Okay, Aunty


It drives me nuts – being called ‘Aunty’. I wear my 42 quite happily so don’t go there.

I live in a country where everyone is Aunty. Or Uncle. Or Bhaiyya. Or Didi. Apparently, it implies respect.

An acquaintance’s daughter insists on calling me, Aunty. Her mum knows it drives me crazy but she insists too. I’ve suggested she call me ‘Ms Varma’ if ‘Karina’ is too avant-garde. No dice. She wants her daughter to be ‘respectful’.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand what’s respectful about a refusal to respect my preference.

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Prejudice. My week in 3 acts. 3 different co-stars.


“You should have known better than to trust someone from ‘that’ community. They’re all untrustworthy.”

“You’re very different for a Catholic girl.”
“How do you mean?”
“You’re well read, well informed, driven, enterprising. Catholic girls usually aren’t any of those things.”

“I’d like to run a reference check on the lady cooking for you. I plan to hire her. Just so I know I’m referring to the right person, she’s the blackish lady, right? Is she clean?”

People are principled, trustworthy, kind, good, faithful, brave, generous, considerate, honourable, enterprising, decent, honest, noble, giving, tolerant, patient, ethical, ingenious, virtuous, fair.

People are also deceitful, thieving, dishonest, untrustworthy, lazy, racist, cunning, stingy, bigoted, intolerant, scheming, unethical, judgemental, unfair, crafty, unprincipled, treacherous, cruel, villainous, evil.

Race, nationality, community, colour, religious belief – or lack of it, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, have sod all to do with anything.

What can one person do?


A few months ago I wrote a post explaining why I will never leave India and make my home in another country. This post, a different perspective to one featured in the New York Times, got a lot of attention and feedback. There were many who agreed with me and had similar stories to share. Many others hated it. I was called everything from a sanctimonious idiot to Alice in la la land. One person even called me racist! A couple went so far as to ask me which brand of glue I was sniffing every day.

My most interesting conversation on the subject was with someone I have come to call a friend. He goes by the moniker Anaam Manaav and here is what he had to say:

At the 10,000-foot level, the 100-year level, the literate, blog-reading people of India are neither the problem nor the solution, even if they act with complete solidarity. Their faults and their efforts, large though they may be, are mere rounding errors compared to the unrelenting, inexorable forces of the real “public.”

And he’s right. The problem is not us, the 1 percent of India. And it is also not a problem, we in our arrogance, should presume we can solve.

Since this post was written I’ve found myself in innumerable discussions arguments about ‘solutions’, with other friends, on twitter and off it. All of whom have asked me the same question: What can one person do?

My answer: Does it matter?

We are born to live our lives, grow old and die. Every single one of us. Knowing this, if we can make a difference to someone during our lifetime, should we not then grab the opportunity, with both hands?

So here it is, my list of 5 ways in which you can make a difference. And yes, I vouch for every single one of them.

Give India – for those that prefer to send in their money and be done: 

By far, my favourite donation platform, Give India supports a number of Indian NGOs. The best bit about Give, they audit every single NGO financially, send you tax refund receipts as soon as your donation is processed and best of all send you regular feedback on the good your money has achieved.

iVolunteer – for young people who want to do their bit for the community:

This organisation started by Mitra, an NGO in New Delhi, allows people to share their time and skills for various social initiatives from companionship to the elderly, to teaching under privileged children or befriending special kids.

Whiteboard India – for professionals who have skills that can help NGOs function better:

Another initiative from iVolunteer, Whiteboard India connects management in NGOs with professionals from all aspects of the business spectrum.

Rang De – for those who prefer to empower through micro loans:

I have my sister Mix to thank for introducing me to Rang De. She believes that the dignity of a loan is far more empowering than a handout. The best bit, you can give as much or as little as you like and help entrepreneurs from all over the country.

Ahambhumika – for Subrat, the man who inspires us, everyday:

I met Subrat on Twitter and was struck by his impassioned, resonant voice. His joy in his little charges is inspiring. Ahambhumika is running a summer camp for tribal children this April – all details here.

P. S. If you need help contacting any of these organisations, let me know.