September 17, 2007

I'm Brown, not Black

Who in this unruly world has not heard of 'Mandrake the magician'…? Well I have been an all time fan of this comic magician and his friend Prince Lothar - the strong man. I do not remember when….. but many years back, when I used to subscribe to the Indrajal comics at my Kolkata house - I had come across an edition of the comic in which Lothar ( who is a heavily built man) was bullied by some white men on him being black - and he had reacted saying - 'I am not black -I am brown'. Lothar was always left wondering as to why people called him black when he was actually brown skinned.

Who would have thought a day would come when I would be my turn to say “I am brown not black”. It took me several hours and lots of debate with myself to make up my mind whether to pen down this incident or not. I was fighting between being embarrassed and the fear of looking like a fool. Eventually- the journalistic instinct prevailed and here I am penning this piece for my blog.

Working in BBC at Bristol was an exciting experience but the time after work hours was always dim and low. For a person who doesn’t smoke and is a teetotaler - going around the city was the only option which is sometimes not enough to kill the loneliness. When the weekend arrived - my adrenaline accelerated - it was time to hop onto a bus to London - spend time with friends and above all kill the loneliness.

The National Express Bus to London from the Bristol bus station was at 8 pm so I called for a taxi at the Hotel Ibis; where I was putting up. The driver of the taxi was a black man; his license told me that his name was Samuel. It took me a few minutes to reach the bus station and Samuel politely asked me to pay 6 pounds. On searching I found only 5 pounds and 25 cents and I was in no mood to break my 20 pound notes. Samuel must have realized it and asked me to give him whatever change I had - but I insisted on paying him the exact amount so as to not have him incur any loss. He took me by surprise saying.....'com on brother - we are black people in the land of whites, we have to be united. These people call us black. You are black and I am black, we are be-rathers (read brothers) - I have to help you.”



I saw myself in the taxi mirror and thought I am not black I am dark...in fact I am brown. How the hell did the cabbie call me black - I am an Indian - an Asian and not BLACK. I told him - "I am brown", and walked off into the bus station with a huff…left wondering why he called me black when my colour was brown. I could immediately relate my self to what Lothar (of mandrake comic) would have felt in this very situation…

3 comments:

my poetry journal said...

Mr Akula,

Did you realise how the Black cabbie would have felt after you left? Not only did he face discrimination from Whites, he's also had a brush with a Brown man protesting: "I am Brown not Black." A man who he was only trying to help.

dinesh said...

yes i am thinking about it now..but i didnt tell me bluntly on his face...i spoke out once he left.....

Startups said...

I thought the same ... glad you didn't really say so.