Does Appearance Matter?

by | Aug 29, 2016

The kind of experiences I had and routinely faced, discriminated and known for ‘mongoloid’ looks is something that forced me to think that perhaps villagers would consider me an outsider. It would take some time to make them feel that I am one of them. Coincidentally, day 1 of Rural Immersion module during the Induction Training gave me a chance to go out and experience how villagers of Udaipur would react to facial features distinct from their own.

So I walked out to a village called Sapata with an intent to break my stereotype. With this mission, I started with speaking to a random man called Shehgan, found at the first mechanic shop I encountered. I asked him about the village after which he enquired about where I belonged to. I asked him to guess so I could know what he thought. He perceived me as Chinese. On inquiring the reason for his assumption, he attributed it to my looks and not the clothing, even apologized saying that he was not aware. This apology came as a pleasant surprise to me as usually people don’t realize it when they make such comments without knowing complete story. With that feeling I continued to walk towards the residential area of village Sapata where I saw this bunch of giggling, energetic school girls passing by. I stopped them to make another attempt to break my stereotype. I began with asking them about their school, their interests and things like how far they travel to reach their school. After which I asked them where do you think I am from, one of them said “Nepal se lagtey ho” and kept smiling. On insisting her to answer what differentiates me from the others is when she said you are fair and have big eyes (I laughed a little inside). After a good long conversation I told them that I am from a state called Uttarakhand which is in India itself to which they did not believe me to some extent. Then I pretended and said “I am planning to shift to Udaipur and will i be able to get a place to stay in your community” to which they cheerfully said yes.

They said they have not seen anyone discriminating with outsiders here but somewhere I could also sense their fabricated answer. Then even the last conversation which was with a boy from the 7th grade did not break my stereotype, rather got reinforced. But this time the answer I got was from a child’s perspective. He said there is a TV channel called Nick and his exact words were “there I get to see lot of people like you and also in the celebration mall people like you work there.”

I don’t blame a child to know any other version of this story, of the way people look and who they area, because what he knew was what he saw in the television. Maybe I would blame the people around him to not allow him to know more stories. And this is not just the case with rural India. Even the educated ones in the cities think alike and always end up passing comments without knowing anything. How many of us look at people from the North, the North East or the South, anyone who is different from us in any way and alienate them in our minds. The atrocities in different cities are living proof of that. Maybe we need to be more aware of the demography of India. The kind of reaction i got from many of them was more or less similar to what I have experienced so far in all the cities, places I have been to. This leaves me with the question can something really bring a change in the mindsets of people?

Stay in the loop…

Latest stories and insights from India Fellow delivered in your inbox.


  1. Swati Saxena

    It might sound extremely simplified but ‘it’s their loss (and fault), not yours’.

  2. Ishita Akhoon

    Loved to hear your side of the story !!

  3. Sonali

    When people make such comments on us, for them it is just a normal question but they don’t realise mostly what impression we are getting from the society. #PrevailingDiscrimination . Well addressed writing.

  4. Tenzin chogyal bhotia

    Wonderful is all i can say dear!
    Through your blog, one thing could be said “people around different corners of the world, may have different vison about Steriotype, but unite we stand we are entity of this sweet motherland “INDIA”
    Cheerio..Go Girl 👍🏻😊

  5. Anupama Pain

    I think categorization and labeling is perhaps the more hazardous thing in our society, more than caste and gender discrimination. While i do not know if given the complex times we live in, is it even possible to survive without doing it, if we ourselves will ever be able to get rid of the habit of name keeping – but it is always interesting to read from the point of view of someone who experiences it. Thank you for sharing this.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: