The Culture Machine & Enna Da Rascalas video on south Indians opens a box of questions, answers and biases.
It is a different matter that when they talk about being stereotypes they need to talk about and make other stereotypes as well.
The video is about breaking if there is, the earlier 4, now 5 state theory clubbed together as one big unit called South India in the minds of Indians who reside in the other parts. I never believed in such bull shit (that’s being naive, but for the sake of the post, a little naivety is essential) until I met my friend’s beau a couple of years ago. My eyes opened wide, my jaw fell, somebody needed to shake me up to get me back to normal conversation from that one thought. This was the very first time somebody had come by and asked such a question with utmost seriousness, (and he was not joking) somebody who had evidently studied geography in school, read newspapers daily, watched news channels, followed the IPL, followed the general elections … then where did the memory of such a chapter of 4/5 states go. (for a moment, the gang contemplated about their future geography ignorant partner in their future get togethers :D) Until then, to me this notion about a northern southern divide within India, this idea about South India as one big unit, was a myth, at best a party joke cracked once in a while for laughs. We can be our unpolitical selves once in a while!
It is just not the southern states that face this kind of a clubbing. The north eastern states are also clubbed as one unit most of the time. Until I went to the university, it was difficult for me, personally, to distinguish between people from say, Nagaland and Mizoram, Assam and Tripura. (But I knew the geography very clearly). However, once there and after initial and many interactions, and a few best friends later, it was simple enough.
We respect, accept and we relish the difference. I’m not saying making a distinction is a proud moment in life and it should be the sole aim in such conversations. What I am saying is with each state, each tribe, each set of people there is a series of history of rich customs, geographies and memories which lose their individuality when clubbed together in unequal categories.
Take for example the case of Bengal, there are people with different histories since the partition (a partition much less talked about than the one in Punjab), the Partition as a historical event in itself is experienced and known differently to most of us. Take for instance the state of Kerala, the different histories of the three major parts, Cochin, Travancore and Malabar, a dish called Fish Molly is known as Fish Moily in a different menu in a different part of the same state. Not similar, but a parallel case is with erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.. there are differences from the food, oil, preparation, mannerisms, folding of legs to touching the feet rituals… The question then is who put us into these categories or even the better and bigger one, a meta protest about who decides these categories in the first place, but that line of thought can wait for another post.
Isn’t such a thought (forget the practice) in itself about a so called geographic entity a shame and belittling of ourselves, the education we received and our so called proud family heredity! In Malayalam we would say, “malannu kidannu thupuka” (Very difficult to translate, but in essence it can mean, spitting on oneself) What else to say when the so called literate and educated souls holding higher degrees are clueless about something as simple as everyday geography!
I understand there are differences that can bring forth a bias. It is just being human, we may be attracted to people with similar tastes, we may be attracted to extreme opposites, it is up to us to say which of these are exceptions and the norm. I can totally understand that coconut, mustard and soya cooking oils and bamboo shoots come with their own smells and fragrances. However, how can we forget that the combination of onions with coconut oil on the one hand, and boiled potato with mustard oil on the other are like the bestest combinations in food ever. aren’t we losing something when we turn our backs at them 😀 😛
It is a tricky question if you ask me at what exact point does the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea meet 😀 I wouldn’t be able to answer but I may be able to point out that the Indian Peninsula has one on the left, other on the right and one near the tip. However, that ignorance does not make me come to a conclusion that the entire water body surrounding the southern peninsular is one unit!
ps: i use food to explain because I feel food is that everyday experience that is the most diverse and closest to heart at the level of culture.