The thing with racism is it comes with very little shame associated with it. If you are at the receiving end of a racist attack, you are urged by people around you to laugh along because, 'joke hai yaar'.
Allow me to explain. I am from Assam and have been living in Delhi for the past ten years. A couple of days ago, I was visiting a friend. Upon finding that I was from Assam one of the people present in the gathering said, "Can I tell you something? Don't be offended." Now, I have come across enough people with no filter to realise where it was going, but even I wasn't prepared for this. "I have heard that you guys eat dog meat. Also that Assamese women are very good archers and that...uh... Assamese women pee standing," said the enlightened man.
While, thankfully, there we enraged gasps, I thanked by stars that I was at a place surrounded by friends. Usually, such comments get laughed off and if you are annoyed, you'd be asked to grow a sense of humour.
So I asked fellow Northeast Indian people the racist comments that they had to bear the brunt of. And most of these were masked as 'curiosity' or 'jokes'.
1. Trisha Bhuyan, 27, Assam: This was when I was interning with a reputed newspaper around 5 years back. The other intern and I were generally chatting, when I told her that I did my schooling in Assam. She said, "Assam?...er...there are schools there? Isn't it all jhopar pattis?"
2. Priyanjana Roy Das, 25, Assam: I was in Bengaluru a couple of years ago. Upon hearing that I am from a place called Guwahati, a very perplexed friend asked if it was in Kerala. But leave that, I have been asked if a passport is required to go to the Northeast. Till this day, I hope that she was actually talking about a permit and not a passport.
"Have you ever tried human meat?" I mean why, just because I am a Naga?
3. Precious Kamei, 30, Manipur: I am a Naga, from Manipur so I have heard a lot of ignorant remarks. I still get asked, "Have you ever tried human meat?" I mean why, just because I am a Naga? "Ise gussa mat dila, sab kuch khati hain...insaan ko bhi khati hain" (don't make her angry, she eats everything...even humans) -- this was supposed to be a joke. Our ancestors might have been head hunters, but mixing this up with cannibalism is just plain mean. I grew up knowing that I am an Indian. It was only after coming to Delhi that I was made aware that I am a Northeastern.
4. Abhilasha M*, 28, Meghalaya: I am an Assamese who have been brought up in Shillong. Although my Hindi has always been a butt of jokes, it is my looks that catches everyone's attention. "But you don't look Northeastern," I have been told over and over again, even a couple of days ago.
He then said that I don't look like I am from Northeast because apparently Northeastern people are supposed to be fair and I am dusky.
5. Richivandana Gogoi, 27, Assam: I was at my gym a couple of days ago, when the instructor decided to start chatting with me. "Aap kahaan se ho? Northeast? West Bengal? Kyunki aapke face se pata nahin chal raha," he said. (Where are you from? Northeast? West Bengal? Because I can't make out from your face) I replied I am from Assam. He then said that I don't look like I am from Northeast because apparently Northeastern people are supposed to be fair and I am dusky. He also said that the Northeast is a very dangerous place, which is why he has never been there.
6. Annie L, 33, Nagaland: This was last year in Bengaluru. I was mansplained that Northeast was inherently wild, until someone civilised came and turned it better. What does that even mean?
7. Richa Barman, 39, Assam: This was during my college days, so it has been a while. I was asked if I was a member of the extremist outfit, ULFA or if any of my relatives were.
8. R. Konyak*, 30, Nagaland: Once a college friend asked me if my house in Nagaland is made of bamboos. I was patient and replied that we don't live in tree houses. She took a couple of minutes to take this new bit of information in and said, "But I thought you all live in bamboo houses."
"Oh you are from Nagaland? I thought you are from India".
9. E. Kharraswai*, 33, Meghalaya: For starters, I don't think people from the "mainland" can differentiate between a Manipuri or a Naga or a Mizo. They believe that all the tribes are same and that we are all Nagas. So, naturally, there have been a number of times I have heard ignorant stuff but there is this incident that I thought was the epitome of all things ignorant. A junior from college and I were sharing a rickshaw to college, when she asked me where I was from. I said Meghalaya. She replied, "Oh, that is in which state?"
10. N. Tzudir, 20, Nagaland: When I moved to Delhi for my undergraduate programme, in my first week at my hostel a girl said, "Oh you are from Nagaland? I thought you are from India". When I gave her a piece of my mind, she clarified, "I meant from Delhi, Punjab, MP, you know."
*: name changed as requested