“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I am not sure about the universe”, said Albert Einstein. Most of us could accept this, as we over the years, like Einstein, (we may not be in his league) most certainly, did taste human stupidity in one form or the other. For instance, racism, racialism, prejudice and so on have affected our lives in many ways and forms, due to our own stupidly or some one else’s, in equal measure; mainly inherited while some inadvertently and in a few cases well planned and deliberate.

From our personal knowledge we well know that our family and our society have been (and are) promoting various forms and shapes of differentiations in religion, caste, creed, color, ethnicity, and so on. The list is very long. Some of us have outlived these prejudices while some continue, primarily prompted either out of historical reasons but mainly from self interests and at the behest of interested parties or individuals. The interests are projected garbed in sentiments ranging from national, religious, political, social, and cultural or any other that serves the purpose. The means and the methods used to achieve the objectives are well defined and acted upon by the protagonists at their whims and fancy. We all are familiar and aware of these happenings.

At the personal level I have suffered bouts of agony of experiencing bias or prejudicial acts, which I let pass; but have witnessed many acts relating to others and one at the professional level,  which still rankles me is shared  in subsequent paragraphs.

A decade back, as a NRI consultant in an architectural consultancy firm in a Middle East country, I was fortunate working together with colleagues of different nationalities. Our relationship was cordial with professional ethics and integrity over riding all other concerns. We recognized the interests of our clients and adhered strictly to the contractual provisions and ensured their compliance, leaving no room for any laxity or compromises. Most of the contractors of European origin accepted our method though grudgingly. However, we did face problems with a contractor from the sub continent; we remained extra cautious and were never complacent with his work. This again, further aggravated our relationship and at times resulted in tension and recriminations, especially in meetings and conferences.

Once, in a largely attended meeting with representatives from all disciplines of the project, the client based on our input, expressed his agony and despair with the progress and the quality of the works undertaken by this contractor. He was supported by all present. To everyone’s surprise and astonishment, the contractor pointed his finger at Henry, a consultant and a colleague from France, and blamed him for all the problems associated with the project. He called Henry a racist, who openly discriminated on the basis of race and color. To emphasize and corroborate his statement, he called upon his engineers and supervisors to narrate their experiences with Henry. I listened carefully and a sense of despair seized me at the rehearsed immature and baseless allegations so confidently narrated. I wanted to get up and refute every bit of that was said, but left it to Henry to defend himself; who kept mum throughout, a wry smile playing on his fair face. The client looked at Henry, and with no response forthcoming, the meeting ended.

A week or so later Henry invited us all to his house to a party. Most of the guests had arrived and were busy conversing as I entered the room. Henry introduced me to Michelle, tall, slim, jet black in color, with sharp features, a pleasant and charming face.

“Michelle, is from Kenya and my wife for ten years” I gasped and turned back to hide my shock. Standing behind me were the contractor and his engineer, looking pale and stupid.