At the best of times, Darren Sammy, the T20 World Cup-winning skipper of West Indies, is quite a sport. However, the allrounder also has a mind of his own and does not pull any punches – one still remembers his tirade against his country’s apathetic cricket board right from the podium after winning the World T20 at Eden Gardens in 2016.
His comments in an Instagram video message earlier this week, where he confronted his former teammates at Sunrisers Hyderabad for referring to him as ‘kalu,’ is hence significant. These are particularly sensitive times as the scar of the George Floyd death in the US is still raw and the phenomenon of racism is raked up all over again – and it’s in this context that Sammy’s comments need to looked into.
While Sammy had been referring to his dressing room nickname in 2013-14 seasons of the Indian Premier League, he revealed it was a show by Indian American stand-up comedian Hasan Minhaj which ‘educated’ him about the derogatory nature of the address. A direct translation of the Hindi word means ‘black,’ and as one knows, it’s very much an accepted acronym for someone with a dark complexion in the Indian society.
A few former teammates of Sammy with the Hyderabad franchise, like Ifran Pathan and Venugopal Rao, say that they don’t remember the West Indian being referred to by that name, while a section of twitterati have come forward to explain the word does not often have racial connotations. Well, it’s now a case of Sammy’s words against others – but let me make it clear that it does open up the colour bias prevalent in different layers of Indian society.
It was only about a week back that Dodda Ganesh, a former Indian international from the state of Karnataka, took to social media to remind his followers how he was subjected to flippant – and often insulting - remarks about his dark complexion. Ganesh took the issue further by referring to the case of Abhinav Mukund, the Tamil Nadu batsman who has occasionally played for India, who was also at the receiving end for the same reasons.
“I have been travelling a lot within and outside our country since I was 15. Ever since I was young, people’s obsession with my skin colour has always been a mystery to me. Anyone who follows cricket would understand the obvious,’’ a hurt Mukund had taken to the social media against such remarks in 2017.
While such remarks are not essentially racial by nature, and often meant to be accepted as a banter (sic!), but the ‘obsession’ as Mukund refers to is inexplicable in a country from this part of the world.
If you need more examples, look up the matrimonial ads in the Indian newspapers and you will see almost a pattern in the ones asking for brides, making it almost a pre-requisite that the girls should be fair-skinned.
Pathan, who retired earlier this year, went on to make a valid point: “I have seen in domestic games where there are some chants against South Indian players. We still haven’t talked much about racism in India. Sometimes we even call our brothers and sisters from the Northeast names. This problem is deep-rooted, and will only go away when we start educating and making people realise that passing remarks is not a good thing.”
May be, the time is ripe for a start!