Chinkies are people. As real as you and me

Nido Tania
Nido Tania
Nido Tania

Call them chapti naak waale or Chinkies, they are Indian. On paper. And they’d better have their papers on them.

Two years ago, when the Chinese premier visited India for the BRICS summit, Tibetans were put under house arrest to prevent protest. Yep. In this day and age, the country that is home to the Tibetan government in exile blithely put every single Tibetan under house arrest to … prevent inconvenience. Few bothered to make a noise over this wholesale termination of free speech, which includes the right to protest. After all, they were chinkies.

Knowing our people well, I had predicted at that time, that Tibetans being under house arrest probably meant people from the North East were under house arrest too along with the Nepalis and probably any Chinese tourists too. I do a lot of these behavioral predictions, and they usually come true, because I’m simply describing patterns already followed. This one came true too. The police prevented the free movement of people from the North East as well. All chinkies look the same, yes? Small eyes, flat nose….

And of course, a self-immolation was a pretty good photo opportunity. I mean, good reason for house arrest.

So yeah, all the hot Chinkie girls with their loose morals had to stay home, and the Nepali boys. I mean North East. All same, yaar…. if he works in dhaba, Nepali. If call center North East. If selling trinkets, Tibetan. Oh wait. That’s too much information. What difference does it make?

We simply don’t care. A Manipuri is an Arunachali is a Nepali is Tibetan…. whatever. Chinkies. Few Indians know what states are in the North East.

Nido’s mother asked emotionally, as she spoke about racial discrimination if they should go to China, even if they are Indian. Frankly, to most Indians, it  won’t matter. They already look Chinese, and our knowledge of geography is such that a few years ago, a trip to Arunachal had been advertized as a foreign tour, to much embarrassment of the travel agent – not because he didn’t know Arunachal was in India, but because he was wrongly selling an Indian tour as a foreign tour. Get it?

When I lived in the mountains, my adopted family were Khampa nomads. chinkies. The youngest, Bhimsen used to dream of going to Bombay and working in movies. He used to say he’d do roles like Bruce Lee or as a Nepali. “For the film people, it is all the same.” He thought it was a big joke, as we sat at home and chatted, I don’t know if it remained as funny when he actually went to the city. I used to hate this talk. To me, he was precious. The idea that he has to be someone else to get a job in films seemed jarring. I never said anything. Actually, I didn’t know much about racial discrimination back then. Now that I look back, almost everyone at some point or the other had referred to their features. It was me who didn’t get the significance of them mentioning their features as a factor in something.

I remembered Bhimsen because Nido reminds me of how he looked. The youthfulness, not the features. And the hair, though Bhimsen never had it like this that I remember, but he was always experimenting with his looks. Of course, the Khampas are somewhat larger boned, so Bhimsen looked like this in his mid-teens, which was his age from this memory. Nido is older, with a more slender physique. Similar. Yet different. Individuals.

This hurts me. Some of the people I lived with and loved as family were Chinkies, though they were in Himachal, more similar to the Ladakhis than the North East or Tibetans and yes, they don’t at all look the same, if you see them as people. I don’t have words to explain how their faces are different, but I’m more likely to recognize the difference between two “Chinkies” and remember them individually, than the frankly baffling several actresses I have seen who are all slim, sultry, wheatish skin, same length straight hair and similar accents. Combine the similarities with the variations each has in film roles, No way I can tell them apart without seriously learning differences. But they are maybe 4-5 people consciously following similar dress, styles and so on (whatever look is “in”). This is so not true with entire regions full of people as one same kind because different from us.

And yet, we are seeing racist attacks. It isn’t just about differences, it is about defeating the different. What is this hate?

I don’t have the words to explain the differences I see, just as I don’t have the words to explain the differences in “non-Chinkies” and it saddens me that I cannot explain it what I see. Some part of me feels angry. How can people I cared about be treated so interchangeably and with so little regard to them as people?

I wish a “Chinkie” had made a video like this, because even as we are lazily protesting that “all” North East people are under attack, other than Nido (Arunachali), the remaining – the 14 year old girl who was stabbed, the two men beaten up, and the one man stabbed…. ARE ALL MANIPURI. It is NOT all the same. It is like 4 Gujjus and 5 Maharashtrians in a traffic accident called “9 people from the west”. Identity. They are people.

Reporter confuses Samuel Jackon with Lawrence Fishburne, and you gotta hear this. He SHREDS him. “I’m Not Laurence Fishburne, YOU MORON!!!” because blacks go through this a lot too. “All blacks same.” No matter how different.

I hope a “Chinkie” gives it back like this one day.

And I hope Delhi police also protect the Nepalis and Tibetans, because we are fucking stupid people.

Note: The use of the word “Chinkie” is not an accident. It is an accurate reference of our stereotyping that is the root of this whole situation. It is ugly because we are ugly when we use it.

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1 thought on “Chinkies are people. As real as you and me”

  1. For good or bad, racialism in India is heavily tied to economic prosperity of that community in India.
    However there are not many opportunities for people from North-East due to rise economically due to many reasons (one of them also being discrimination).
    Discrimination has always been rampant in India – which is the underlying truth of unity in diversity. Each community has jokes on other communities(not in good taste) which are present in their areas.
    But in the end, it is all about money. Any community which has more money, more numbers and thus more power – ends up getting more respect(at least in politics, movies and TV).

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