Since childhood, I’ve connected with the children’s story ‘The Ugly Duckling’ more than any other story I’ve read or heard. Mostly because it was about a swan which was called ugly only because he was living in an entirely different community for which the criteria of judging others were not as per the swan’s physical features. Now, I don’t claim to be a beautiful swan caught in the wrong neighborhood, but I can relate to what the swan might have felt.
For a considerable period of time, I used to walk to and fro from school as it was nearby. The worst part was having to pass through a small stretch of slum, which was a necessary shortcut for us. Every single day, the residents of the slum looked at me as if I was something that they’ve never seen before (I’m exotic, bitches). Those who were aware enough about the existence of the country named China and the false propaganda of ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ started shouting the slogan at me and my sister, every single day. Talk about consistency, huh!?
The childish anger was overcome by sanity as we learnt to ignore them with time. But that was not where it ended. Any place you go, I would become the center of attention. While some had the decency to only look, others couldn’t contain their curiosity and would ask whether I was from China or Japan (because only two countries have people with small eyes. *cough* *cough* North East India *cough* cough*). The shopkeepers tried to hardsell me local stuff for exorbitant prices. I was the favorite of the beggars as they thought my wallet would be full of foreign currency. Some sweet people tried to make me feel comfortable by starting the conversation in their own limited capacity of the English language. Oh, the stories will never end!
Anyway, I never let this behavior bother me as I learnt to maintain a cool composure whenever I came across such people. Even at times, I would oblige and acted like a foreigner to provide them a moment of joy of meeting an outsider (A man’s gotta spread as much happiness as possible).
But what I really want to say is that despite coming from a different human race (#NotAryan #ProudlyMongolian), my upbringing and education in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat has made sure that I do not lack in any criteria to be a good Indian citizen. Be it good hold over Hindi or the understanding of the local Gujarati language, I’ve imbibed the Indianness of the languages with open heart. From the love for Cricket to taking avid interest in Indian and world politics that affects the country, I can comfortably claim to have earned to be called a Proud Indian Citizen through all these years.
I cheer loudly when India wins in all sports (Cricket still remains my favourite though), I get in heated arguments with people who disrespect India, my blood boils when the enemies kill our innocent fellow citizens and soldiers, I sing the National Anthem proudly every time I go to watch a movie in a multiplex, I shout ‘Jai’ at the top of my voice when someone initiates the ‘Bharat Mata Ki…Jai’ chants, I get sad when I hear about unfortunate incidents which could have been avoided, I get angry when people say ‘Is desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta’, I show equal disgust when a 15 year old boy is killed on the rumor of carrying beef (it’s food for other people, idiots) and when the leader I support chooses to remain mum about it, I feel proud whenever India or Indians do incredible stuff (#GoIndia #IndiaIndia)…. phew!!!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Nor am I expecting things to change. You crack a racist joke on me, I’ll one up it with a better one (and I’ll win, because I’m hilarious and witty af). You want me to play a foreigner for your amusement, I’ll happily oblige. You keep asking me about the difference in our cultures, I’ll tell you I don’t know shit (seriously, I’m born and brought up in India, I hardly know anything about Nepal or its culture.) As far as I know, there’s not much difference. For those who don’t know, Nepal was the only Hindu nation in the world till 2008. It still is the country with the highest Hindu majority, population-wise.
So let’s just accept the fact that I’m an Indian, by birth and by heart. And I don’t mind being called or considered an outsider for my whole life. Doesn’t matter. Don’t give a flying fuck. While you consider me a Permanent Outsider, I’ll always be proud of being a Nepali who has embraced India and is equally proud of the teeny, heavenly country which gives me a biological and cultural identity.
As for everyone else who chooses to remain ignorant, I’ll always be your friendly, neighborhood Permanent Outsider.
*mic drop* Gulshan Out!!!