I visited a couple of museums, explored a variety of new restaurants and met a bunch of friends. One of them, an author and old college friend, invited me to his home in Hampstead and suggested the local train I should take.
As the initial spurt of their exchanges wound down, their glances turned to me and the white woman sitting next to me. Initially, one of them noticed us and then, nudged by him, the others turned to look at us. Their looks had nothing but anger and hate. No doubt, they branded me immediately in their mind as a brown immigrant in England and the person next to me as an English girl I had wooed in my ambit. That we were conversing in whispers must have suggested a degree of intimacy they found intolerable.
It was winter, the kind of wet, freezing winter for which London is notorious. I had earlier attended a meeting and wore a decent three-piece suit with a designer overcoat that signaled affluence in their eyes. That impression might have been reinforced by the well-dressed attractive woman accompanying me.
If looks could kill, I would have been dead many times over. For a while, I thought they might come over and say something insulting, just to provoke me and engage me in fisticuffs. The group started consulting in whispers as if to decide what they could best do.
But they missed their opportunity, for my station came up next. With a last look at them, I and my companion exited the train and stood on the station platform. I looked for the exit point and started walking toward it. Then the thing happened.
The train had started again and was about to pick up speed and leave the station when the group popped their heads from the windows and two took up a position near the door. In quick succession they threw four milkshakes at me just as the train left the station, making sure that I would have no recourse.
Unfortunately for them, none of the projectiles reached me. Two of the milkshakes fell near my companion’s feet, burst open and some drops of the sticky milkshake landed on the fringe of her long overcoat. I produced a paper napkin and wiped them clean.
The event remains in my mind as a blistering example of pointless hate. I was hardly a brown immigrant who had finagled into their country; I was a US diplomat visiting London and conferring dollars on a struggling economy. The person accompanying me wasn’t a British girl I had seduced; she was my American wife, also a diplomat. More important, none of those young men seemed like people who could easily afford to throw away four large milkshakes. They did so because it was more important for them to express their deep, abiding hate for foreigners than save their hard-earned coins.
It gave me a fascinating insight into the nature of hate. Hate is unreasonable; my adversaries didn’t care to know who I really was. Hate is unmanly; they threw the milkshakes after the train had started moving, knowing they did not have to face me. Hate is unbalanced; the unreasonable individual feeds the unreasonable group, and they took strength in their number before contemplating action. Hate is unhinged; it is entirely pointless, serves no purpose except to express the viciousness of the hater.
When I now read daily about acts of hate in India, ostensibly for big causes like religion or nationalism, I can’t help recalling that hate is always unreasonable, unmanly, unbalanced and unhinged. It is also shameful, for it cannot but target, with cowardice, the poor, the weak, the helpless.