Jesse’s Blog

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Indian Culture… or Racism?

It may surprise you to learn that a good friend of mine was recently fired from her job for being friends with me. Pretty crazy, right? What if I told you this is the second time this has happened since I have been in India? That’s right, folks. I’m white, and some power-players here in India don’t like me socializing with the local female population.

We rent office space from a larger company that has a minority interest in our business. Over the past year I have become friends with several people that work at this other company, because we all share community facilities and general working schedules. One of these people is a female who we’ll call “Sally”. Sally and I frequently engage in social activites outside of work with and without other people (movies, shopping, sight-seeing, food, etc). We have observed that this makes Indian males at her office extremely (and unprofessionally) jealous.

Before I go too far, let’s back up and talk about another girl we’ll call “Amy”. Amy was the executive assistant to the managing director of the other company. Let’s call him “Adolf”. Amy was one of the first people we met when we arrived in India in June of 2006. Her office was right next to ours and we often chatted online and in the hallways. One day, I invited her and her friends to go to a movie with us. All was well.

Ok, let’s move on to a “timeline” format.

  1. Adolf observes me talking to Amy and gets wind of our movie invitation by scanning MSN chat logs on her computer. Amy suddenly turns cold to us, and doesn’t even look us in the eye.
  2. Adolf has a meeting with our managing director and says I was acting inappropriately towards Amy in chat. He then goes on to explain how he doesn’t want us getting involved with Indian women because someone might mistake them for a prostitute and we could get arrested. Or worse, they could cry “rape” and we’d all be thrown in jail, including Adolf.
  3. About a month goes by, and Amy is fired or resigns (I’m not sure). She had been with the company for two years. We have never heard from her again. At this point I am not quite sure if this has anything to do with me, but I am very suspicious.
  4. Fast-forward a few months. Sally and I went to the hottest night club in Delhi with a few of her friends. The next day at work her male managers were giving her a hard time about hanging out with me. Were we being followed??
  5. Sally and I went with some other friends to a lounge in Noida. We bumped into some of her co-workers there. The next day her managers were interrogating her about why she was with me.
  6. Sally’s managers scold her for “acting inappropriately” with me in the cafeteria. By “innappropriate” they must have meant “sitting next to each other”. I have a word with the head of HR at the other company (who I am friends with). He supposedly tells her managers to cool it because they are being ridiculous.
  7. Several months go by without incident. Sally and I meet often at work and outside of work. It seems people have finally started minding their own business.
  8. I invite Sally to our office to watch a movie at the end of her 7:30 shift. We leave the studio at about 11:00pm so I can give her a ride home. Her managers immediately start calling her without letting up. She finally answers the phone and they begin interrogating her about why she is with me and why she is still at the office. They tell her to “bring her parents” to the office the following day to discuss the issue (as if she is in grade school). She refuses. They tell her not to come to work until they figure out what to do about this.
  9. The following day, her managers call her parents. OK. We are talking about a 21 year old woman. The problem is, I know Sally’s mom – and she likes me. She doesn’t understand what the big deal is. Sally’s managers are frustrated.
  10. A few days go by and Sally is waiting for word that she should return to the office. Instead, she gets a message saying she is being let go.
  11. As she arrives at the office on Friday to meet with HR, she discovers the truth: Adolf saw us leaving the office the other night and initiated the whole thing. She is being fired for hanging out with me. Yes, they actually told her this.

So, Adolf is basically a racist pig who despises white people even though his business (a call center and product testing center) thrives on western money. He has fired two of his female employees for “fratenizing” with westerners. Even so, I’m not really that upset with the situation, because we are above Adolf. His day will come.

More examples of racism

Every time I go to the pool at my apartment, I am hounded by the guards. I pay careful attention to the posted rules, but they are always making up new ones that apply only to whites.

  1. I have been asked to move to another chair because I’m not allowed to sit in a certain spot in a certain chair. There are only two types of chairs at the pool. I have been asked to move to the “other” type on two seperate occassions, for no reason.
  2. Last weekend, Albert, Lara and I went to the pool. The guard did not allow Lara (a white girl) to enter the pool because she didn’t have a swimming cap. He would not even allow her to sit on the edge of the pool with her feet in the water. He said this to her while there was an Indian woman in the pool with no swimming cap. He then walked over to his buddy and gave him a high-five, apparently for accomplishing an amazing act of racial discrimination.
  3. Just today I went down to the pool, dressed in my swimming trunks and a sleeveless shirt. The guard intercepted me at my chair as I was putting my stuff down. He told me in broken english and arm gestures that I must go into the changing room if I was going to remove my shirt. Just to remove my shirt. I’m not kidding about this. After a brief argument I complied with his ridiculous request. Not long after that, two Indian females came down to the pool and completely disrobed right on the pool deck all the way down to their bathing suits. They then proceeded to enter the pool without taking a shower (a posted rule) and without swimming caps (another posted rule). The guard said nothing.

I’m so fed up with how racist this country is starting to seem to me. It’s really unfortunate. I’ll keep posting examples like this from now on so the rest of you can experience the frustration I feel on a frequent basis. I can only hope this will change someday.

One final note: I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about racism and inequality in the United States. After traveling and living abroad I think the U.S. is one of the most accepting and culturally diverse societies in the world.

posted by Jesse at 1:12 am  

Monday, July 16, 2007

Roadside Mango Shake for the White People

From Mango Shake

Yes, we played a dangerous game. You could say we were playing with fire. Gut-wrenching, stomach-churning fire. In the end we didn’t get sick. We didn’t even break a sweat. We are truly… Indians.

posted by Jesse at 1:00 pm  

Monday, July 16, 2007

It’s weird when people are TOO nice and not dumb…

This is a little OT (that’s “off-topic” for the acronym-challenged), but I just had the most bizarre phone call with Amazon.com customer service. I called up because I was charged for an Amazon Prime account that I’m never going to get to use. Amazon Prime costs a lot of money… $80. That’s like a whole week of meals in India. Hence, can’t use it – don’t want it.

So anyway, I call Amazon.com customer service and this lady answers right away and asks me how she can help me. I explain it to her once (1 time). She gets it. Bravo. Then she gives me a little story about how even the richest people in the world wouldn’t want to pay for something that they can’t use even if they wanted to. It was a real tear-jerker, quality entertainment. If that wasn’t enough, while she’s confirming my address, she asks a very “uhm… not professional question” but what am I doing out of the country? I told her and she switched to eddification mode, wherein she said she knows I’m a good person and good people will prosper at all they do. All I could say was “well thank you!” in a really cheerful voice. This lady was like my grandma… no clue about who I really am but just knows I’m good and successful because I’m her customer support caller.

She ended the conversation wishing me a “good… afternoon over there.” I had to congratulate her for being right (it was 1:45 PM). I mean, that’s attention-to-detail.

Right?? Weird.

posted by Jesse at 12:52 am  

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