On my way back home I boarded a long distance bus. The woman beside me was fat and mumbling to herself, occasionally drawing in her husband into her muttering.
Just ahead of us, on a perpendicular seat a couple sat down. They were bidding farewell to two young boys who I later learnt were their sons.
The couple looked like they were tribals and had a different dialect. The woman was extraordinarily beautiful. She was dark skinned and radiant, with a constant smile on her face. She just had on a simple sari draped so that one of her breasts and her navel were visible. I caught the fat woman’s husband sneaking a peek before quickly looking away.
The lady beside me was muttering about the noise and something else. After a while the adivasi woman put some water into her mouth and spat it out. The lady beside me was outraged. “Galeej” she screamed and she kept on about things being galeej.
‘Galeej’ means dirty but it is not just to mean a physical dirt that can be washed off – it means a socio-cultural dirt that can NEVER be washed off. It is the gap that people create, not through their senses of smell or sight, but through their head. It is pre-determined. It comes from the premise that poor adivasis are BASICALLY dirty – a dirt that no soap can wash off.
“Look at this galeej woman’ she complained to the conductor “how can I sit here?”. “Don’t worry” said the conductor “I will ask them to move to the back of the bus”. He didn’t think for even one split second that it wasn’t acceptable to talk about another human being this way. He took it for granted that poor tribal people were dirty and that it was okay to talk about them as he was.
The adivasi woman continued to smile but she didn’t have the same radiance and happiness. This created a nameless anger in me but I didn’t spend too much time analyzing.
After a while, the bus moved ahead and it stopped at a dhaba. The woman beside me – the fat woman beside me – muttered to her husband who was sitting on the other side of me, on the aisle. Again she used the word ‘galeej’ when she described the non-veg hotel. Non vegetarian to her was intrinsically dirty and anyone who ate meat was dirty too.
I pointedly engaged in a conversation with the adivasi woman and she was happy to explain to me where she came from.
The fat woman cast me glances and soon lolled off to sleep. I felt annoyed every time she lolled onto me. I wanted to shout at her ‘Don’t be galeej’ but that would be stupid and petty.
However, I thought to myself, she would be an ideal candidate to celebrate the growing hindutva nation. She sat on her hegemonic position with a great deal of comfort. Her personal angst about the people who she believed were inferior to her, was real.
She also had the right attitude towards non-vegetarianism – meat eating wasn’t just a different culture but dirty.
If a bunch of sainiks got in and chopped off the head of that beautiful smiling adivasi woman, the fat women beside me would probably give them a relieved smile. “She was so galeej’ she would say and they would salute her in shared fraternity.
They would ask her if she wanted a drop home and she would agree.
She would complain all the way back about the different people she was unhappy with. “We are eliminating them’ the sainiks would say and she would go back and tell her family that she felt quite happy.
That, putting it simply, is how a race of people get eliminated – by a few murderers and thousands of willing and outraged accomplices.