Sunday, 22 May 2011

Not Black Not White

21 May 2010
In the country of black people, a person like me, who does not belong to that race, is an attraction. I am some body to be curious about. Leaving the country for the first time and being in the land of people who look entirely different from the race in which I am born, it was very difficult to digest the idea of being an object of curiosity in the initial days. When I arrived here in Bongo, small kids, men and women used to come near to the house trying to have a peek and see how I looked. Majority of the local people have seen white people in their lives. It is not a novelty for them but when some person comes and lives in the town of the size of Bongo, it surely is a big attraction.
Initially I was always irritated being called as a White Man. When they say, Solemiya, the Gurune equivalent, for the term White Man, it does not sound strange, as it always sounds as if they are calling me a foreigner or non-native. I resent being called as White Man. I am proud that I am an Indian and in India, we call white skinned people of European race, as whites. I always want to tell people loudly that I am not one of them, I am an Indian. I don’t hate Whites but it is out of my pride being an Indian. Eventually I learned seeing Indian and the Indians in the global perspective and I am no longer too proud about my nationality but I will still like if they call me an Indian rather than white.
Here in this Northern part of Ghana, there are not many Indians around and not many people have seen Indians. After seeing me, many times I realize that people know that I don’t belong to European race and don’t belong to African race either. I always have fun with the people when they try to guess my nationality (or race).
Once in Bongo, near lorry station a group of youths was hanging around chatting and looking at people passing by. After looking at me, one of them started to call me, “Hey Chinese!”. I stopped and said to them, “I am not Chinese.” They looked puzzled. “Then you are Korean.” “No.” I said to them. It seemed that they wanted to poke fun at me, but with my answers, they got confused. Their guesses further included Japanese, Cuban and Lebanese. I think those were the only non-white non blacks, they had seen in their life. There are Japanese, Korean and Chinese companies doing their businesses in Ghana. Chinese can be seen these days commonly on the road construction sites, since many Chinese companies have got contracts for road construction. There is a huge Lebanese expat community in Ghana and majority of them run shops and trading businesses and have their existence in almost all the towns with substantial size and potential for businesses. Cuban doctors have found their way in the Ghana’s health systems and they can be found in smallest of the district places doing service in the government hospitals. The group of youths was very much surprised to hear that I was an Indian. We had a hand shake and I went away afterwards.
Cubans and Lebanese people look very similar to Indians since most of them have darker shades which are similar to Brown colour of average Indians. What I don’t understand is how people can call me Chinese. Chinese action movies full of martial arts are very much popular here. Once on the road one man came across and started making some hand movements in front of me. I laughed and told him that he is better at Kung Fu than me. We greeted each other and he went away. Twice I have been asked wwhether I know Karate and whether I could teach it to people. I think that they have this vague idea that I am not a European white and of course not a black African by race and I am coming somewhere from the East. Majority of the people here are very poor in Geography
Once I was passing on the road and I heard a loud call, “Hey Fulani”. Then I heard the call of other man, “Hey, India.” I turned back and looked at them. The two men were debating amongst themselves whether I was a Fulani or an Indian. They were laughing and told me about their guess game. I congratulated the person who won. I always appreciate Ghana for friendly and jovial people. However, being called as a Fulani in Ghana is not considered good. Fulani is a Sub Saharan nomadic tribe which is engaged in cattle herding. Farmers don’t like Fulanis passing through the village. They say that Fulanis with their huge herds of cattle strip the land of vegetation,. People are also suspicious about them for robberies and petty thefts. Fulanis are somewhat fair and with short stature. Except for their curly hairs, they look very much like Indians.
Once in Bongo, I was buying some food at a stall with my friend Joshua. An adolescent school girl and her mother were talking with each other in Gurune and then they suddenly started laughing. I heard the word Solemiya, being used in their conversation a number of times. I asked the girl what they were talking about me. I was sure she could speak English seeing her school uniform. She just kept giggling and did not say anything. Afterwards Joshua translated their conversation to me. The mother was telling her daughter that since my skin colour was very much like her daughters, she should think of proposing marriage to me. The girl was very much fair coloured which was almost like the skin colour of the average Indians. I told her laughing that first she should complete her education properly and then I would help her find a good husband for her since she was too young to marry me and I did not want a second wife. With the black African race, we in India, tend to think that they are very black in colour but there are many shades in their colour.
It has been really very much interesting to know how people try to stereotype the nationalities by the skin colour and how misleading that can be in this world coming closer day by day.