I Do Not Have a White Name

This article was originally published in Farrago magazine on 24 September, 2018.

My name is Dilpreet.

DIL-PRE-EAT.

It only needs to be broken into three parts in case someone just can’t fathom that it’s a real name. DIL means heart, and so my name is in 70 per cent of all Bollywood titles. While Dilpreet’s literal meaning is “someone who is good hearted”, I sound cannibalistic when I break it down in English.

Not so good hearted now, hmm?

Of course, I have often been called other names like DIL-TER-TREAT, DIL-PER-PRIEST and DEEP-YEAST.

Deepyeast? Who do you think I am—a fake Instagram account?

I don’t expect everyone to get it without asking at least thrice.

If my math is correct, less than 0.39 per cent of people in the world are likely to have the same name. How did I reach this conclusion, you ask? I googled the percentage of Sikhs in the world (smart, I know). I am super atheistic but one thing I love about being a Sikh is that our names are gender neutral. I couldn’t do another search on males/females/others and reach a number. Trust me, I failed Class 8 Math.

Anyway, I moved to Melbourne around a year ago and most of my social interactions involve repeating my name at coffee shops, events, parties and interviews.

I like cafes that believe in giving people a number. Aren’t we just numbers anyway? Mere data for greedy corporations, an ID number for institutions or the “going” kean beans to causes promoted on Facebook.

Okay, that was deep. For my standards, at least.

To my own surprise, it never really bothered me. I thought I would get sick of repeating my name until people got it, but I ended up getting used to it.

Until that one party I went to solely for free beer.

As I wandered around the bar, pretending to understand art and sipping on tap beer, someone tapped (hashtag pun) on my shoulder.

A thin white man wearing half framed glasses, black jeans and a light yellow t-shirt that needed some serious ironing was staring at me. “Umm, hi?” I said with a slight frown. Surely, I didn’t know him. I mean, I had just started drinking. There was still some time left before I would start saying goodbye to memory.

Turned out he studied at UniMelb too, and knew of me from one of the student groups. Good! My almost non-existent PR skills were not so bad after all.

We exchanged the usual “Oh hi,” “How you going?” “Cool art huh?” and so on.

“So, how do you pronounce your name? I feel like I am not saying it right,” he said.

Well, he was rolling the R a bit too much and wasn’t stretching the -eet at the end too well, but it wasn’t problematic. It sounded like my name.

“Maybe don’t roll the R too much”, I suggested.

“Right. Isn’t repeating your name all the time annoying? Don’t you have a white name?”

The beer must have gone straight out of my nostrils.

“My what name?” I asked while still recovering.

“I mean, you know, how people from different cultures and countries have a shortened name? A white name so it’s easier for people to understand,” he actually explained. Thanks, buddy.

I told him I didn’t have a white name—probably never will. He looked as if he had offended me, but he actually got me thinking.

I didn’t grow up in a white-dominated country, so maybe I’ll never know the struggle it can come with. My cousins who grew up abroad would often tell me that it can get a bit difficult, but I can’t imagine myself in their shoes. So when I hear things like these, I think about them obsessively.

Does having a shorter name actually help? What comfort does that give to people that they couldn’t have with a longer name?

I mean if people can say Czechoslovakia, they can surely say Dilpreet.

My very close friends back in India call me Dil or Dillo. Shorter versions of my name have a special place in my heart. My name wasn’t shortened to “fit in”—it was altered by people who were drunk at 4am and wanted to tell me they loved me.

So, no, I do not have a white name. I wish other non-white people didn’t either. Our names are beautiful. They speak of our roots, cultures, homes we so dearly love.

I would rather repeat my name thrice than cut it to make someone else more comfortable.

If you don’t get it—you should listen.

It’s D-I-L…

Open letter to an Indian Minister who trembles when girls drink BEER

Hello Mr Parrikar,

Hope you’re still basking in the glory of being the Chief Minister of Goa – the only place Indians can actually relax in – because, you know, you now have the opportunity to destroy something beautiful. From what I understand, that is the expertise of your party. And what is better for a party than to have Ministers who indeed thrive towards achieving the ultimate goal?

