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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The curse of the stereotype - The North Indian Vs South Indian Debate

Selected as Blogadda's "Spicy Saturday Pick" on July 9, 2011

The last few months have been tough on me, thanks to my god forsaken working hours. I’ve been asked to work in the morning shift which requires me to leave home at 6:30 AM EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you think it’s no big deal, then you must be a nerd or an insomniac. Interestingly, this post is on stereotypes.

The morning shift does have its share of advantages, like for instance, it has ensured that I don’t skip my breakfast anymore and it’s my favourite meal of the day. This post is the result of a conversation that transpired during one such breakfast while I was busy dipping my 106th Dosa* in the 173rd bowl of Sambar**.

*Dosa includes all varities of Dosas/Uthappams/Pesarattu which may or may not include Masala/Onion/Podi/Ghee.
**statistics for the period of April 1st – June 25th 2011

Pic1 ) Dosa - My staple diet today
My company for breakfast is usually project mates, most of them my seniors by 2-3 years and all natives of Tamil Nadu. While I was busy chomping into my Onion Podi Uthappam (my personal favourite) someone spoke in English. I stopped chewing midway, shocked at the atrocity of the event, and looked up dumbfounded to find the brave one who had the courage to break the unspoken protocol by talking in an alien language. He was talking to me; it had to be me considering that I was the only non-Tamil speaking person (amongst the all English speaking people) on that table; how stupid of me.

And the conversation went something like this,

My senior asks, “Hey, what do you do on weekends?”

Pic 2) Caught unaware
“Ummhh??!!” is all I could manage thanks to my mouth being full and also taken aback by surprise at being spoken to in English.

“On weekends; what do you do?” he says again, altering the question a bit, helping me understand the seemingly innocuous statement.

Still a little taken aback, I replied, “Hmmm well the usual weekend chilling out. Hang out with friends, movies, good food, etc; nothing specific or out of the ordinary”.

He didn’t seem too convinced; he gave me a wry smile, nodded his head and got back to his Dosa. I was getting curious here. After a pause for about 10 seconds, I finally decide to ask the golden question.

“Why?”

And the answer came almost immediately,

“Well I have often seen North Indian guys out with girls on their bikes on weekends. So was just curious”.

I did not see this coming. To keep things on the lighter side, I asked him,

“Why? What do South Indian guys do on weekends?”

He promptly replied, “We just look at them (the North Indian couples)”.

We had a nice laugh over his witty reply and got back to our dosas but I couldn’t get that statement out of my head. It wasn’t intended to be hurtful or malicious; it was plain curiosity, at least in this case it was. The senior who asked the question is genuinely a very nice person who is extremely helpful and nice to everybody around. Blame it on the stereotypes which are sometimes so strong that people mistake it for universal truth.

In my 5 years at Chennai, I’ve witnessed one of the strongest stereotypes with practical implications; the North Indian – South Indian divide. I am a Punjabi, born and brought up in Hyderabad, my mom’s family is from Bangalore and I have spent a considerable time there and of course, my stint with Chennai. So that makes me believe that I am as much a North Indian as I am South Indian and that qualifies me to talk about this highly controversial and sensitive issue with an unbiased point of view because I believe I understand both sides better than most.

This divide is by no way a new trend; it goes way back in time. The language barrier, unique customs and limited interstate migration resulted in a lack of understanding about each other which in turn was the genesis of these stereotypes. South Indians were perceived to be conservative, ugly and detached by their “countrymen” up North while the Southern “brothers” thought the “Northies” were flamboyant, immoral and were not as blessed in the grey area department.

However, at this juncture I’d like to point out that amongst the three Dravidian cities (Bangalore, Chennai & Hyderabad) I have stayed in, I’ve felt this divide the most in Chennai. Interestingly, many North Indians refer to South Indians as “Madrasi” (from Madras). So is this more of a North Indian – Tamilian issue?

Hyderabad and Bangalore have had a comparatively more cosmopolitan environment with majority of the population having no qualms speaking English or Hindi in addition to their local language. So that way, if someone from these cities went up North, they wouldn’t have a problem and the North Indians coming to these cities would also feel at home. However, Chennai was never too hospitable in welcoming a foreign language, especially Hindi, and it always treated it suspiciously(read more). 

