Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Wherever I may roam

“How can you not like idlies da?’, catechized the Super Nerd, his mouth still filled with the rock-hard rice cakes that the Azad mess specialized in. “It’s something like ending each sentence with a ‘da’- it’s the very basic definition of a South Indian. It's what sets us apart.” I still couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. At any rate, United had just trounced the Toons in their own backyard, and I wasn’t going to ruin my mood over a couple of idlies. “Oh, I forgot,” he added, almost as an afterthought, “you aren't a true Southie anyway.” He looked at me with a part-apologetic, part-‘you deserved it’, expression; perhaps expecting to find me miffed. Maybe I should have been. For some reason, I wasn't.

There was a time when overhearing Matkas gossiping in Tamil was all it took to make my heart skip a few dozen beats. The mention of Bangalore was followed by an over-enthusiastic, ‘where in Bangalore?’ The poster of Trisha in the Ganga canteen was all it took to set off a train of thought that inevitably revolved around some place downsouth. Lately, though, like almost everything else I ever believed in, the idea of 'home' seems to have fallen apart.

As I near the halfway mark of my stay in R-Land, I can't help but wonder how much of all this I would actually grow to miss. I will miss the people, certainly, but what else? The library that I visit for the sole purpose of checking my mail? Or the Electrical Department, that has been ever so kind in awarding me more C-pluses than I could ever keep count of? Home, I've come to believe, is no more than an illusion- a mirage, if you like, of a place that promised a better life. For some, the mirage stems from their own memories of their halcyon days of youth. For others, it stems from the self-erected barriers of 'us-and-them'.

Even as I type this out, elsewhere in the country, Biharis are being stoned for committing the 'crime' of settling in another part of their own country. To make matters worse, similar sentiments have been voiced in the two other major cities of the south, though, thankfully, they have, at least so far, remained just voices of dissent. Being a part-maddu, part-kaddu, part-nothing who has spent a good part of his life abroad, the only language in which I can claim a reasonable degree of fluency is the lingua pura. My Tamil starts and ends with the knowledge of the Chennai argot and a dozen Superstar punch-dialogues that four years in Chennai are bound to endow one with. Bargaining with the auto-rickshaw wallah for a ride to 4th block is all I can manage in Kannada. Come to think of it, should the 'maratha manoos' syndrome spread to the rest of the country, I would probably get lynched in just about every single part of the country.

When will we realize that a language is only a means of communication and nothing more? That, at the end of the day you are who you choose to be, and the accident of birth in a particular place has little to do with that? It is sad that, in 1956, the government of our country chose to divide our country on a linguistic basis. What is even sadder is that, 50 years hence, we still haven’t got over those divisions.

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| Balu | said...

Nice post, I am from Bangalore Mirror. I wanted to know if I could use this post for Blog Talk section in our paper. Pls do let me know if you are okay with it, my email id is nt[dot]balanarayan[at]gmail[dot]com

Maria K said...

Apparently, the brook runs deep.

I'm a Bangalorean and i can see where you're going with this. But i beg to differ on one point- no matter what your crime/offense/indiscretion with regards to language, you'll never be unwelcome in Bangalore. Cujo save you if you still possess a firang accent but on the whole, i find B'lore to be the most tolerant of cities, bar none, and no matter what you say, that kind of directed savagery is out of the question here (mobs being the conspicuous exception, you understand). I suppose it's the melting pot of suburban Indian culture. It may sound just about as appetizing as sludge but where else can you find veggie vendors fluent in 6 languages, huh?

On a lighter note, i wonder if you know the origin of the word 'lynching'. Definitely worth a read.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's flattering. I just hope this isn't some Rlander pulling my leg.

Cujo? Stephen King freak, eh? Not one of my favourite novels, though i did like a few of his other works, most notably the dark tower series.

As far as the city goes, that is the B'lore I have known all along. Lately though, Bangalore has changed, and despite testaments to the contrary, I can't help but feel that it is for the worse. Refer http://www.orkut.com/Community.aspx?cmm=32140296
and you'll see what I mean. (I do not fall under the 'outsider' category' according to this group's definition, but that isn't the point.)

I know this is coming quite late, but was just wondering- how did you find my blog in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and i did look up the origin of lynch. Made an interesting read, indeed. And God bless Larry Sanger for wikipedia.

Saagar said...

"... however much I despise people from my ex-roomie's state"
Tambi Baster.

The Decayed Canine said...

I'll second Saagar on the Tambi Baster thing.
Think of it this way. It's fifty years against fifteen hundred.
So it's not all that bad actually. Anyway, our discussion still lacks a conclusion and is too long for a comment.
Meanwhile, how can you not like idli's da?!! :o

Maria K said...

How about i make you a deal, oh inquisitive Dela? You tell me what 'Dela' means and i'll tell you how i found your blog. As you may have guessed, Maria K is a pseudonymn. It's an anagram of my true name. Not too easy to figure out seeing as how Maria is a fairly convincing name. Saves my online bacon. Covert posts and what not!

You're also correct about the Stephen King part. I'm a King fanatic (though i do not approve of fanatics, as a rule) and i find few, if any, works of his to be unworthy. Point in question, take 'Riding the Bullet' I have not seen a more overrated piece of literature. And then there're works like 'Everything's Eventual' which're disliked for some unfathomable reason. Yup, just get me started on King and hear me roar and ramble on!

Umm... so, long post...

Looking forward to an explanation of the strange tastes in nomenclature.

Anonymous said...

Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. Perhaps it was the one long year in the company of a jahanabadi. Whatever the reason, I still stand by every insult I have heaped on those from the land of Laloo and his dozen kids.

