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US diplomat in row: ‘Felt dark,dirty like Tamilians’

At the end... my skin became dirty and dark,like the Tamilians,” she reportedly told the gathering.

A Vice-Consul with the US consulate in Chennai has kicked up a storm in Tamil Nadu with her remark that she became “dark and dirty like the Tamilians” after a 72-hour train journey.

The US consulate issued a statement here today terming Maureen Chao’s comment “inappropriate” but unintended,and said the official herself regretted her “unfortunate” remarks.

Chao was recounting her experience as a young student on an academic visit to India over two decades ago while speaking at an orientation session on Friday for students of SRM University,who are headed for a semester abroad.

“I was on a 24-hour trip on a train from Delhi to Orissa. But,after 72 hours,the train still didn’t reach the destination due to some strike and,earlier,due to a rail block by some cows or camels. At the end… my skin became dirty and dark,like the Tamilians,” she reportedly told the gathering.

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However,Chao went on to applaud India and its culture. “I was a student like you and had an opportunity to do a semester abroad. I could have gone to any country,but I chose to come to India as I was fascinated by the culture and the religion. I travelled across the villages…

I was amazed at the graciousness and friendliness of the people,” she said.

While the students themselves took little notice of Chao’s surprisingly undiplomatic remark,it were the local press which picked it up.


Trying to contain the damage,the US Consulate’s statement said: “…Vice Consul Maureen Chao gave a speech describing positive memories from her own study abroad experiences in India 23 years ago. During the speech Ms Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone,as that was certainly not her intent.”

From West Hartford,Connecticut,Chao is a Ph.D holder in higher education administration and a Fulbright Fellow.

First published on: 14-08-2011 at 02:56:11 am
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