Opinion: Indian-American’s letter to Lithuanians

The usually charming, drunk toothless Eastern Europeans use their limited English to call me a “Nigger” then “What the fuck” and then switch to Russian, which is evidently a language very well suited for hurling expletives.

I have dependents and once when I was attacked I called the police. Police arrived one hour after the attack. I went to the police station to file a report and asked whether I could get a gun to defend myself. I was told that being a temporary resident I am not allowed to do so.

I am an Indian American, work as a senior vice-president of a modest-sized US-based company, own a consulting business and I came here originally to start operations for an engineering design center. I thought we could leverage well-educated Lithuanian young people, the glossy advertisements promised ease of business, access to Eastern Europe through traditional ties and, of course, to Western Europe as a part of the EU/EEA treaties.

But with the banking sector a joke, laws meant to stifle business, a lackadaisical attitude of people who are more interested in vacationing than working or earning and saving money, we have long given up on that.

Right now, I am trying to just enjoy the low cost of living, 50-euro dinners for four people (normally it would cost me four to five times that much in the US) and the other smaller pleasures of life, like walking my dog on sylvan surroundings, etc. But hey, on August 30 (on my dog’s birthday) this year, again someone tried to run us over.

It takes me two hours to get a hair cut in Vilnius. Ten minutes to get the hair cut, but before that it takes 1 hour 45 minute to go around from salon to salon to see if they will cut my hair.

The refugee crisis has brought matters to the forefront. Not that the refugees even want to live in Lithuania, I am guessing they would rather go back. But that doesn’t stop the people here from feeling enraged and entitled to lash out at the few colored people here.

It is a pity that people here have been so isolated that they can’t tell the difference between an African, an Arab, an Indian or an Indian American. Yeah, we are colored people, but we are different. I am not saying anyone deserves to be treated badly. But honestly, these days it is just funny to see Eastern Europeans trying to be elitist or exclusionists (if that is even a word). Honestly, Eastern Europeans don’t have a very good reputation in developed countries, but our US laws demand “Equal Employment Opportunity” and we do not discriminate.

Look, you were on the receiving end of things for a long time, you know the pain. First it was the Germans, then the Soviets. Why do you want to now dish it out on others? I understand your fears. Trust me, I do, I was in New York at school, when the planes hit the twin towers. I still remember our classes got cancelled and we all went to the library where they set up a huge screen TV and communication facilities to keep us abreast of everything that was happening. They even had platters of chocolate brownies for the students. That night (for some reason) there was no TV broadcast and the radio was rife with broadcasts about Anthrax attacks. I called the police and asked them what’s going on. They just told me to stay indoors.

My extended family in India has felt the terror of fundamentalist bomb blasts. Bombs exploding in super-crowded train stations and shopping centers, ripping through the flesh of innocents. Or gun toting commandos going around on killing sprees: kill as many until they are killed.

But if you paint everyone with the same brush, you are effectively brushing aside allies and alienating yourselves. Do you honestly believe you can fight and win this alone? Do you really think you can just shut the door and forget about what is going on outside?

This last couple of weekends when going out with my friends, it has been even more difficult for me. I see the open hostility in some people’s eyes.

Look, I don’t blame you: I was at the immigration office the other day to renew my residence permit, and there were some Pakistani men there seeking some kind of immigration paperwork (I am not sure what). But I do understand their language (given my heritage), and I was horrified to hear some of their comments (shared among themselves) about the women that were around, both state workers and other applicants like themselves.

The world is a connected place these days, and as we advance further, it is only going to get smaller. Boundaries are going to blur, you will have people who look different, think different, eat different, dress different: right in your laptop which is on your bed and in your neighborhood and in your schools and your work places. Are they different? Yeah! But is that always bad?

You need to think before you answer that question.

While I do not support blindly welcoming everyone, objective decision making has to be achieved. There are people willing to work with you, marry you, be friends with you. Who are different from you.

Don’t hate without knowledge. Actually, if you want to hate something, hate disease, death, corruption, lies and other evils. Don’t hate people. You have a right to choose who you associate with. Of course you do. But choose this objectively, learn and educate yourself about the world around you. Not every brown person is out to get you.

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