And then we talk of racism across the globe!


“Achha Madrasi ho…lagti to nahi ho!”


The other day, just as I got down my cab in the evening, there was this lady probably in her 60s, staring at me continuously with something that can partially be called a smile.. I almost ignored and took a few steps ahead. 

“Namaste Beta!”

“Namaste, Aunty!”

“We are new to this place. Just shifted this afternoon.” 

“Ohh ok.”

“Where do you stay?”

I pointed to my second floor apartment, just as she tried scanning it through her macroscopic eyes. 

“Achha…top floor it is. We are right in front of yours…the first floor in this building opposite yours.”

“Great! Good to have you here.”

Considering this being my first ever meeting with her, I had already felt I’ve spoken for a bit too long. That too when I’m dying to get back home, dump my dhed sau kilo ka backpack, wash my hands and face and hug my lil girls. I believe it was probably me respecting her age. 

Just after this, she followed me. Just when I was heading to climb up the stairs, she again queried.

“Which place do you belong to?”

Uninterested, I replied, “I’m from Kerala.”

The remaining conversation made me go bonkers.

Achha Madrasi ho. You don’t look like one.”

“No auntyji, I said I am from Kerala, not from Madras which is in Tamil Nadu. Adjacent state it is.”

Arrey haan…they’re all the same. But you are fair.”

I was almost about to fall unconscious, because that’s probably the first time someone said that I am fair. 😛

After this she went on, without any need to be prompted. 

“Madrasi people are ‘black’ (not even darker in complexion). Though they have long hair, it’s all made messy with Gole ka tel. And they speak very bad Hindi.”

My response to this has earned me a definite place in her bad books, probably the ones which she might be burning soon. 

“Aunty ji, aap zaroor Punjabi ho?

“Nahi to, we are from Rajasthan. Kshathriyas!”

“Arrey aunty, they’re all the same. They are fair in complexion like you, have non-messy hair, a meethi-choori kind of tongue and so much time in hand to take the census of the local residents. Also, at least Madrasis try and speak to you in your language. Have you even tried learning a few words of Madrasi?”

Auntyji didn’t even utter a single word and with a frown rushed back to her first floor apartment. Grass wouldn’t grow through the route she rushed back. 😀


And then we talk of racism across the globe!

Pic Courtesy:
Pic Courtesy:

This country can never prosper without people accepting the simple fact that Madras (Tamil Nadu) and Kerala are two different states. And so are Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, though these four states are collectively referred to as South India. Just like Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal, UP and the rest of the North Indian States are collectively known as Northern India. Just like West Bengal (which has always confused me about the location of this state), Orissa, Assam and few more are collectively known as Eastern India. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and the few islands are collectively known as Western India. Our people need to spare some time and see the underlying truth that all these states belong to the ONE country called INDIA. Unless we identify our people as ours, nobody else is going to respect our identity as an Indian. 

Grow up, Auntyji! And instead of wasting your time knowing the lungi-to-langot about your neighbourhood, poking your nose into other peoples’ affairs, utilize your time to take Geography lessons from your grandchildren. 

I guess this was the only time I felt bad about looking fair (to the lady). I was once again upset about having shorter hair, but thankfully messed up completely to match the Madrasi trait. 

I feel bad about such people, because they do not budge even a step while uttering such meaningless nonsense, without you having to forget all the good manners and respect for elders lessons that your parents and teachers taught you. 

I know my Dad would still blame it on me and say, “Now, what’s the different between the two of you?”

Sorry Dad, but I couldn’t take it any more. 


36 Replies to “And then we talk of racism across the globe!”

  1. you go lady….if that was was not something stupendo-fantabulous I don’t know what it was.These neighbourhood auntijies need to be shown their place.I am a northie currently living in Bangalore…for my relatives all the south-indians are ‘madrasis’.This is not only racist but highly ignorant of the difference in ethnicities.

    We Indians ourselves are so damn racists.North-easterners or people with oriental features are never considered to be a part of India.For us every ‘Gora’ is angrez(he could be gernam,french or italian)
    Indians need to grow up in these things.Otherwise they will always be ignorant and immature fools like Americans

  2. That was the best repartee possible to a vile question put up by a bigoted person who doesn’t even realize how small her perspecgive is!
    Loved this post!

  3. I have some other problem here. As soon as IF make an entry anywhere it is assumed that I am from Kerala bcoz of my looks. And I am talked to in malyalam. I used to protest earlier now I start in hindi. 🙂 and if they still dont understand I ask them ifbthey do not know our Rashtriya bhasha

  4. What I have to say is this – SHABAASH! Sometimes we have to unlearn lessons like ‘respect elders’ and ‘have regard for age’. If at 60 they know not how to behave, at 30 you are allowed to stand up for yourself, your identity, your state – anything you want to believe in. When I got married and became a Nanda, lots of curious people used to ask me if I’m from Orissa (apparently Nandas are Oriya too) and quickly say – ‘Oh, but you are not dark!’ And worse still, they heard me husband’s name and assumed I married out of my religion and into Islam. I had fun saying ‘yes’ and seeing them faint! 😀

  5. I have experienced the same thing! Though I tell everyone that I’m from Kerala, they immediately connect it to Tamil Nadu and the Language, Tamil. I seriously hope they know there’s another language called Malayalam! It’s really annoying!