Was the government right in imposing Hindi as a national language in spite of knowing that Hindi wasn’t spoken in many of the Indian states? Had someone in the government given a thought to the repercussion of their actions, we could have probably avoided this scenario. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

Let’s make things a little black and white and go back in time to the good old retro days, to the point in time where I “believe” these "North-South" sentiments would have first emanated.

Note: The forthcoming flashback is completely a work of fiction conjured by the hyperactive imagination of the author.

Murugan Swamy decided to spread his coconut empire up North and chose to make a trip to Delhi while Sukhwinder Singh thought it would be a good idea to give Chennai a taste of tandoori chicken. These were otherwise novel business ideas that went haywire and it was utter chaos all around; each experienced a culture shock and witnessed a life style so disparate from their own. In addition, no native individual would have been able to explain to the visitors about their culture and beliefs, thanks to the limitations of the tongue. This might have caused these gentlemen to do what each one of us loves doing, forming an opinion with hardly any substance. This handicap limited the understanding of their “strange” neighbours and their way of life and would have resulted in a highly erroneous judgement of the other.

Now Murugan anna would go to akka and Sukhwinder paaji would go back to babhi and tell them about the “strange” people they met. Since these were times well before twitter, women were the fastest mode of broadcasting information. News passed family to family and each time there was a little “tadka” (spices in hot oil) added and soon a stereotype so strong was born that even years of education, migration and breaking of the language barrier would still not be able to neutralize the impact.

H.G. Wells could not have put it better (and of my all time favourite quotes)
“Crude classifications and false generalizations are the curse of the organized life”.

It is understandable when people who aren’t educated and who haven’t travelled enough develop such perceptions over the years.  The disturbing fact is that a lot of educated folks also have similar beliefs, in spite of being a nation that together celebrated the World Cup victory.

A lot of it has also to do with the kind of upbringing one has; parents play a very important role in shaping the child’s thinking process. If a child is raised in a household which has strong communal and regional tendencies, more often than not, the child grows up to have similar beliefs. So it is important that one makes their judgements based on facts and not prejudice. 

Maybe the next time you make a generalization about a person, gender or community, I urge you to think twice and help bringing us closer to being a more open, tolerant and loving nation.

Jai Hind.

3) Together we make life colorful.

 Disclaimer: The opinions here are based on my experiences and there is absolutely no need for you to have to agree with me and I’d love to hear your point of view, however disparate it might be. Those of you, who do agree with me, help me out if someone who doesn’t, comes to break my head. Peace.

Photo credits:


3)        http://tiffography.com/?p=578




54 comments:

spanya said...

well i can so relate to this article gogo...because u and i belong to north and south both....rust me we have a boon:)loved the article

Yekollu said...

We were a Telugu family living in Tamil nadu and i ended up being stranded between two worlds. My accent made me a "Goluti" among my Tamil friends and a "Arvodu" among my cousins

Nirmal said...

You called the spade, 'spade' here!!!
As rightly pointed Chennai stands out for its literacy in Hindi!

asjad ali said...

i am still unclear what the author wants to convey?? Neither the write up creates a question, nor does it answers any. I expected more research on this very interesting topic. I am a north Indian who is currently in Chennai for the past 5 years. I can go on for ages if i start mentioning about the culture divide.. both are unique, and to be honest i have enjoyed both.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Spanya --- Thank you so much Span...and you were the first to comment so that makes it even better :D Yeah I totally agree with you

@Yekollu --- happens mate...we are still many countries in a single nation

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Nirmal --- thank you...yeah, you are right. Same way like the rest of India stands out for it's literacy in Tamil :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Asjad Ali --- To start off, I'm sorry that the post did not meet your expectations and rightly so because this post was never meant to throw light on the contrasting cultures and the details as to how they differ from each other. The motive however, was to showcase the consequence of these differences. And about the "question" and "answer" part, it's totally up to the reader to interpret. Since you seem quite keen to "go on for ages", I'd love to read what you have to say. Cheers!! :)

Naresh Kumar said...

It was nice to read the whole of the curse. Amusing but not surprising how true. You have taken me back 50years and similar feelings existed then also but much stronger in attitude and amplitude. You have not forgotten to put some statics. Well it was gooding.

Garima said...

very well put gogo :) we'v all been thru the discrimination ..haven't v..? the stereotype exists and the sad part is , v can't do much about it...

