Monday, December 06, 2010

THE "CHINKY" FACTOR

Everyone smiles in the same language.  ~Author Unknown

Time & again, well-wishers, admirers or plain curious people have asked me this: Didn't I get offended by the racist chinky jokes made at my expense on Indian Idol, Badmaash Company & the like? This is a tough one to answer, primarily because I consider myself so much of an Indian that I often fail to separate myself from the crowd & forget that my roots are Chinese. It's only when others hold up a mirror do I see the stark contrast. I'm rudely reminded of how I look when somebody derogatorily calls me a Nepali/Manipuri/Japanese/Chinese/Malaysian. But then, there are people who are genuinely curious/confused about my roots and I answer their questions with patient honesty. Here is where I draw a line of distinction between malicious profanities & innocent queries. 

This conscious decision was aptly illustrated through my experience in Badmaash Company, where the jokes were in good humor & indirectly attempted to show society how the so-called 'aliens', the different looking people amidst us are perceived and how it can push them to the edge. There are two clinching points in the film to this end. One is when I, Zing, pick up a fight with an Indian couple because they aim unpalatable barbs at me in Hindi, assuming that I don't understand the national language (something that happens quite often to me in real life). Second, when Zing makes it clear even to his friends that "I'm not a cheeni, I'm Indian", thus taking a stance that if I'm not confused about my identity then neither should anybody else. This permission to "speak-out" on celluloid about this matter is what attracted me to the character of Tenzing in the first place. He's a carefree, un-ambitious kind of fellow; fiercely protective of his identity, who doesn't mind good-natured ribbing from his friends but knows when to tell them to quit it. 

Indian Idol, however, is a different story altogether. A good show, according to the masses is one which has "action, emotion, drama, comedy" et al. When we as a team get down to deciding the presentation of the show, my looks & origin provide for some comic relief in what can sometimes become a very emotion-heavy episode. It has been used to great effect so far and very honestly, I didn't mind it at all. However, everything comes with a tolerance level and keeping not only my sentiments in mind but also those of the Chinese & North-eastern communities of India, I very humbly refuse to do these chinky jokes anymore. Nobody gets offended, the reel-life show goes on & everyone is happy. However, the jibes continue in real life & I can only hope that the ignorant learn their lesson either before the victims strike back with a vengeance or this becomes mere background music to those of my kind.

It will take time, and I shall wait for it with bated breath & a smile on my face :)

Friday, December 03, 2010

YOU'VE GOT THE "LOOK"

That probing look!
I've perhaps encountered nothing more confounding than the blank look on people's faces in my travels around the world. You'd relate to what i'm saying. You probably face it every single day! This look could be one of disinterest, indifference or a distant zombie-like one; especially prevalent in crowded places, busy neighbourhoods, chaotic surroundings, work stations (and sometimes in the audiences of Live concerts as well. Ulp!) where the populace seems to be existing on some kind of otherworld & running on autopilot. It could be directed at you, probing you to the bone, or looking right through you. Irrespective of that, the look gets quite disconcerting, frustrating even, as it is impossible to decipher what is going through the mind of the looker. 

Are they happy/sad/zoned out? What brought them to their current situation in life? Have they had a tiff with family/friend/lover? Don't they care, or do they care too much? Are they hoping that by giving you the look you'll stop bothering them & go away? Are they practicing the look just to bewilder you? Can I dig a hole in the ground & bury myself???

Questions, questions, questions!

If only we could peel off their faces & peep into their minds, we could become brilliant psychologists. But alas! The mask is unpenetrable; cloaking a million stories & emotions, and the thoughts unretrievable. It ain't that easy to read a face after all.

So the next time you're minding your own business or trying to get some work done and you get the look, perhaps you'll be asking the same questions I am! Feel free to let me know when you decode this one ;)

*****

At Archana's sangeet in Kolkata
Over the years, you have showered unconditional love on me, a stranger who had nothing to lose when he first came on to the National platform. But all this would NOT have been possible if not for the lady in this picture: Archana, my elder sister who just got married on 28th November 2010 was the one who egged me on, forced me to go for the Indian Idol auditions (I wouldn't have if not for her). The rest, as they say is a warm, memorable history. I request you to be generous with your wishes & prayers for a happily married life for her, yet another stranger for you but someone who's very close to my heart :)