“Are you a cannibal?”
Hurtful and shocking as the question might be for Delhi University (DU) student John (name changed) and many other African students living here since the Greater Noida rumours, they say this and many other “ill-informed and stereotypical” queries are something they face nearly every day.
While rumours can still be dispelled, they said, can the same be done about deep-rooted misconceptions that many, including the friendlier lot here, hold?
“What happened in Greater Noida is already rubbing off in different parts of India. They see us in a certain kind of way. They look at me as if I am from another planet. It makes me uncomfortable,” said Kenyan national Presidoe Okuguni, the public relations coordinator at the Association of African Students in India.
For someone who was fascinated by Bollywood movies and the “peaceful and diverse” colleges shown in them, moving to India was a no-brainer for Mr. Okuguni, who has been staying here since 2013.
However, it wasn’t long before he started feeling “different”.
The only African student in his batch at a popular computer institute, his entry to the classroom would be followed by unwelcome comments and laughter.
“It was a daily routine. There were all sorts of racial comments. I didn’t understand what they were saying but clearly it was about me. I grew thick-skinned since I made some Indian friends along the way,” he said.
Rodrique Kazamba from Congo recalled a recent incident where two strangers walked up to him and after a brief introduction asked if he smoked weed.
“These are stereotypical questions because there’s a certain perception about us,” he said.
Another DU student, an 18-year-old from Malawi, shared how even well-educated friends asked him if all of Africa was just a jungle.
“They ask me if people knew about video games there. Clearly, we have a long way to go in knowing more about each other’s lands and diversity,” he said.
He said he was asked questions about his body by Indian classmates in front of female students.
While the questions made him uncomfortable, he said there was little he could do about it.