Mohit Singh said...

Don't know how to react when a person is addressed as "Hindiaa".. Certainly there is something very wrong at the grass root level. And quite right that up north, people from down south are generalized as Madrasis.. And it goes on still.... Keep up the good work Gogo!!

Varshaa said...

So rightly said Ash..lovd it!!

Rachit said...

even the demarcations exist in between various North and Sounth Indian states. Like people from Andhra would find it hard to mingle with countrymen from Kerala and the same is true for Punjab and UP.

Yet, unity in diversity.

Weakest Link :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Naresh Kumar --- Yes, it still exists but not quite with the same intensity as before...thank you so much though :)

@Garima --- Well, I know...this post is one such minuscule attempt at changing that though. And thank you :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Mohit bhai --- absolutely...We can just hope. And thank you :) :)

@Varshaa --- thank you so much :) :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Rahit --- Rightly said. But then again, it's like the picture of the pencils at the end of the post; together it's beautiful.

Anantha Krishna said...

I disagree with Asjad Ali because at root of this seemingly simple essay the author speaks about the many divides that exist in the human way of life. Using examples of stereotyping - extrapolating a harmless dining table conversation - he has highlighted how forming irrational conclusions based on region, caste, religion, ideology, et al is detrimental to harmony in this world - something that is troubling everyone.

Tolerance, understanding, compassion and love are the only true ideas that ensure a peaceful co-existence in this multifaceted world. Upbringing along with the social environment a person grows up in plays a very important role in the way one perceives the world. He nailed it man!

TinTo said...

of the 200 people from 'NORTH' (all states above TN :p), who discovered Chennai on the 1st of March 2011, quite a few fell in luv wid the city... and a good friend of mine, who is from jammu (& a punjabi), is leading the 'I luv Chennai' moment as we speak ;)...he probably likes the place and people more than chennites... but i do not deny one thing; people have a tendency to form "LINGUISTIC GROUPS", I believe that is where "Sterotypes" are born... however, my short stay at Chennai had been a Serendipity!!!! :p

ABI said...

Hahaha.. Well said re... T Was fun reading the post... :-)

ABI said...

so well said bum.. loving it! t was fun reading the post!! :D

amiablejade88 said...

so APTLY put. I like the HG WELLS' quote!!!!

SUB said...

not only north and south...there is east and west, marathi and bihari...and so an...we always were divided, weren't we? think of how many states (bhopal, kashmir etc) were fighting to be a separate nation and not part of India during Independence...barring cricket we hardly unite... but time has come to throw away the stereotype that slows down the progress of our nation....

nice read...

Cheers
SUB

sriram said...

I think its a divide that can never be bridged if cannot just accepts our country's social fabric. The most important barrier as the author suggested is the language. The problem in Tamil Nadu in general is that Hindi was never considered as an important language. Migration was less due to its serious distance from the north of the country, and the also the crappy weather! To give you a historical perspective, TN was never ruled by the mughals. So the hindi influence was not there! Therefore, there are a lot of cultural differences between the two regions. I feel that the author has been too judgmental about the language issue. You speak the language that spoken in the land! Its that simple. You go to Germany nobody is going to speak in English! And I think the bunch of guys the author hangs out with in the morning, is not a good enough sample space to make such a judgement! You can survive with English is TN. Most auto guys can understand English (although the ripe you off!) But, I have to say that certain sections do express their dislike towards the folks from the north vocally! I mean it is sad but considering the flimsy social fabric in our country, these are non-issues! To conclude on a lighter note, the guy from the north get all the chicks! Man you guys are fair as hell! The guys dress pretty well! Hindi movies have good looking actors (SRK, ranbir, katreena etc). Tamil we have rajini who is not really a style icon!! I think its two different cultures. You try to blend into it, adjust and live you life, or write blogs about it if it alleviates your pain!!

Cheers
Sriram

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Anantha --- That felt good...thanks man :D Appreciate it

@Tin To--- that's great to know...and I love Chennai too. I've had the best years of my life here and it will always remain special to me. However, that being said, there are certain things that I wish were different and this post is about one such thing. And these are not things you discover immediately, you have to stay here for a while to really feel it.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Abi --- thank you so much :))

@Joy --- thank you so much. Yeah I love the quote too, it's one of my favorites.

