I watched the Big Brother show with Shilpa Shetty and all the racist hoopla while I was in London. The Brits were clearly shocked at the treatment being meted out to Shilpa. Their perception of themselves as a tolerant multi racial society was shattered. The desi expats all found it vastly amusing.
While racism is a part of life in Britain, I don't think most whites thought of themselves as racist. To be fair, I personally encountered very few racist whites. More than racism, it was a matter of ignorance of behaviour, attitudes and cultures of others. I remember a colleague once telling me about some Indian staff who had visited the UK operations and how she was disgusted that they washed themselves every time they visited the loo and that they didn't use toilet paper. My response to her was that they considered it more hygienic and that's where it ended. Later another colleague came and apologised to me because she thought the remark was inconsiderate and ignorant. I didn't feel bad about it. My colleague didn't know any better and it wasn't meant maliciously. She was in fact sharing it with me not realising that being an Indian I probably had similar habits.
People also wondered why I didn't have a wedding ring even though I was married. And I had to repeatedly tell them that for Hindus a wedding ring was not the symbol of matrimony. They just didn't know that there was an alternative to the wedding ring. I would also always buy a big box of chocolates on Diwali and keep them by my desk. As people would come by to enquire on the occasion, they would get a nice summary of the festival and its significance. My contribution to their cultural awareness :). Most of my friends would listen attentively though there were the minority who where there just for the chocolates!
Coming back to Shilpa and Big Brother, her response was dignified. And that's where it should have ended.
Instead she's now the new face of India worldwide, which I don't really have a problem with. She's making more money now, especially with all the endorsements in Britain, than she would have done in the twilight of her career. Good for her.
What I find preposterous is that Leeds University has now honored her with a doctorate. So, she's now Dr. Shilpa Shetty!!! This is where the whole drama has gone beyond silly to just ridiculous. She may be an icon to British Asians but is she really deserving of a doctorate? Am I missing something or is this really pushing things too far. To me it sounds like the Brits are trying too hard now. Let it rest people. The point was made and made well. There's also something called overkill.
What do you think?