India, my country, is a land of confusingly diverse populations. There are so many of us, so many kinds of us. 27? No wait 28. 29 Maybe? Yes, over a billion people, living in 29 different states. We speak different, we eat different and we drink different (some prefer not to drink at all). Our Hindi comes in Tamil, Gujurati, Bengali, Haryanvi and a wide range of accents. Yet funnily enough, our English comes with ‘the Indian accent’. We manage to live in an oblivion of a chaotic harmony.
To an outsider, we are just colors in a desert, or red turbans, or a marble tomb, or the people with a rape problem. Stereotypes, clichés. Don’t we all hate it when people do that? It is even worse, when the insiders do that. The darker among the dark complexioned people have got to be Madrasis, when-the-clock-strikes-midnight-jokes about Santa Singh, fish loving Bengalis, Bihari hating Marathis and the seven states of the Chinese-Indians.
The south and the north of India exist with an immense diversity. After having lived in the south of India for a few months, I had begun to develop a regional identity crisis. A common question, in a mixed social environment-
“Where are you from?”
To this, a South Indian would reply, “ooh! You are a North Indian!” while at the same time, a Delhi dude would immediately refuse to accept that and call me a South Indian. I have had to deal with things like, “how come you don’t understand malayalam. Dont all south Indians know all south indian languages!”,” But hindi is your mother tongue. Shouldn’t you be defending your mother tongue?”
So, one day I sat them down. Explained to them the concept of Maharashtra. Of Marathi. Of Bhosles, Mangeshkars, Tendulkar, Thackerays. I told them about Gadkari and Fadnavis. Ganapati, Dhol-Tasha, Puran-poli, kande-pohe. Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur. Punekar, Mumbaikar and Nagpurkars. I told them how the ‘zero-mile’ of India or the exact centre of India lies in Nagpur.
“Ooooh! I get it. You are a middle indian!”, said my mallu friend.
“That’s right. Yes I am a middle Indian.” I replied, finally accepting a regional identity.