    Great post! Way to go lady! 🙂 🙂

  6. Great write. All South Indians who have lived in North India can empathise with this. I actually believe this has nothing to do with age or region… It is basically because we achieved physical liberation before achieving mental liberation…. I have seen North Indians being stereotyped as Saits in Madras….. We all have to grow up including the sixty plus aunty

  7. Great!
    It’s commendable that you expressed you reacted strongly, but still maintained protocol, addressing her as Auntyji! Respect for seniority does not mean accepting or tolerating the senior’s idiotic views.

  8. Feedback is important too – as important as respect! How will they ever learn that what they do is unacceptable unless they get told 🙂 And superb repartee, Rekha!

  9. I don’t even mind if it’s just ‘South India’. Chalo they are only putting you in a place by direction. But the ‘Madrasi’ makes me see red. What the hell! Is it even a state?! I have heard a lot of this Madrasi stuff from supposedly hi-fi ladies of the army for years and years! Sigh, but I never got to give a reply like yours. Regrets, regrets 😉 😛

  10. I know. Somewhere I read that Indians are the most racist. It happens at all levels. States, districts and between cities. People would also confuse UP and Bihar as well.. and the shocking truth is that there is much rivalry between UP and Bihar folks. Anyway, good that you hit her back.

  11. I like to confuse them a little more since I can “manage” to speak a few different languages for a short while. Or give them an “imagined” history class on how my ancestors are Traders and Criminals from Europe and they married the Kshatriyas in Ancient Pakistan, and then moved to Varanasi and married some from there, then moved to Goa and Tulunadu and married others from there, and then … get the idea. 😛

  12. I think it is all about exposure, Rekha! These people have lived in one place for donkey’s years, read little, know little and are completely confounded by their own prejudices. To be honest, I only understood the finer nuances of each state in the South when I started my brand management career. I had to plan for spend on each regional channel :). And these aunties just have no sensitivity and sensibility on what to say and what not to say. Trust me here in Bangalore, most people think of Mumbai as North India. And many of them have no clue about UP too. They think all North Indians are Punjabis. I think again one can attribute it to lack of exposure and knowledge. The more we mingle, the more tolerant and knowledgeable one gets. I loved your response though :).

  13. Chechi, I’m glad you showed her place ie. running through the stairs back to her ignorant compartment. I understand she’s old and is probably old enough to have seen the Presidencies (Madras, Calcutta and Bombay) in place. What iriitates me is the youngsters who harbor such racist stuff in their minds. I’ve had a few bad experiences recently. And, I’m probably going to have more very soon. But, your post is giving me courage to strike back with force. 🙂

  14. Rekha, this time you are forgiven because all comments are in your favour.

    As regards knowledge of geography, while in Riyadh a limousine driver of Pakistani origin asked me whether India and Kerala are two different countries. I told him that Kerala is only one of the provinces (states) of India. I then asked him as to why he raised such a question. His reply was interesting. According to him whenever he asks his passengers where they belong to, the usual reply used to be “Kerala” not “India”, hence he was confused.

    Now for the old lady, may God Bless her with a neighbour like my daughter.

  15. I wish I had the presence of mind and cheeky courage to respond to people like this the way you have. Rocking answer! People really need to stop being so judgmental of others. It’s true what you say! We point fingers at others and say that they’re racist whereas the truth is that we are a hugely racist population in ourselves!!


  16. What more can I say when compared to the earlier commenters here?

    This is something that I faced at IIM Indore during my two year stint there when all the people from the north of Andhra Pradesh assumed that the rest of us were either Madrasis or Chinkis for the ones from the other side of Kolkata. While a few of us gamely tried to educate them, we finally figured out that they were like frogs in a well who didn’t quite know that there was an entire world outside of their North Indian well.

    In fact, this got on my nerves so much so that I harbored a secret disdain towards all North Indians for more than a few years after that stint at Indore. And even now I treat them with respect only after their ‘secular credentials’ have been verified by me 🙂

  17. Very true…we r such a racist ourself and then we blame others…

    We go Maharashtra and bad mouth Marathis, Madras mein madrasi…everything and everybody is bad/funny except us. whyyyy?

  18. Well done, Rekha!! I’ve had a similar ‘So you’re Madrasi?’ (even though I’m Malayali) incident, but this was uttered by a 20 something IT professional from Delhi. Another guy ( from MP) who was in my team in my IT days never missed an opportunity to ridicule the south Indian guys’ accents when they painstakingly tried to speak Hindi just because they didn’t want to feel left out in a predominantly Hindi speaking office environment. The fact that the lady didn’t have any hesitation in voicing her bigoted thoughts goes to show how deep seated the problem is. I’m so mad, I’m going to plait my coconut oil laden hair and go have some banana chips. Alla pinne!!

    1. Alla pinne indeed!! What these so-called ‘educated’ lot doesn’t realize is that unless we outgrow petty racism within ourselves, we aren’t really going anywhere from the 19th century!!!

  19. Should lack of knowledge be considered as racism? True racism is when highly educated Indians look for say “Sharma look for another Sharma, as his/her better half, Iyer looks for another Iyer, a mia looks for another mia, chinky for another chinky, etc. ” I think I’m too much a racist person for commenting that 🙂

  20. Oh boy!!! I am so glad you decided not to take it anymore!! That’s one less aunty to deal with in the world!! Having heard stuff like “Arrey aap log to har dish mein Nariyal dalte ho,” and many such comments, I was rubbing my hands with glee at this post!! Kudos and congrats!

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