I and a couple of my friends undertook a trip to Pondicherry to spend our Ugadi weekend in this coastal holiday destination. It was a road trip which was decided on the spur of the moment with the intention to break free from the rush of the stressful life we lead in Bangalore city. Hence, our accommodation at ‘Pondy’ (the slang used by the young city crowd to refer to this holiday destination which was a former French colony) was not reserved in advance. After a long road trip and a frustrating, futile search for a suitable sea facing hotel in the main town of Pondy we decided to take our chance and find a beach cottage or shack along the East Coast Road (ECR) which connects Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram.
After twenty minutes on ECR, we reached a stretch of highway running adjacent to the seashore lined with shacks and cottages. We stopped our car and walked down to the sandy beach to book our stay at the popular Auroville Waves resort. Also, it had been nine long hours since our last meal and we were very hungry. We were told that the cottages at the Waves were fully occupied and maybe we could try our luck at Muthu‘s resort which was adjacent to it. With hungry stomachs, we prodded our way under the afternoon sun towards Muthu’s in the direction given to us by the lady who was at the Waves.
In front of us was a stretch of beach filled mainly with foreigners. And there was a rope running from the road towards the waters separating that part of the beach from the stretch of the coast opposite the Auroville Waves. It seemed like some sort of demarcation and there was a board with a message written in Tamil. None of us knew Tamil and we walked towards the other side of the rope. At that moment, we heard whistles from a nearby shack. There were two men in Security uniform and a hefty man who resembled like some of the bouncers in Bangalore Pubs. All the three men were Indians. They made signs which indicated us to keep away from this stretch of Beach. Confused, we decided to walk up to them and find out what was the issue.
“What is the problem?”
“You can’t come to this part of the beach.”
“No Indians allowed here. Only Foreigners”.
“What!(Shocked).” “But we want to look for accommodation here.”
“(Still recovering from the shock)Okay. But we are very hungry and have travelled a long way from Bangalore. We will have lunch here.”
“No lunch served here. Only Snack Bar.”
“Okay, fine. We will have snacks then.”
“Don’t enter from here. Come from the back entrance facing towards the road.”
“Why? we’ll enter from here”
“No, you can’t! Enter from the other side.”
At this point, we felt humiliated and walked out of that place. It was shocking to receive such a treatment in India for the simple reason of being an Indian. It is high time we stopped pointing fingers at the West for racial discrimination we are subjected to in foreign countries. We ourselves are discriminating our own people based on race.
This definitely was the worst, but not the first time I had experienced racial discrimination. In the past, I had faced a similar issue in Goa, which coincidentally is also another beach holiday destination drawing lot of foreign tourists and is also a former European colony. And incidents of such racial discrimination are experienced by other Indian domestic travelers too. Ryan Lobo, a documentary photographer writes in his blog( http://www.ryanlobo.blogspot.com/ ) about such a local racial discrimination he was subjected to in his place of birth, Goa. In a restaurant, when he questioned the waiter for overpricing a meal, the waiter shot back at his taxi driver telling him not to bring Indians as they only want to serve foreigners.
It is hurting to know that such incidents are happening in some of the most famous holiday destinations of our country. It is understandable that foreign tourists constitute a Major income for the people involved in the hospitality business in these places. But should that translate to contempt for your countrymen?
I only hope that the sign board with a message written in Tamil on that sandy beach off the ECR did not translate to “Indians and dogs not allowed”. Such a sign are memories from the pre-Indian independence era and let it remain so. Touch wood!