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Meeting racism

 | December 13, 2013

At the Dubai International Film Festival, the writer finds an unmistakable sign of discrimination, whose basis appeared to be the colour of one’s skin.

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For years, every time people spoke about racism in the West, I would shut them up. I have never faced it, I would argue with them.

And in all the 30 years that I have been travelling to Europe and elsewhere outside India, my country, I have never seen racial prejudice.

It would have existed, but I have never been at the receiving end of it.

I would tell all those who complained about racism in the West that this was an evil seen widely in India as well. The racism against colour (the obsession with fair skin), the racism against caste and religion, and now that against the less well-to-do in society were everyday truths.

However, I did learn, much to my disappointment and dismay, that racism there indeed was outside Indian shores, only that it was subtly camouflaged.

And I faced it, and of all places in Dubai, a city that was literally built, brick by brick, by Indians and Pakistanis. Here I was an Indian made to feel somewhat unwelcome.

At the 10th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival – an annual event I have covered for many years – I found an unmistakable sign of discrimination, whose basis appeared to be the colour of one’s skin.

The other day, as I sat waiting for an interview with the Irish movie director, Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father, Dream House), I noticed to my utter disbelief that white journalists were getting longer time with Sheridan than what was allocated to me.

While I was given only 10 minutes with a director as renowned as Sheridan, there was certainly one white reporter from England who spent a good 20 minutes with the helmer. I timed this, and meticulously.

Not just this, the same British journalist got a full 20 minutes with Naomie Harris on a one-to-one session plus another 20 minutes with her in a round-table interview with five other scribes.

I got a place only in the round-table, and in the 20 minutes I got with the five others shooting sometimes inane questions, I need not have been part of this junket, a junket for which I had to hang around for nearly an hour.

Mind you, that British reporter was a freelancer, and with hardly the kind of credentials I have – 35 years in two of India’s most renowned dailies, The Statesman in Kolkata and The Hindu in Chennai. And now a columnist with one of the country’s biggest newspapers, Hindustan Times. I also write for a paper in the Gulf, and this one from Malaysia.

Yet, the London-based DDA Public Relations – in charge of interviews — chose to ignore me. Or at least, it did not think that I deserved more time.

Was India not important for DDA? Or, was the colour of my skin not fancy enough for Dubai? I would never know. But, then, now I do know that there is racism even in Dubai.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]


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