Hmmm, maybe it isn't. And yes, our discussion isn't over yet. I have a few things to say myself, so I'll look forward to running into you at Nesci sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read 'Everything's Eventual' but I read 'Riding the bullet' a couple of months back. I hated it too, but I wouldn't call it the most overrated piece of literature- that is a comment I reserve for the Potter series. As far as King goes, I find most of his books a bit too shallow- you know, the kind you read over a flight and then forget about altogether. The most noteworthy excpetions being 'the Green Mile' and 'the dark tower' series.

Anagram, eh? Karima? Imarka? Amrika? Marika? Akrima? Ramaki? Hell, none of these even remotely sound like names. You are either taking me for a ride or have a highly unusual name. Either way, my curiosity has died out. I'm not leaking out the legendary Dela story this cheaply. Tough luck Celeste.

Maria K said...

Not beaten yet, Clarisse!

You did get it, by the way. My name that is. I'm not into cheap thrills so taking you for a ride(?) on this topic or any others is outta the Q. Unusual name, unusual tastes in literature, usual modes of negotiation. I've asked myself, what would it take for the (ahem) legendary Dela to reveal the root of his name? And i answer- dunno! So you tell me- what will it take for you to tell me the meaning of Dela, now that i know you're not 'leaking' out the story that cheaply. Interesting choice of words.

About Riding the Bullet, King himself admitted it's overrated because although its sales were through the roof (it first appeared in a downloadable format on the net on the basis of payment), very few people have understood it's intent. He says it's a quiet disappointment and i agree. Fyi, Harry Potter series is not, i repeat, NOT an overrated piece of literature in any sense of the word. It has helped me through pain, surgery, loss and finally euphoria (goes straight to the head!) which is more than i can say for Tolkien or Faulkner. Perhaps there has been a bit of a hype surrounding it, but that doesn't detract from its appeal. Please don't play the Plagarism-card as you ought to know full well what that word implies.

Awaiting unreasonable conditions of negotiation... :)

Anonymous said...


Yes, you read right. I have my sources, you see. I even have a fair idea how you found my blog. Muahahaha, so much for all your blackmail.

How dare you insult Tolkien? Sacrilege! blasphemy! Yes, there are not too many parts you can relate to, but there are few books that have helped me get through pain or any adversity for that matter apart from the Chicken Soup series. As far as Potter goes, my first complaint, of course, is that it is a dumbed-down potpourri of star wars and lotr. Even overlooking the blatant plagiarism, there was little in the books apart from a brilliant plot and rowling's eye for detail. In the last three supplements, even these were missing.

As far as the Dela story goes, do not lose heart. Make me an offer I can't refuse(which, by the way, reminds me of another book I loved). Trust me, it's worth the effort.

Maria K said...

Busted!! After all the dreaming and scheming... well didn't see this one coming. Woe is me! ;)

One request though. You could, for the sake of politeness, leave the person who introduced me to this blog alone. That person did not influence, in any way, what i chose to post as comment. The decision was mine and mine only.

About the 'offer', you got me all religious so i quote- (ahem) ...lead us not into temptation but save us from all evil... Looks like you ain't sayin' the Lord's prayers to save your murky soul, Pilgrim. So don't corrupt my thoughts too, oh Scourge of Satan. I may just misunderstand your intent (God forbid!)

Seriously though, would you be willing to share the story? Or are you merely baiting me?

Maria K said...

P.S. How about a few language lessons? I speak Kannada fluently so i'm willing to help the less fortunate. :D

Anonymous said...

I had to make a choice between 'politeness' and sadistic pleasure, and as you would expect, i chose the latter. I told the 'person' everything about ur comments (muahahaha again)

If it makes u feel any better, she took your side on the happy rotter issue, as you would have probably come to expect from her.

My qualms are not with narrating the dela story to you, they are with doing so on a public portal such as this one. Go ahead and ask the 'person' if you are that curious.

I seriously could do with a few language lessons, though taking them would be against even the few principles i follow. Languages, i still maintain, are a complete waste of time. True to my dogma, i'm planning to 'un'-learn even the little Kannada i know. You mind helping?

Maria K said...

Start by saying-
"yenoh katte!"
to evey Kannadiga you meet and none too politely, mind you. That way you'll alienate all Kannadigas around (getting a black eye in the process, i fervently am praying). That's a start.

Then progress to
"mukha nodidya mirror-nalli?!"
sure to incite some reflexive face touching as well as drive all speakers fo Kasturi Kannada away from your unbridled tongue.

To your ajji's obbattu asking, say-
"mudi gube! bere kelasa ilva?"
and never receive obbattu from her again. You may get a rolling pin hurled at you (i'm praying for this too. Did you guess?)

This should keep you going for a while, Dela, while i figure out which Kannadiga to sic on you!

Maria K said...

And so solly-cholly to burst your bubble but i knew the Dela story from the get go. I just wondered if you really had the backbone you seem to affect. You know the equation of polite request usually being indulged, don't you?

'Sadistic pleasure'?! I'm flattered you thought my apparent-writhing pleasurable. People tend to hide evidences of sadism (i suggest you wikipedia this word as well or read Justine by Marquis de Sade). You have some internal filter problems causing the barrier between thoughts and words become a bit leaky... ;)

And it's not "happy rotter", it's Potter, Harry Potter!

Anonymous said...

I was about to apologize for the delay, but decided against it after reading ur comment. Thank you very much for your 'lessons'. I thought you mentioned that you weren't into cheap thrills. At any rate, I tried really hard to come up with something nice to say about your comment and all I could think of is 'long'. Trust me, it took quite an effort to avoid adjectives like 'lame', 'stupid' and 'corny' that flooded my thought process. And as far as my 'leaky' vocabulary goes, a glance at the time at which I respond to comments should tell you why. (Remember to convert the damn thing to IST. Or is that beyond your mathematical abilities?) Hell, it's 3 again. Yawn!