It’s the 21st century, and even now in Delhi, an Indian cannot wear his/her traditional dress and enter certain places. A person can be denied his/her constitutional rights merely because of his/her profession and no one raises an eyebrow. Sounds unreal but it is true!
On 25th June 2017, Mrs P Thimmayya Goel, a long standing member of the Delhi Golf Club invited a few of her friends for lunch at 1 PM. There were 8 guests including Madhuri Sondhi (daughter of freedom fighter Pandit Santhanam and wife of Manohar Lal Sondhi, ex MP, New Delhi); noted philosopher and academic; Nargis Panchpakesan noted educationist, Dr Panchpakesan , (ex IAS and Retd Head of Department Physics, DU); Dr Vivekananda Sondhi (columnist and financial expert working at Abudhabi Investment Authority), and Dr Nivedita Barthakur Sondhi (entrepreneur from Northeast India and Honorary Advisor, Health, Government of Assam) amongst others. Among the guests list was Tailin Lyngdoh, a proud Khasi from Meghalaya who has travelled the world from London to UAE in her Jainsem, the traditional Khasi dress.
The party arrived at 1 pm and were was shown to their tables after a great deal of fuss as one guest, a 9-year-old child, Raghav Sondhi, had worn a collarless shirt (he wore long pants and shoes to adhere to the dress code). 15 minutes or so into the lunch, the manager, Ajit Pal accompanied by a lady, Sumita Thakur, approached Tailin and asked her to leave the table and the room. In their words ‘maids are not allowed’. They did not verify her antecedents with her hostess at any point in time. When Dr Nivedita questioned them, they responded that she looked like a maid, a ‘Nepali’ and her dress was different. It was pointed out that she was an invited guest, she is a Khasi lady and she is wearing her traditional dress, a Jainsem.
Dr Nivedita even said that she is from Assam and it could have been that she was her relative. Also, she did not carry a badge saying that she was a domestic worker.
They refused to budge from their position, and by now, the room full of people were looking at the party, annoyed that their posh Sunday lunch was being disturbed. A good many were likely senior Government officials who had taken an oath to protect the laws of the land and its citizens without fear or favour, but none spoke up.
Disgusted the party stepped out of the dining hall and the manager and the lady commented, ‘Pata nahin kahan kahan se ate hain!’ or something to the effect. Tailin and the group left the club feeling stripped of their dignity, feeling vulnerable for being Northeasterners and looking different.
This incident raised the question once again about whether Northeasterners will ever be considered equal to other Indian citizens. How many times will we have to show our passports at entrances of national monuments? Will people always ask, ‘Is this your first visit to India?’ like they did to that child actor from Arunachal Pradesh.
How many times, as women, will we be questioned about whether we have loose morals just because we are from the Northeast and have grown up as equals and not just as weak women and/or victims.
Tailin Lyngdoh, a Khasi woman who works hard, dresses elegantly and has great pride in her Jainsem, was subjected to racism and humiliation just because she looked different. ‘I was not sitting there naked. I was wearing my traditional outfit. This is my dress and I wear it with pride. They told me that I look like a maid and that’s why I couldn’t sit at the table. I was humiliated and we left without lunch. How can I eat at a place where they treat people with such disrespect?’ says Tailin.
Thoughts to Ponder On
- Tailin Lyngdoh, is a nanny and a governess. She is hardworking professional. On that day, she was an invited guest. Is it okay for Delhi Golf Club to look at her dress and facial features and conclude that she was unfit for sitting in their dining hall?
- The host had invited her and did not treat her any differently. Her employers treat her with dignity and respect and treats her the same as any other professional colleague.
- Tailin has travelled the world in her Jainsem, been to some of the best restaurants in London, Europe and UAE. Is it right for her to be humiliated because of her dress, facial features and profession in her own country?
- Do we as Indians still think it’s all right to ill-treat domestic workers and mentally and physically abuse them?
- Did you know that Delhi Golf Club and the Gymkhana has special areas, without any amenities, where domestic workers can be corralled in so that their rich patrons can enjoy their food without having to be in the company of their employees.