Opinions

Racism and slavery in India: Clubbing exclusiveness

Delhi Golf Club is in the news for not giving entry to a lady, Tailin Lyngdoh, from Meghalaya because she was not properly attired. In other words, her attire was not in sync with the club's sartorial protocol. 

This reminds me of V S Naipaul's caustic observation that, 'Slavery is in the DNA of almost all Indians.' It wasn't an exaggerated observation. We're still slaves in our collective attitude and psyche. We're ashamed of our exalted culture and heritage.

The obnoxious club culture is still prevalent in India. Not only Delhi Golf Club, but there're still a few 'elite' clubs in India, founded during the British rule, that retain and perpetuate their exclusivity. M F Hussain was accosted at the entrance of an aristocratic club in Calcutta because he wasn't wearing any footwear. A British-era club in the North-East proudly flaunted a board that read, 'Natives aren't allowed.' Mind you, the board was removed only in 1987! We're hopelessly servile and grovellingly anglophiles.

Clubbing came to India from the Europeans, namely Brits and French people. Dom Moraes and Anwar Baig's now out-of-print book 'Clubbing in post-colonial India' highlights the facet of slavery among the high-class Indians. Till 1958, twenty one very posh clubs in the 'independent' India didn't allow the Indian masses to enter their 'holy' precincts! Only the English people, who stayed back in India after its independence in 1947 and a select few direct members of genuflecting Indian royal families, were allowed. That till the late fifties, we dared not change and challenge this humiliating dictate, underlines our slavish attitude that's ingrained. 

Many establishments in India still retain that discriminatory British legacy. The Brown sahibs (planters, managers and assistant managers) of tea and coffee plantations in India's eastern and southern regions still act like their erstwhile white masters and their clubs don't let other staff of the tea and coffee estates enter. This is still very much in practice. This prompted Darjeeling-born British playwright Tom Stoppard to quip, 'The Indian tea planters and army officers are more Brits than the British themselves.' His father was a tea-planter in one of the best tea estates in the world, Makaibari in Darjeeling.

This 'clubbing exclusiveness' (a phrase coined by the irrepressible Khushwant Singh as he was snubbed by an English gatekeeper of an all-white club in London when he was a student there) can be seen among the Indian army folks. They don't let JCOs and NCOs enter there certain 'hallowed' citadels. The 'clubbing exclusiveness' has also spread among other aspects of our social life. We tend to treat disdainfully who don't know English that well or can't adroitly use a fork and knife while eating. 

That's why, the above-mentioned unpleasant incident at Delhi Golf Club didn't attract very many people's attention because slavery is our second nature and equality and egalitarianism are still elusive terms to us. We can't fight for our rights in a collective fashion and feel that it's our inexorable fate to be treated shabbily by those who have power, position and pelf in their hands.

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