I am Amit Kamble from Vashi. Age 54 and brain a warehouse of memories. Different days, different times, different images, different people, their changing attitude – they all play light and dark at every opportune moment. When I was twenty-six years old, one day I was traveling to my workplace in Vashi. I left my house in the morning. As I approached the railway station, I took a first-class traveller’s pass. I had to travel for work all day long, so a pass was a must to avoid wasting time in getting tickets every time I had to board the train.
I got into a fast train from Ghatkopar. It was a very dry and sunny day. I was feeling lucky that I could travel in the first class cabin, while the second class compartments had people piling in against the space it provided. If those people didn’t fall sick of the heat, they were sure to faint with the collective stink of sweat. I grimaced and looked away. I was certainly having a better life.
I hadn’t finished thanking the Gods when a ticket checker approached me and asked for my ticket. I started searching for it as I had a very messy bag. Everything hit my fingers, except the pass. The ticket checker started to look at me very suspiciously. He started uttering something while I was still searching for it. I couldn’t find it for 5 minutes. The ticket checker’s patience had given up by then. He started abusing me taking digs at my skin color as I am too much tanned.
”Even the ignorant and illiterate blacks have the audacity of stepping inside a first class compartment.” His voice was dipped in sarcasm. I was shocked at the blatant discrimination. Not that I had heard it for the first time, but never from a stranger, not so unreasonably. Was my personality so weak that I must be defined by my complexion? I was heartbroken and deeply hurt.
Later I got the pass stuck in the zip of my lunch box and showed him. He recoiled and fled. But I was so devastated with the humiliation that I kept thinking about it the whole day and started to feel inferior about myself. That incident started affecting my abilities and my work. I couldn’t forget it. Everywhere I used to go, whenever I found someone looking at me, I grew conscious and tried to hide, lest I be insulted again. Later, my colleague told me about article 21 of the constitution which states that we, the citizens of India can’t be discriminated against skin color or any other factors related to caste or creed or religion. But how many are really literate with the codes of the constitution? With time the bruise faded away. Just the realization that someone could talk to me like that left a deep impact on my life.
As told to Ritika Jain