“Excuse me, could you tell me how to …”
“Dude, just google it.”
“I’m sorry, I was wondering if you could help me find …”
“You could literally just google that.”
The number of times I have heard that sentence or something similar simply because of my hesitation to pick my phone up every time I google it. Unfortunately, nobody realises how racist that comment can be.
Quick preface, I’m a student in London who has only been here for less than a year. So I am … still adjusting.
What people here don’t realise while saying this is how we feel. The internet is just so easy to access here. Of course, a lot of people don’t realise that to some of us, it might actually have been a privilege – a real privilege.
“Hey, can you download that series for me? I heard your office has unlimited Wi-Fi.”
“Sure man,” says the Indian to her other Indian friend living on a measly Rs. 10000 (£100) salary a month; which, by the way, barely covers rent and basic expenses.
I come from a country where even now, Netflix is a bit of a privilege. It only became popular about two years ago or so. Unlimited cheap internet plans were only accessible to the masses after Reliance blessed us with the Jio network in 2016 and people began buying smartphones to actually use the internet. People would be careful with their data consumption prior to that because it was in some ways, a bit of a luxury.
I am extremely lucky. I come from a family where the internet did not have to be a privilege, I could access it easily. I did become quite full of myself back in high school and started saying the exact same thing “Just google it” but guess what?
I got a strong reality check from my classmates and friends who reminded me that they weren’t exactly avid users of the internet because they couldn’t even afford to have a router set up yet.
Ever since that incident, albeit I felt bullied, I corrected myself. I began to realise how blessed I was and started talking more. The effect of not having Google maps all day long is that one tends to ask for directions or understand public transport better. I blended in even more haggling with auto rickshaw drivers to decrease Rs.20 from the fare (about 20p), taking Rs. 5 bus instead of spending Rs. 100 on a taxi and walking as much as possible.
I “grew up” in India. I lived in a society that would look at me oddly if I pulled out my phone every third minute to check commonly travelled routes. Of course, of late, this has decreased but the sentiment remains. One does not just change a habit like that overnight.
Hence why, we still believe in asking for help as opposed to “Googling it,” checking directions on a Delhi Metro Map rather than the app and haggling with cycle rickshaw drivers although cheap taxi services are now common.
We are a nation that is 1 billion strong and we know how to use the billion to our advantage.
So, despite coming from a privileged background, I do not have that standpoint. I refuse to. So expecting people like me to change overnight just because we took a 9-hour flight to come live in a first world country is unfair.
The next time you want to insult a recently immigrated Indian for not having the habit of “Googling,” go google India’s background and economic situation first. It is high time that ignorance ceased to be the excuse for racism. It isn’t and it will never