I don’t like North Indians. Okay wait, if I am really honest, I am more uncomfortable with them than anything else. May be because, they look nice and are usually thin. And therefore, one derives that they are wicked.
Was it not Julius Ceaser who said, Let me have men about me that are fat… sleek headed men… has a lean and hungry look… such men are dangerous? He said that for Cassius, I think. But really, it holds true for North Indian people, especially the men.
I haven’t got to meet many of them, of course. I mean, my school hardly had any North Indian kids, and ditto for my under-grad college. There were a number of Malayalis in college though, but I liked most of them.
It was only in Journalism school, I met them. In large numbers. I usually avoided them. It worked for the best for all parties concerned.
In spite of all this, it must be the recurring bout of fever and extended dose of antibiotics that made me feel friendlier than usual and meet boy from my journalism school this evening. The boy is a North Indian guy, is generally very lonely and works for one of the news channel.
On campus, one avoided anybody North Indian. My friend T, a worldly sort of person, who took me under her fold, told me that, anything that is Delhi MUST be avoided. It was like a BIG warning sign. Of course, they were the nicest looking people. But they were scary, as they always roamed around in large groups.
I developed an intrinsic dislike of this mob of North Indians. The big part of my dislike for the Delhi people was that they chose to call Madras, Chin-I.
Chin-I Yaaru, most sentences would go.
I still recall that eleven years ago when this most inexplicable name change happened, I and my family felt very cheated. We figured that, while we can do nothing to resist this change, at least for us, Madras will always remain Madras.
Okay, so you want to show respect to the politicians. You want to keep it official. So, call it Chenn-Ai no? What is with Chin-I?
However, a month ago, I got a mail from one of the avoided-brigade of boys. His mail was hesitant. Apologetic. I know we hardly spoke, he said. It demanded for my help, so that he could find an apartment in the city. He still said Chennai, but, he also added that, T Nagar would be his first choice.
I warmed up to him quickly after that and put amma and the network of neighborhood maamis on the job to find him a suitable place.
After a week, this ever resourceful network of maamis found him a place, in Venkatnarayana Road, no less.
Boy seemed happy and I was happy too, in spite of every pet North Indian people stereotype that I religiously believed in. By the by one realized, this boy was harmless, boring and socially just a little challenged. I forgave him then. He also seemed to not just know about, but be a fan of Harry Miller. Not many Tamizh boys would know about him either, I was rather impressed.
Of course, as one knows, familiarity is the quickest path towards contempt. And things went downhill after that.
Every time he pinged me on messenger, I winced. For he started on the whole Poor-North-Indian-In-Madras-Whine-Trip:
• It is so HOT here
• The women on the other hand are NOT
• The auto fellows are all crooks
• Dhaba Express does not deliver dinner after 11 pm
• People don’t speak Hindi
• People are very unfriendly
• There are no cheap booze places, unless you take the Shobha and Sridevi Whiskey places
• No manicured gardens
Typical sort of stuff.
Your Chin-I, is how he began many of his sentences. With a slightly accusatory tone also.
Ho hum. I remember asking him on several occasions, where he was originally from? Delhi, he insisted. Every single time. I am of course ignorant, but I don’t understand when people can trace back their ancestors only up to Delhi. Were they descendents of Bahadur Shah Zafar, I am not sure?
Somebody came from somewhere and settled in Delhi perhaps, I suggested?
After some probing, he admitted that he was from a place called Sitamarhi (the birth place of Sita), in Bihar no less. Oh dear, was the only thought that came to my mind.
As if to quickly cover up, he asks, Why can’t you speak Hindi?
I can, I just don’t want to, I tell him. He thinks, it shows less tolerance and is racist like behaviour. It also suggests that we are not proud about our Indianness.
I first learnt Hindi, when I was in school, taught by a brilliant Tamizh woman, in a school where cramming is (okay was) religion. Always done with surgical precision. My Hindi marks were insanely high, much to amma’s and appa’s amazement and worry. Amazement because, well, it was amazing. And worry because, it is a bit worrisome for any Tamizh parent when the daughter tops class in Hindi but not in Mathematics.
The superlative marks notwithstanding. I never speak in Hindi. Because most people I knew/know, think in Tamil and speak in Tanglish. And besides, it was embarrassing. What if I spoke good Hindi? That would be awful.
Of course, now I have successfully managed to unlearn most of the Hindi that I have learnt. Which is a good thing.
But really, the biggest reason I dislike these North Indian folks is because, they make me feel all protective towards Tamizh people in general. I am suddenly feeling den- mother like towards Iyengaar boys even. Of course, they are not insane, I must insist. It is depressing.
After our disastrous meeting, he sends me a message saying, No matter what I think of this city, we are friends. I would say, I am fond of you even.
Really, how can someone like me, without being in love with Madras and everything that makes it up?