@Sub --- totally agree with you...adding to your point, see the way how North Indians are treated calling them "Chinki" or "Chineses". Hopefully, people realize how hurtful these statements can be.

And thank you. Appreciate you visiting my blog. Cheers!!

Ashish Kalsi said...

Hi Sriram,
To start off, let me thank you for your putting your point across as it helps me clarify things that might have troubled a few others while reading the post.

I totally agree with your point about why Hindi isn’t that big in Chennai and why should it be? It’s not really a native language of the region. In fact, I have mentioned in my post that the Indian Government back in 1960’s (when the whole anti –Hindi protests were in full swing) was wrong in pursuing with Hindi as a National Language. And during that time, unlike today, not many Indians spoke English – North and South alike. The source of the misunderstandings was during that period and the prejudice has been passed on generation to generation. That is why I have specifically mentioned that though people are educated and migrate a lot more today than before, the prejudice is so strong that it can still be felt.

In addition, let me make it very clear that this post is not the result of a one off incident,; I must have probably made it seem that way but let me assure you that this is not. And it’s neither only about South Indians being against North Indians. Like I mentioned, I have been in Chennai for 5 years and have felt this divide right from college, by groups of “Mallus”, “Gultis”, “Madrasis”, “Biharis”, etc. Of course, not everybody feels this way and the intensity of their prejudice varies but nevertheless, it does exist. Some of my closest friends are Tamilians and Telugu they don’t give a rat’s ass where I am from.

Ending off in the same note as you, let me assure you that being fair doesn’t always get you the girl. Though I do agree about India’s obsession with the fair skin (look at all the fairness products), it’s not always the case about getting the best women. Some of the hottest girls I know have a strong thing for tall, dark men, so everybody has a chance ;)

Well it is definitely about adjusting and being happy and this blog is no means of alleviating any sort of pain as I have made it very clear that I am as much South Indian as I am North Indian so I have the best of both worlds. I’m just trying to spread the happiness, not assuaging any pain.
Cheers!

minu said...

was really nice..!! damn gogo..loved it..!!! :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Minu --- thank you so much :) :)

karthik iyer said...

nice try...
You do endeavour to give satisfaction..

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Karthik --- thank you sir...my "endeavors" shall continue :D :P

Kayhan said...

The root of the problem is when ure defensive, not being able to take humour, getting upset at a remark reacting without getting the lighter side... and put defensive with overly passionate, its explosive(I have never seen anybody worship their stars the way it done here ;) ).

and with the paaji s up north. we need to learn to shut up a little.. lol but If we do the very charm goes away. It's likewise for the anna's down south.

THE ANSWER more world cups and pakistan defeats, so we can all go out, binge drink and chill together.

Dude absolutely love reading your blogs. Keep them coming.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Kayhan --- Couldn't agree more...we really need to learn to be a lot more tolerant.

And thank you so much :) :)

Shanky said...

Thats a great piece of writing my Paki brother! :P

Top 20 Lists said...

This doesn't make any sense that two parts of same country is debating this could be a chatting but not debating

Anonymous said...

Pretty Interesting!!! It is a controversial topic!!! But I guess the reason being that opinions derive out of experiences! Gud or bad! I personally can relate to this article pretty well!! Being a Tamilian, born and brought up in Hyderabad and Surrounded by north indian friends at work, its very natural for people like me to derive opinions!! Based on experiences that happen at such a frequency that practical or rational thinking becomes difficult! I believe in respecting the region, person, etc, for it being the way it is! But when I come across people who say (Delhites to be precise) "How do you guys eat in a steel plate, we eat in porcelain", "how do you sit down and eat and not on dining table", "how come u guys dont give sweet boxes along with wedding invites??", "how can you not have dj during weddings", and the cliche being "Hamare delhi mein tho aisa hotha hai". Being patient and not judging a person here becomes difficult then!! and ppl like me who tend to keep silent at such topics had to break my silence and say, if delhi was so dear why dont you go back, no body is forcing you to stay here!! The trouble comes when we tag our judgement about a person to the place, religion etc!!

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Shanky --- thank you my Dravidian brother ;) :D

@Top 20 lists --- why can't two groups of the same country have a debate? Why does there even have to be a limitation for a debate?

Ashish Kalsi said...

