Friday, January 09, 2015

J'accuse ...!

I was one of the last few to board the plane.  I slowly walked towards my aisle seat in the back half of the plane.  An hour delayed already for the transatlantic flight, which made me worry about the connection to India.  "Ja, ja, you will make it" reassured the Lufthansa staff at the gate.  But, this worrywart was not convinced.

The consolation was that my adjacent seat was empty.  "They don't upgrade me to business class anymore" I thought to myself.  The older I get, the longer and more painful is a trip to India, and it gets more painful as the airlines keep shrinking the seat size and the space between the seats.

In the row ahead of me were two young couples.  The two women sat together and giggled and talked nonstop, and from the responses from the males, it seemed like they were having jokes on their men.  And jokes on other men in their group--the guys from behind my row and across the aisle from me also jumped in with their responses.

I couldn't understand anything because, well, it was not in English.  Arabic was my guess because of the whole lot of "h"sounds coming from them.

The guy across the aisle from me took out his cellphone.  And put that back.  He then turned to his seatmate. "My Jordan phone won't work.  Can I use your local phone to call my friend?  A quick call" he told her.

"Oh, I am a German tourist going home" she replied.

A few seconds later, he approached me with the same question.  I nodded a yes.  He read out the number from his phone and I dialled it for him.  And handed him the phone.

He left a voicemail, all in Arabic.

"Thank you" he said as he returned the phone to me.

A minute later, he asked me if it will be ok for him to try again.  "The same number."

This time, he had a conversation for a minute or two, and handed the phone back to me with an even bigger thank you in his voice.

The following happened in a fraction of a nanosecond, for which I stand accused.

I thought to myself that if the plane were to crash, the investigation will reveal that one of the last calls from the plane's passengers was made from my phone to somebody with a Middle Eastern background.  And, therefore, that I will be associated with the crash.

That fraction of a nanosecond revealed that deep down, I  have become a bigoted person that I never would have imagined existed within me.  I was ashamed, and still am, for having made that thought-association of the Arab Muslim and the plane crashing.

I am the accused.
I am guilty as charged.
I am defenseless.
I am sorry!

6 comments:

Ramesh said...

It hardly makes you bigoted. Just an instinctive response at the spur of the moment.

As I have said before, you can be accused of a lot of things (ha ha), but bigotry is certainly not one of them.

Sriram Khé said...

Thanks for that vote of confidence ... but, we need to recognize that such an instinctive response would not have ever been triggered had I given my phone to a redhead talking in French, right?

Anne in Salem said...

We all struggle when faced with a negative aspect to our personality, particularly a trait we thought we had conquered or were too intelligent to suffer. We all face that shame at some point. I imagine in your case it is such a miniscule part of you that the generous, curious, and worldly parts far overshadow it.

Sriram Khé said...

It is neat to be able to confess to the shameful thought and to have have friends wave that off ... that is a neat way to phrase it: thought I was "too intelligent to suffer" ...

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

II believe
1) we are all conditioned by what happens around its and get inured by it. It takes a good man to consciously recognize and accept the thought..
2) even holding what you thinking is true, i think the proof of your (perceived) bigotry will only be established, when the next time you refuse to give your phone...

Sriram Khé said...

I like the metric that you have proposed: how do I behave/think the next time? I am confident that I will be the self that I think I am ... I hope.

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