Third-year undergraduate student Success Sibanda, who hails from Zimbabwe, writes on his experiences with racism and internationalism in India and Ashoka.
“ I know I ain’t from here
There’s a lot I gotta bear
Coz my family isn’t here
When I need an ear to listen they missing
Some people dissing me for being black
Only a few got my back
They take my cake and then run with it
Their love is fake and I’m done with it
Every time man I’m the foe because I’m foreign
If there’s a murder then I’m the Cain — get blamed for the fallen Tell me what’s to gain from this hatred — We kindred
of different races — Just there’s a dread on my head
Man my dead are your dead
From the same food we fed
I do good and not bad
In every single thing I do
Make sure I pay my dues”
I wrote the lyrics to ‘Foreign’ after the Greater Noida incident when African students were attacked and accused of killing an Indian teenage boy. (May his soul rest in peace). The attacks had all the hallmarks of racism, therefore I was extremely saddened, angered and disappointed. These lyrics address that issue, and broader issues that international students face.
In the first few bars I address what it’s like to be so far from home, without the familial support we all need. I also implicitly point out that I face racism and discrimination. In between I acknowledge that I have made some friends, who have my back. The first two lines of the next are a reference to the Greater Noida attacks, with an allusion to the Bible. Next, I point out the folly of discriminating against each other, since we are all humans after all. I point out that I felt sad for the teenager who lost his life, as much as any Indian would. The last three lines are sort of a plea for innocence.
My Experience as an International Student
Whenever I have reflected on my experience as an international student at Ashoka University, the core always boils down to two seemingly contradictory things: the amazing relationships I have formed, and the fears and apprehensions I have had to overcome.
The first of these two has been positive in all aspects. At Ashoka, I have met people whose warmth and kindness touches the soul. From the football field to the classroom; from housekeepers to professors, I have made friendships which I believe will be for life. It will be sad to say goodbye to this place and the people I have met here. In many ways, I feel at home within the walls of Ashoka University.
On the other hand, the second point bears some not-so-warm realities. Beyond the borders of our campus lies a world that requires careful navigation, if one is an international student. Be it in the Metro or the shopping Mall, I have been a spectacle and a victim. Constant staring, sniggers, people touching my hair without asking, being shoved off a seat, being extra thoroughly searched at metro station checkpoints, being overcharged, et cetera. The list can go on.
Delhi may not be the friendliest of cities for Africans and indeed other foreigners, but even in that atmosphere I have made friends for life. This is the paradox of my experience as an international student here. And after observing so it must be realised that we, as international students, face a unique plight in and around this environment, and that unique solutions are at times necessary in order to eliminate the problems we face. Thus, we came together and decided to form the Ashoka University International Students’ Association, (AUISA): which we hope shall enable us to organise ourselves better and deal with issues as a collective body.
Therefore, we hope, as the founders of AUISA, to promote multicultural learning and global engagement. The AUISA actively works towards the welfare of students who cross international borders to be at Ashoka University. However, that is not our sole focus. We believe in the spirit of inclusivity and strive to foster a sense of community especially with our host country. To that end, we did not make AUISA exclusive to non-Indian Ashokan students but membership is open to any and all residential Indian students who feel the need to have an international experience.