Dr. Vishaal Bhat started an interesting discussion on The North South Divide. I would like to narrate my experience of living in the South.
Many years back, I was working in a Cement Plant in Maharashtra. I was the GM there and we had one Prasad as the Vice President. He was from Hyderabad. Soon we became friends. Later we both left the company and went our own ways. I opened an Industrial Consultancy in Nagpur while Prasad opened his Accountancy firm in Hyderabad. One day tragedy struck and father was diagnosed with cancer. I left Nagpur and went to look after him in Gwalior.
After his death, Prasad suggested that I move to Hyderabad. I joined a company where he was working. I made history of sorts as I was the first North Indian to join that company. That company not only looked after me very well, it also sent me to USA. Later even after my resigning, they processed my Green Card.
Years later I bought an apartment in Hyderabad. Prasad’s wife was making all the arrangements for the house-warming ceremony. No one from my family could make it for the ceremony. She told me that she was unable to be find a North Indian priest. My elder brother scolded me to even think about it. He told me that let it be the South Indian way. There I was wearing the dhoti and the shawl. The priest looked at me strangely. What kind of Andhra-ite didn’t understand his directions. He spoke chaste Telugu. After a few mis-hits, we created a great symphony looking at each others hands and performing the pooja.
Then when we decided to start business, never did it enter my mind that Manipal was in South. The support and the affection we received from the local is incredible. Today when I look the only friends I have are all from the South.
When I decided to take a break and take up full time writing, Hyderabad was my preferred destination. But it is a horror these days what with the Metro construction in progress. There are frequent jams and travel is more static than dynamic.
I had to opt for something calmer and so returned to my roots, Gwalior. It feels good too. The ancestral home has a lot of stories inside its bricks and mortar.
Life indeed came a full circle.
So was my experience all good. NO. I have many complaints. Please understand, My South Indian friends, that being North Indian doesn’t mean we eat samosas all the time. So don’t order samosas every time I am with you. I too love Idlis and Dosas like you.
Also, our brains are not inside our groins. Whenever I came out of my hotel in Rajhmundry at any time of the day, at least a few rickshaw pullers would attack me whispering, “ Sari?” That was a code for prostitute. Also try visiting Burma bazaar in Chennai. Every veteran pirated CD seller, once he sees you as a North Indian, will come close and whisper “ Blue film”! Please gentlemen. We too buy Cameras, phones and silks.
Another horror is the spices they eat. Please be easy on it. Once a dear friend from Godavari district. Sent me prawns pickle which looked so enticing. But the moment I popped a prawn in my mouth I felt it made a hole in my tongue. I felt like jumping into the Godavari River.
I am exaggerating. I hog on all the Biryanis, the mirchi ka salans, the khubani ka meethas. Can’t resist the Bagara baingans, the Niharis and the Haleems. Boy! I damn care which part of the world the food is coming from as long as it is delicious.
There are two ways of living. You could stand on the periphery and whinge. Or you could adjust. I strongly feel that if one wants to be accepted in any place, he should join the main stream. I ate rice for years when I was with my south Indian friends. My partners boys lived with me for over a year. When I left they felt as sorry as I was. We had lived in total harmony, adjusting being the key.
I try learning the local language. The local people don’t expect you to speak fluent Tulu. But if you shout, ‘ Bega’ it brings a smile on their face.
It’s not just India. I try following the local customs. It makes me feel quite welcome.
A lady guest in the restaurant once said that Tulu sounded sweeter when I spoke. I protested. I hardly spoke. She said yes but whenever you do, the accent comes across very sweet. I too next time observed their Hindi. Its simply attractive. Much better than Katrina Kaif’s.
As long as I lived in Manipal, once in a while I ate with the staff. We ate Bangra and Anjal fish and the local rice which in fact tastes better with the rice curry. A staff once said that he felt like I was one of them.
I take it as the biggest compliment. The CEO of my earlier companies couldn’t have given me a better one.