(Circa 2010, a weekday morning at work)
We had just wrapped up a conference call with our colleagues in San Francisco. I pressed the hang-up button, turned to my team members and uttered “Kaisa yeh sardaron wali baat usne keh di” (Translation: what kind of a Sardarji like statement did that guy make?)
And in the next instant I was screaming in my head “OMG, what did I just say?”
Pregnant silence in the room as I looked dumbly, first at Mandeep and then at Mihir. Soon after, they left the cabin.
Five minutes later, I called Mandeep back in. He was visibly crestfallen but also had the air of one who’s heard this play out earlier.
I apologized profusely. I told him how utterly inappropriate and disrespectful my comment was (to the entire Sikh community). Yes – I had done my share of hearing, repeating and guffawing at a legion of sardar jokes in my growing years. My juvenile past was at least a decade behind me but such is the power of stereotyping and normalizing that it remains in one’s subconsciousness.. to emerge at the
wrong right time.
To a surprised Mandeep I then said “I’m actually glad this comment slipped out. I saw the look on your face, I experienced the deep embarrassment, and I know that I’ll never do it again. I’m really sorry man.”
I have never told or shared a sardar joke again.
This post has stayed in my Drafts folder for nearly 10 years for no other reason than “I want the apology message to come out right.”
I apologized to Mandeep that day. Today I apologize to all my other Sikh friends.