Stereotype: ‘Chinki’ students keep to themselves
This is a common refrain not only in Kolkata but in most parts of India. But actually, nothing can be further from the truth. The ‘Chinkies’ have left their comfort zones and come to the city seeking better education. And instead of being made to feel at home here, they are taunted for their ‘different’ facial features and dress sense. No wonder, they develop the habit of staying clear of trouble and sticking close to their kind. This, in turn, is taken for aloofness or snobbish behaviour by others. The cycle never ends, widening the parochial divide. The students of Presidency have realized this and have tried to ensure a friendly environment on the campus to bridge the divide.
Talk back: When I first joined college, I was scared whether I would be accepted or not. But after these two years, I feel at home here. There are instances when certain individuals stare at me, thinking I am different, but these are becoming rarer by the day.
Stereotype: Distinctive dress sense
Students from the hills prefer colours, given the splendid natural settings back home. Moreover, they can easily carry off the kind of outfits they wear and look rather cool. Still, they often have to bear taunts because of their dress sense. If we cry wolf against instances of sexual abuse and rape being blamed on an individual’s dress sense, why is it that we train our guns on the hill people for their unique dressing style? It’s time we stopped this hypocritical behaviour and accepted the hill students for who they are.
Talk back: I have been living in Kolkata for the five years now. There have been a few times when I have faced racial taunts on the streets but I am glad that I have a very normal college life in St Xaviers and never faced any kind of harassment on the campus. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family of Nido Tania. The circumstances of his death were most disturbing.
Tanisha Karen Chhetri
St Xavier’s College
Stereotype: They all look the same
All ‘Chinkies look alike’ is a common refrain borne out of an unfounded prejudice towards the hill people. Somehow, somewhere, we are all partly to blame for this. People from different parts of the country, or for that matter, the world, have different facial features and skin tones based on their ancestry and racial background. But in these modern times, Indian youths seem to be going backwards and developing a heightened racial behaviour. If all hill people ‘look alike’, then surely, from their perspective, all plains people look the same too. They never discriminate; so why do we do it all the time?
Talk back: Kolkata is an amazing city and I feel great living here. My college has a brilliant education system and I have never faced discrimination on the campus. But given the rising number of such cases in the city, we do feel insecure. It is offending how we are made common targets. This should end.
South City College Hometown: Gangtok, Sikkim
Stereotype: They eat everything from bugs to dogs
Another common misconception about the hill students is that they can eat and digest ‘anything’, even cockroaches and snakes! But the truth is quite different. As they, too, are human beings, their nutritional requirements are similar to ours. They, too, eat the same stuff we do. Yes, some hill tribes do have pretty quirky delicacies, but even that is limited to tribes that live in remote locations. These ‘quirky’ foods highlight their ability to adapt and survive in even the most difficult terrain. But that’s too gross for our educated and civilized sensibilities, isn’t it?
Talk back: We are also civilized human beings who eat rice the way Bengalis do. We do not live in jungles. People who say this should visit our homes and see how we live, get educated and what we really are. That’s how they will understand us. We live in the 21st century. How can people nurse such weird notions?
Jadavpur University Hometown: Darjeeling
Stereotype: They are dirty people
If all these misconceptions were not enough, another common notion is that hill people do not take regular baths and have a pitiable sense of hygiene. In hostels, classrooms, buses, trains and even in shops, students from the hills have to keep tolerating taunts about their personal hygiene. But does this perception have a basis? None whatsoever. Just because hills are colder than the plains, doesn’t mean people there don’t bath or wash their clothes. They are as clean as any of us, maybe more
Talk back: I have heard many people saying that we stink because we don’t take regular baths. It’s very embarrassing. In fact, as the hills are colder than Kolkata, we feel hot here. So we bathe more often. As for hygiene, we are not animals. Messy hair doesn’t mean that we don’t bathe; it’s a fashion statement.
Ashish Syangbo Tamang
Jadavpur University Hometown: Darjeeling
Stereotype: They have a weird accent
In India, despite being proud of its ‘unity in diversity’, we haven’t yet figured out how to respect this diversity. Students from the hills are still the butt of jokes because of their ‘peculiar’ accent. No one, however, tries to understand the reason behind this accent — their cultural or racial background. They learn our language, but have we tried to do the same, even once?
Talk back: I definitely feel bad. We are not aliens. We are Indians too. It would be good if people across the country recognize that. Nobody likes being looked down upon as a foreigner in one’s own country. The best way to change this is education. The government should include a paper on the Northeast in the syllabus.
Scottish Church College Hometown: Dimapur, Nagaland
(Compiled by Sromona Mukherjee, Sreemati Mukherjee, Akash Ghosh, Manali Basu, Dibyasha Das & Farha Humayun)
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