@ Anonymous --- I totally agree with you. It's unfortunate but it's the ugly truth. This feeling of being an "alien" and stupid prejudices really make an impact and one that lasts a life time. People need to be more tolerant and understanding, at least in your own freaking country.

Each person is unique, no doubt there would be influences like culture, religion, geography, etc but defining a person based on these attributes is stupid. I respect the fact that you chose to keep a dignified silence rather than stooping down to their level.

Unfortunately, there are people from both the communities who feel strongly about these issues and since these are sensitive topics, tempers flare in no time.

mink said...

brilliant piece sir, but just to iron out the facts right, there is national language to our country. Neither the constitution nor the law advocates a national language in our country. Hindi and english are simply "official" languages.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_language#India

mink said...

brilliant piece sir, but just to iron out the facts right, there is national language to our country. Neither the constitution nor the law advocates a national language in our country. Hindi and english are simply "official" languages.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_language#India

Kayhan said...

The root of the problem is when ure defensive, not being able to take humour, getting upset at a remark reacting without getting the lighter side... and put defensive with overly passionate, its explosive(I have never seen anybody worship their stars the way it done here ;) ).

and with the paaji s up north. we need to learn to shut up a little.. lol but If we do the very charm goes away. It's likewise for the anna's down south.

THE ANSWER more world cups and pakistan defeats, so we can all go out, binge drink and chill together.

Dude absolutely love reading your blogs. Keep them coming.

karthik iyer said...

nice try...
You do endeavour to give satisfaction..

minu said...

was really nice..!! damn gogo..loved it..!!! :)

SUB said...

not only north and south...there is east and west, marathi and bihari...and so an...we always were divided, weren't we? think of how many states (bhopal, kashmir etc) were fighting to be a separate nation and not part of India during Independence...barring cricket we hardly unite... but time has come to throw away the stereotype that slows down the progress of our nation....

nice read...

Cheers
SUB

ABI said...

so well said bum.. loving it! t was fun reading the post!! :D

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Rahit --- Rightly said. But then again, it's like the picture of the pencils at the end of the post; together it's beautiful.

Varshaa said...

So rightly said Ash..lovd it!!

Naresh Kumar said...

It was nice to read the whole of the curse. Amusing but not surprising how true. You have taken me back 50years and similar feelings existed then also but much stronger in attitude and amplitude. You have not forgotten to put some statics. Well it was gooding.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Spanya --- Thank you so much Span...and you were the first to comment so that makes it even better :D Yeah I totally agree with you

@Yekollu --- happens mate...we are still many countries in a single nation

Nirmal said...

You called the spade, 'spade' here!!!
As rightly pointed Chennai stands out for its literacy in Hindi!

Anonymous said...

I think it would be in best interest of our nation that nation should be divided ..South should be divided into a separate country.
I have lived in both South of India and north of India and I dont think both can coexist .

Anonymous said...

You mentioned, in your blog,Hindi as the national language which is not the case.India has NO national language.

KayEm said...

Some of us are quite happy to live side by side with people from other cultures, are curious about their traditions, their food, their mode of dress and try to show off the two words we know of their language.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great to have two great cultures side by side, and whilst the two may not mix, I believe that both cultures should appreciate one another.

Sidd said...

Hi, I am a 3rd generation Tamilian born and broughtup in Kolkata....So i am much more "bangali" than "madrasi"...i did work in Chennai for sometime...and to tell you it was difficult would be an understatement.........the biggest thing you miss in this city is Good Looking girls...where are the women man ? if all other indian cities (north or south or east or west) have a BQ (Babe Quotient) of 10, Chennai surely stands at 1...Good or bad ...this is the first thing that'll strike you.

Pavan Kumar said...

Ashish/Gogo, when we typed 'South Indian first generation children North India' on Google, your article came up, most incidents you mentioned as well as people in your comments were as close to what a person from North, South (esp. Hyderabad/Bengaluru), East or West India (not knowing any or little Tamil) goes through in the city
I know we may have missed specific State or Cities from where people come here for studies, job, women post marriage, new business, leisure trips etc. and feel alienated

with little help from local people
(surprisingly starting from Train/Bus/Flight areas, agents, landlords, neighbors, maids, auto/bus drivers, malls/markets, sales people, colleagues, temples, any local person who can translate to Hindi or English, we do get helps if shown interest to learn the language, customs, traditions

look forward to exploring your blog for more..!