‘You Know Me. I Am Not A Cannibal’

Posted by Sammi Lee in Racism
March 29, 2017

Namaste Mumma, Papa, Nani, Nana, Chacha, Chachi, Didi, Bhaiya.

Remember me, right? I came to visit your home at your humble request. I am very good friends with your son/daughter. I came over and you served me chai and namkeen. You were sad for me for being so far from home. You said you wanted me to have a place here in India that I could call home. So, you asked me to visit you more often. When I came, your neighbours and neighbours’ kids came over too and surrounded me with warmth and joy.

You see, I go to college with your son/daughter. We are very good friends. We help each other with classwork and assignments and we even go shopping together. Your children have shown me the best markets in the city and we have taken a thousand photos together. We have created beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

You know me.

You know me from the metro too. Where you have taken selfies within my range so that you can show your friends and relatives that you spotted a foreigner today. You have asked to take random pictures with me in public and very often I have smiled for the camera.

You know me.

You know me from your dhabas and your shops. I come to buy your momos, pav bhaji and pani puri. I often ask you to make my food less spicy so that the chilli doesn’t burn my mouth. I also buy milk and bread every morning. I often chat with you in my broken Hindi about the weather, college and cricket, before picking up my grocery bag and heading home. At home, I have sometimes given random  Indians the opportunity to clean my house or iron my clothes for a fee that helped them feed their kids.

You know me.

You know me from when you draped my saree for me in your living room; That time it was your cousin brother’s marriage. I said, “Ye bahut door hai,” (It is very far.) but you insisted I attend. We travelled far for the ceremony and you gave me shelter and food. What you wanted the most was my company. I also promised to invite you to my own wedding in Africa.

You know me.

Your daughter and I have wiped each other’s tears and danced together in the rain. We have figured out that even though we are from different places, we can still work together. I learn from her and she learns from me.

Sometimes I’ve been asked why my skin is dark. Is it because Africa is very hot? And I’ve often answered that India is hotter than Africa and that my skin is darker because god gave me more melanin than you.

You know me.

Well, at least I thought you did; enough to know that I do not and cannot and will never eat a fellow human being.

You know me.

I am not a cannibal.

My parents sent me to India to study, not eat other people’s flesh. At home, I have sisters and brothers waiting for me to come back with a degree. My parents are constantly worried about my well-being. Shouldn’t they be? Wouldn’t you worry too if you heard your children were being discriminated in a foreign country just because of the colour of their skin? I mean it’s enough that we are constantly exploited; from paying double or close to triple the house rent, to being cheated by the auto drivers.

And today there’s news that people of my race are being attacked for no reason at all. What if I were your beautiful Sunita or your beloved Rohit? What would you do if you heard they were missing or being beaten up by a mob in an African mall just because they are brown in colour?

People tend to stereotype based on race. We often tend to judge people we do not understand. However, just because my skin is packed with melanin or I have hair locks does not mean I do not have the same feelings, dreams or aspirations as you. It does not mean I deserve to be beaten up to near death for a crime I never committed.

There are millions of Indians living in Africa. I do not think they are being treated this way. Help stop the hate towards Africans in India.

I have parents waiting to meet me alive and healthy at the airport some day. Please help me be safe. Help my friends remain safe here until we go back home after our studies. Help spread the truth. Help stop the hate and discrimination.

Aunty, uncle, you know me. Please help me.

Shukriya

Image used for representational purposes only.

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Image source: John Atherton/ Flickr

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