Yesterday I was waiting for a friend at a public parking in Dubai’s Karama area, when I spotted a man of exceedingly short stature. He couldn’t have been more than 3-and-a-half feet. He was obviously an Indian and in his 50s. From inside my car I watched him walk across the large parking area, accompanied by another man. His companion was talking and laughing. But the face of the short man was expressionless, as he scuttled along, trying to keep pace.
I was intrigued. It isn’t everyday that you see someone like him in Dubai, that too an expat. Later in the evening, when I was dropping off my friend, I spotted him again, this time in front of a hotel. There he was, in uniform, with a turban to boot, ushering diners into the hotel. He was employed as a doorman.
I had this strong urge to go and talk to him, and do a write-up on him. Where was he from? Since how long had he been working in Dubai? Did he have a family back home? How did he get along in a world where everybody towered over him? What were his fears and insecurities?
But I didn’t, of course. Who knows what he’d think about a nosy journalist trying to get a story out of his deformity. Even if I was able to convince him, I could still be seen by my esteemed readers as patronising. It could be just my imagination, but in these politically correct times we all walk on eggshells, don’t we?
The sardarji jokes are still doing fine (bless the stoic and heroic race!) but aren’t we becoming less open, far too cautious and even less fun because we won’t be caught dead doing or saying something deemed unacceptable?
Ask Obama. Poor guy called a female (oops! ‘woman’ ) a TV reporter "sweetie" by accident and had to apologise. After all the US has been on the forefront of political correctness, where people of his ethnicity are no longer ‘negroes’ or ‘blacks’ but ‘African-Americans’ or ‘people of colour’ (but not ‘coloured people’, mind you).
It was in America that ‘crippled’ was found degrading and changed to ‘handicapped’, which became ‘disabled’ overtime and was replaced by ‘differently abled’ or ‘physically challenged’.
The PC overdrive has spilled over to all areas of life. Check out the demise of male-centric usages and terminologies. ‘Chairman’ has been replaced by ‘chairperson’, ‘stewardess’ by ‘flight attendant’, ‘fireman’ by ‘firefighter’. Check out too, overwritten stuff like ‘when a man or a woman finds in a situation like this, he or she may…’ instead of ‘when somebody finds…he may’.
I’m told that in some overly politically correct circles it’s a no-no to ask someone, “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?", as it implies they are exclusively heterosexual. So you should ask, "Are you dating anyone?"
I remember reading somewhere that had the moon landing happened three decades later, Neil Armstrong would have to rephrase his famous statement: “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong would have to say, the writer quipped, ‘a man or a woman’ and ‘humankind’. How lame!
Political correctness was introduced in the ‘70s to make way for more tolerance and inclusiveness. But I guess the opposite is now true; we are becoming less tolerant and more touchy. Or may be I’m a bit old-fashioned. You know, Reality Impaired...
PS: In case I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings by using the word “short” above, I’d like to replace it with “Anatomically Compact”.