Last Saturday, you made headlines about a certain fear you have. As much as I encourage people to talk freely about their issues, I now believe it is, sometimes, alright to just…stay quiet. You went on stage and said, “I am scared because now even girls are drinking beer!

You are a Minister in India. A nation still developing, still struggling with issues like poverty and unemployment. A country with 1.3 billion people – still figuring how to fight problems (thanks to the Brits)… I have to say, out of ALL the things you could possibly be worried about, you are afraid of girls having beer? That is, well, hilarious to be honest.

Soon after you said it, Twitter was filled with Indian women taking selfies of themselves with beer and posting to you. With love, of course. Anger is something which has been gifted to the Indian men. Good for them, we like better presents. Presents like, hmm,  a slab of beers!

This letter is just another contribution from a brown girl who wants to call you out on your sheer hypocrisy. This letter is meant for you to put your head in the right place and stop sniffing what women have or have not been drinking. Why don’t you focus on what women have to go through, or don’t have to, because they meet death sooner than justice? Remember the 28-year British woman who was found raped and murdered on the beach in your very own Goa? Breaking News – Rape is scarier than beer.

You are in the Government, right? There is so much pressure on you darling, you seem to have forgotten the laws of the country. There is a legal age for drinking. FULL STOP. There are NO different legal ages for men and women. No one has to go to a bottle shop and when asked for ID card, show a dick pic. No, it doesn’t work that way. Dick pics belong in the ‘other’ inbox of messenger. Period.

The next time you see a girl drinking beer – know that might be just the starter. And that she will go on to have whiskey, vodka, whatever she is vibing with. And that she is a free woman, in a free country, and if you are a public servant, you better get to work and make sure no rapists map the road when my drunk sister wants to go home. It might be 3 AM or 10 PM – last I checked a girl was raped at 2 in the afternoon. Thanks but no thanks to your idea of ideal woman and when she ‘should’ be home.

We have no time for your patriarchal bullshit. We have some kickass careers and loads of beer to get back to. You, sir, please get back to serving us.
Thank you and cheers!

From,

A Brown girl currently drinking beer.

 

What This School for Deaf and Blind Students Can Make You Do!

“Make children service providers, not service seekers.”

Patiala School for Deaf and Blind (India), situated in the Royal city of Patiala in Punjab and established in 1967, is the third deaf-blind school in India for the children with multiple disability of visual and hearing impairment.

A handicap can’t render life impossible. This school aims at transforming children into active service providers, not dependent service seekers! The moment  I entered the school, one thing was clear;nobody’s pity is welcome inside. The school is for the brave and those who need love and support, not sympathies.
 

Filled with 220+ students and 35+ teachers, the school exudes positivity. The school is divided into three sections as The school for the Deaf, The school for the Blind and The school for the Deaf and Blind.

The institution supports 150 deaf students, 70 blind students and around 3-4 deaf and blind students.

Another thing I learned about the school is that it gets no governmental support and runs entirely on donations. Considering the numerous facilities and services provided by the school to its students, it is nothing short of being miraculous.

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The school follows the Punjab Board of Education and teaches up to standard 12. It is a co-ed school and is residential in nature. It is considered to be one of the best schools of its kind in the country.

The students are provided with three meals and two refreshments a day. Classes take place from 8.30 to 1.45 and resume from 2.30 to 3.30 in the evening. The menu comprises of healthy food and ration is also bought from the moneydonated. If one wishes to provide the students a meal, he/she is also requested to serve the food.

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Saw this little munchkin!

When a deaf/blind or deaf blind student is admitted to the school, teachers and attendants take the classes teaching them basics.

Around 200 repeated exercises are practiced on a deaf student for one single letter.

They have specialized therapists who are aware of the potency of the ear and work accordingly.

The blind students have braille books, both in and out of syllabus, available to them and junior students have attendants who teach them how to walk and maintain. The school has special walking paths for the blind which makes them both comfortable and habitual of handling themselves in crowded places.

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Special walking path like dotted and lined textured for the blind.

Also, the grass patches differ. Some parts are rocky and some are smooth. It helps them define the road they are on and hence, makes them understand their walking style and body language.

