained in my mind. While walking through my housing compound a few years ago, I caught sight of a few kids arguing or over a game of football. The strange thing though, was the make up of the kids involved. Like the ensemble cast of Michael Jackson's Heal the World music video, there were two Africans, two Indians, a Philipino as well as an Indonesian, not to mention two Arabs - one from Palestine and the other from Oman. To top it all of, was a 6 year old, blond American girl who argued with surprising ferocity.
After a few minutes of fighting, the group came to a conclusion, and resumed the football match. Watching them play, I thought of how lucky these kids were. They were being brought up to see beyond the colour of the skin or the sound of the tongue. They held no stereotypes about each other as they yelled out for a pass.
I wonder now about those kids. Whether they'll grow up and begin calling people by their regional names. Whether they'll soon identify people by common habits and behaviours. Whether some day....they'll turn into us.
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