There are many things I hate about us Indians. Me included. We are racists, we stereotype, we are sexists and we are classists and many more ‘ists’. Apart from these, what I absolutely hate is how in our mind, a little amount of money immediately makes us better than everyone else around us. Even better than ourselves when we had lesser money. I know this comes from the combination of all the above ‘ists’ and because that’s how we have seen everybody behave. So to us, that really isn’t a very wrong thing to do.
Last week, I was at the Mumbai airport, past midnight, waiting in the queue to get my immigration stamp and go home and sleep. Ahead of me was a family of 4, simple Dad and Mom with 2 daughters aged 6 and 3 (it came up). Let’s call them the Familys. Behind me, was a family of 3, parents and a daughter of 2. Let’s call them the Jackasses. For some reason, a sullen Mr. Family was having a hard time talking to the immigration official and convincing him that all their papers were in order. (It wasn’t a language problem). The Jackasses meanwhile had British passports and were in Mumbai due to a stopover from a vacation in East Asia, and they decided to meet a friend in the city. They were Indians born in Punjab and settled in London (I swear to God I am not making this up, I heard him say this to the immigration official). The Jackasses, consisting of a hairline-mustachioed (like all the Indians in London in the 90s), crew cut sporting Mr. Jackass, a make-up wearing (yes, on a flight with a kid) Mrs. Jackass and an extremely cute two year old, all talking with a stiff upper lip.
While we were waiting, the 3 year old little Ms. Family was quite active considering it was past midnight and her dad had been talking to the official for what now seemed like an hour (it was fifteen minutes). The little girl saw the three year old Ms. Family very awake and as any two year old girl would, went to say hi. Mrs. Jackass saw this and said, “Hemani, say hello to the little girl”. (Please note the three year old was actually littler than the two year old). Hemani said hello and tried to shake hands. Mrs. Jackass then said, “Hemani, ask her ‘What’s your name?’”. Hemani promptly repeated. To which the visibly shy three year old replied in a very hushed voice. Here, Mr. Jackass ejaculated, (this somehow seems like the right word), “Oh, she understands English”? He then looked at Mrs. Family and asked her in Hindi what the name was. Mrs. Family replied saying Iyati. Mr. Jackass chose to respond, in Hindi, by saying “That’s a very advanced name”. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jackass was instructing little Hemani to tell Iyati her name. “Hemani, tell her your name. Tell her ‘My name is Hemani. A-R-M-A-N-I. Hemani’”.
Little Armani and Iyati by now had started smiling and shaking hands. Mr. Jackass who was visibly disappointed with the fact that he had not yet made clear how much better the Jackasses were than the Familys, asked Iyati’s age. This kind of made his night, proudly implying that a much taller Armani was only two, while the tiny Iyati was already three. He then moved to the next queue which was now vacant. I could have pointed out to him quite easily that the queue we were standing in all this while was for people with Indian passports, written clearly in English. But I let it be.