BG’s little experience in a mall in Delhi got me thinking. Prejudice shows its ugly face everywhere. One of the most often discussed topic in our country is that divide between the so called South Indians and the so called North Indians. It is such an interesting topic that all those funny comments to articles in Rediff lead there no matter what the issue was originally to start with.
The nucleus of the prejudice, quite obviously lies in the language barrier. The fact that one community cannot understand the other’s language leads to baseless assumptions, ridicule and fantasies. The oldest example I could remember was Mehmood making fun of the south Indian accent, way of life in Padosan. All in good humor.
So, what’s this prejudice? Having lived in both the societies and been in the receiving end of both the forms of partisanship, I believe I understand them both quite well.
The Hindi speaking community looks at South Indians as backward, narrow minded and a disconnected lot of people that at times suggests an alienating behavior in ones own country. Blame it on the language. All said and done, it is indeed a fact that Tamil Nadu at least, where I come from, has been disconnected from rest of India. But it by no means gives an excuse to cultivate such pedestrian opinions about a community that is very much Indian. As soon as you land in a city beyond the four southern states, you are branded a “Madrasi” in your school, you are ridiculed for the way you pronounce thoda. You may argue it is childish and probably a thing for kids, but everything, like charity, begins at home. If a matured twenty something has the audacity to ask a decently dressed woman, “Why are you dressed like that, you look like someone from South India”, it speaks volumes about what that woman has seen and understood of India as a whole.
The people down south look at Northies as a community that places importance on show, splendor, outlook and all other things considered trivial down under. The people from Bombay and north of it are more exposed to fashion, lavish spending, highly westernized influences in daily life and an undying urge to stand out in the society. The people down south consider themselves to be leap years ahead when it comes to the topic of gray matter and achievements in education and personal lives. They speak better English, are widespread in the fields of engineering and entrepreneurship and are well read individuals. These are some of the factors where south Indians seem to think they are one up compared to the north.
The issue comes down to a debate of priorities and perspectives. It really depends on an individual’s choices and emphasis on what is important to his/her life. It may be a thing of the past but today when people move around, live in other states and countries, together with different communities of India, they realize how wrong they were. It still pains to hear about men and women like the one BG met. They not only need to open their minds, but also take a look at themselves. Maybe wearing Manish Malhotra and sitting inside Cafe Mocha for hours is more important to her than wearing Naidu Hall and flipping through J.K. Rowling and Thomas L. Friedman inside Landmark. The perspectives differ with individuals and not with communities. At least not anymore.
(But trust me, the first and only time I met BG, she was dressed pretty well. Actually, really well!!)
(First published on Desicritics)