We just got out of our classes. I was going to walk back to my hostel. I missed taking the college bus as this was an extra class. My friend’s parents had come to pick her up in their fancy car, she insisted I stayed back and she will drop me to my hostel on the way back. Her parents needed to complete some college administrative work so we waited for them, walking up and down in our beautiful college campus giggling and talking silly things watching the sunset. They took time, it was getting dark and I was worried of getting late and told her I will walk if they will take time. My friend pacified me and stopped me saying they are almost done. Finally they came out and we hurried to their car.
My friend told her parents that they need to drop me. Her father drove up the slope of our college, hit the main road. We had to take a left turn for my hostel in 2 minutes, a small detour from the way to their house. I told them that they had to take the left turn in English. After which they spoke in their local language. My friend helplessly said “Amma …” multiple times which was cut by her mother. For the 2 minutes drive the mother spoke mostly cutting her husband and daughter showing clearly who was in charge. I had no idea what they were talking (South Indian Language) but I could sense it was not good and it was about dropping me. Finally the car stopped in the intersection and her mother turned to me from the front seat and said “We’ll drop you here”. It happened so quickly, I didn’t know how to react and got down finding myself standing in pitch darkness near the mud road after 3 minutes of being in their car.
The 20 minutes walk to the girls hostel could be a beautiful mud road walk in a place call Banashankari depending on the time of the day or the company with whom you are walking. It could be a scary road to walk all alone when it’s dark. It’s very quite, you can hear the insects and even your own echo as you pass the rocky hill with a temple on top where you will find lovers sitting behind big rocks. There are not many people walking specially when it’s dark. You will find drunks walking from the near by pub giving you the dirty looks, calling you “ching chong” “chinky”. And there I was all alone, scared, humiliated at being dumped in the middle of nowhere at that time.
I started walking praying to all the possible God taking each names I knew or had learned of, tears rolling missing my parents thinking if my parents were there they wouldn’t drop me at such a spot to walk back all alone. In my hometown where I grew up in Manipur, my parents accompanied me everywhere and we mostly went out only during daylight. Our Gate was closed way before darkness because of the conflict in Manipur. So I was not very good with darkness. Who would wait for darkness to get 3 minutes of a car ride ? Would they have dropped their own daughter at such a place to walk all alone at such a time ? I was so stupid to accept my friend’s invitation. I was blinded putting myself in such situation, being happy thinking I was accepted and got a friend in a new place. I saw nothing on the way and continued walking as fast as I could playing all these questions in my mind. I walked so fast taking only 12 minutes and I saw the light of the house with “Amma” the sweet lady, wife of our hostel guard standing at the gate. Seeing her, I was relief and felt safe, entered the hostel with a gush of strength built by my first taste of humiliation. My thought echoing loudly “I came here for a reason and only one reason, that is to study and study only, and NOTHING will deter me from studying”.
I studied and studied, met people of different kinds. The kind who embraced me and the kind who judged me hurling humiliations. I learnt to love and create human relations with people showing me the warmth and humanity, and I learnt to gulp, ignore people and humiliations which came my way to survive. I was never brave to fight back, resorted to self healing and continued to focus in studies, the only reason I came away from home, my home where my parents are working very hard to pay my fees. And I never got to sharing about this incident with my parents nor with any of my friends and this incident stayed with me.
Based on an incident that happened in Bangalore, India.
With the recent news about discriminations faced by north east Indians in Delhi and other places of India, I was reminded of this incident, an insignificant one, but an event that impacted my psyche. My friend’s mother never said anything derogatory directly to me but I felt a sense of discomfort in her look, questioning my origin and way of life. It’s hard for a young student to leave home at such a young age, coming out from a very protected environment, and to handle such situations, breaking into tears and not able to share and be comforted by parents because of the distance. Many of us don’t have enough money and would look at the phone bill while talking on the phone, and hence the conversations are limited to “Send more money, my glasses broke” or “Everything is fine” or a happy note “Results are out and I got distinction”. Incidents like this are not shared as the young students doesn’t want the parents to be worried staying so far away but it does impact a person. It’s easy to pre-judge a student from north east with different features, wearing jeans and skirts and hence perceived fast. They go through a tons of changes at such a young age being away from home, transitioning to survive on local cuisine, changing dressing styles to blend in, dealing with the indifference and yet trying to excel in what they came for, to study.