There is a special library for the blind where they can come and read books of their own choice. The library is fundedby donors and is also supported by the Reliance Foundation. It is filled with novels, both fiction and non-fiction, also the syllabi notes. The students have a separate library class of forty five minutes.

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The books have braille language at the sides.The student can touch and read the title and content.
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What books in Braille look like from the inside.. 

The blind students can also play games. They have specially designed games like chess and snakes and ladder modeled for them and according to their needs. They are available to them in their classrooms and they can enjoy the fun time in between classes and also get separate game period.

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Snakes and Ladder. Notice the dice
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Chess board. The white part is sunk deep and the black part is slightly upwards.

The school has dedicated students who type for braille books. The school has computers that has a special software and supports the braille language.

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The deaf students have special skilled teachers allotted to them. The teachers are professionals and are mostly migrated. The school provides them accommodation as well. They teach the students sign language with the help of various exercises and personal guidance. They are also provided with different machines in order to understand the functioning of the ear.

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A chart that provides basic access to sign language

The teachers hardly write on the board and encourage the deaf students to write it on their own. It helps them gain confidence and gain better understanding of the content at hand. I saw most of the students helping themselves.

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The deaf students also have painting class where they draw and get those colors to paint! They have been allotted an immensely talented artist, who too is deaf,  to teach them. The classroom is full of various paintings and portraits and hand made cards. ‘

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Hand made cards

Apart from studies and sports, students indulge in a lot of extra curricular activities. They do stage, singing and also learn weaving. The weave their own dusters and also provide them to other schools. Weaving is voluntary and anyone who wishes to, can weave in the room provided separately for this purpose.  One can buy the products at 50 rupees from the school. I did and they are pretty cool!

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The weaving room

The deaf and blind students both have access to the computer and internet. They have special software downloaded to suit their needs. The machine is designed in such a manner that both the deaf as well as blind students can use the computer together at the same time. A scanner attached scans and transforms the content on the computer into a braille. The computers have a sound effective designs so the blind can hear the instructions and work to do the needful.

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The computer lab

Out of 220+ students, 180 put up in hostels. I learned that they have both summer and winter vacation of 40 days each but most of them report earlier as they feel more at home at the school.

The institution is doing a brilliant job with the kids and makes them believe in a better future. Every kid in the school is happy and takes on life and faces challenges with a head held high.

The school works entirely on donations and welcomes any voluntary work or service.

One can sponsor any child at 1500 rupees per month or 18000 rupees per year.

You can go on the link http://www.patialaschool.org/ and get to know more about their amazing work and high spirits.

At the end of my visit, I couldn’t resist sponsoring a child. Go ahead, make the choice on your own.

The smile on their faces gets a little wider.

Red

(Co-written with Pragati Khabya & Samar Syal)

At the break of dawn,
when the sky was red,
I left your womb
Clothed in the red of your flesh mother.

I was thrown into the world
of myths,
man made
but my only religion was the kiss
from your red, red lips, mother.

The red apples,
in the backyard of the chapel
filled my red heart
with the joy of being alive.

But when father died
In a war of fright,
your broken red bangles
broke my heart…

Sweet little sister
In red blushed cheeks,
didn’t know why to cry
For something she couldn’t keep!

She didn’t cry for the house broken down
Not an inch of fear,
not even a frown.

The enemy cut the apple trees, mother
And ran over the tomato gardens.
Why the world isn’t free mother?
Shall I leave it without pardon?

Should I build the house again,
With new lovely bricks in red?
Shall a bride come without pain?
And I leave the past to the dead?

But how mother?
When the anger in my deep eyes
Is red to suffice

How mother shall I go on?
When my feet are stuck in the dark red soil.

The revenge shines in red,
My sword is so proud, mother!
Bid goodbye to sleep in the bed
My rage is shrieking loud, mother!

If blood quenched their thirst,
I’d give them some more to drink.
Take dear father’s finest wine
And give them no moment to think!

Drunk in the thought of death
My sweet escape, I bet
I shall lie under the sky so red
Able bodied no more to fret

Bury me in the backyard of the chapel
Dear mother! Promise me you will
Send sister to climb up and pick the apples
It’s there you will find me still.