Aashima Saberwal, Bonojit Hussain and Devika Narayan are activists associated with New Socialist Initiative (NSI). This article was published in the November 2010 issue of CRiTIQUE, an irregular magazine brought out by the New Socialist Initiative (NSI) – Delhi University Chapter.
Kevin is from Kenya. He studies at the faculty of Law. We ask him whether he likes India (he doesn’t) and about the kinds of challenges he faces. He shrugs and shakes his head “I have don’t face any discrimination” He often repeats this sentence at various points of the discussion. After he tells us about shopkeepers who refuse to sell him milk or before narrating how not a single shop at Patel Chest area was willing to type his assignment. “When you go to buy things from a shop they refuse to sell. If you ask for milk they say ‘no milk’ but you can see the Indians buying milk.” Later he tells us a similar story “My mobile phone was stolen. For one week I was thinking how to get a new one. The shops here don’t sell to Africans.” Kevin doesn’t think much of these experiences and dismisses them as insignificant, the ordinary trials of living in a foreign country. A woman on the road provokes a dog, provoking it to bite him, which it does. At Hans Charitable Trust Hospital they ask him for 10,000 rupees for the anti-rabbis injection. This is a service which is provided free of cost, however the small print reads ‘unless you are black’. Our interviews starkly shows that this particular subtext is present everywhere. We don’t realize that for the most mundane of daily activities (like buying milk) there are conditions that apply. The condition that you are not black.
These interviews give us a glimpse of how these students experience classrooms, hostels, streets, the metro and other public spaces. “What does kala bandar mean?” Boniface asks. They point. They laugh. They don’t like sitting next to you in the metro. What must it feel like to enter a strange foreign country where people across the board categorise you as sub-human? Strangers call you black monkey. “When I go back from college to hostel people on the streets keep laughing and staring. It is humiliating” Boniface says.