And where are you from?

29 Sep

No introduction of mine is ever complete without the other party finally unable to resist the curiosity blurts out “and where are you from?”

Its easy, to see them struggling to put me in a mould, a stereotype..exhaust and then ask me to do the work myself. You see I am blessed with a face that could be from anywhere (save maybe Kashmiri or North-Eastern). I could be a Punjabi, a Marathi, a Bengali or a South Indian. So they wait for me to tell them. Even my name is ambiguous, the first name common-place enough (limited by religion though) and surname even commoner. Some would place me in the cowbelt. I tell them I am from the south of Vindyas. Double-take follows.

“But…but you dont look like…even your accent..”

It was fun. The reaction. During my engineering I actually realised people dont believe their ears before their eyes. I would liaison with academic dept babus and start off in the mother tongue to gain some favor. But they would continue to answer me in struggling hindi. Despite my pointed questions in native language. Or the shopkeepers who asked me how in a year or so I have manged such good grasp of foreign tongue. I tell them because that foreign tongue is actually my mother tongue. Double-take.Usual reaction.

These days the answer isnt so simple.

“Where are you from?”

The small town in Kerala I was born in?

The only cosmo left Delhi where I spent my childhood and teenage years?

The biggest city of Kerala where I learnt Independence and self-crippling dependence?

Mumbai where I spent the most awesome two years of my life.

Or the 4 states I saw in the last 6 months?

Kolkata where I earned my living for the first time?

Chennai where two weeks passed in the blink of an eye?

Bangalore which truly is the good,the bad and the ugly?

Panjim which is truly beautiful when untouched by drunk revellers?

The more I see this country, the more I am thankful to have been bought up in a mongrel fashion. Picking up what I like, adjusting like a cog in a wheel to every place I go to.

How can anyone classify me into a stereotype and make judgement?

I remember a tutor telling me “You can always judge people by where they come from. They will almost as a rule live upto their stereotype”

I havent met a greater spendthrift than the Marwari I date. I havent seen more aggressive people than the SFI students in Kerala during a rally. Or the scrawny Sardar in my class who was an ace-coder.

Maybe they are exceptions.All of them.

Or maybe stereotypes are just that. Stereotypes. And odd-balls like me would never fit in. Or perhaps fit everywhere. The Delhi-ite is happy because I shopped at Janpath and ate at Roshan-di-kulfi. The Mumbaiker will empathise chaos at Dadar at 6pm. The Malayali will think wherever-whatever the genes cant disappear.

Or maybe the Delhi-ite would say “Oh but you guys dont have Diwali or Holi na?”, the Mumbaiker would speak to me in Marathi and I wouldnt be able to answer and the Malayali will see me avoid rice and fish and call me a fraud.

So my friend, where are you from actually?


Posted by on September 29, 2008 in life, Uncategorized


12 responses to “And where are you from?

  1. Rohit

    September 29, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    I usually just say Delhi and when they say that I look like a Malayali (which I’m not), I go on and give them a discourse of my genealogy.

    How my Tamil ancestors moved to Kerala and then a generation back migrated to Delhi. And I stayed there for eighteen years.

    How I did my four years of college in Cochin — when they exclaim: “Cochin! Why so far?”. I have even had people ask me, “Where is Cochin?”

    Then I finally talk about Bangalore and the two and a half years spent here.

    I really don’t like answering that question.

  2. Saurabh Garg

    September 29, 2008 at 11:24 pm


  3. Anonymous

    September 30, 2008 at 5:07 am

    I can understand the feeling cos I do not belong to any one place, yet I belong to everywhere… But you should see the look of confusion that people give me when I tell them that my parents are in Ranchi… Most people, even the well-educated well placed in corporate hierarchy variety, think that there is an amalgamation of states in the east with Bihar-UP-West Bengal being one entity with Orissa, MP and Chattisgarh also thrown in from time to time

    But anyways, very well articulated write-up… Awesome as usual šŸ™‚

  4. dharmabum

    October 1, 2008 at 2:21 am

    i think you are lucky to have lived in so many different places. though i have managed to travel quite a bit, i haven’t lived anywhere apart from a couple of places down south.

    very well written, though i feel at times that such enquiries are harmless, and come naturally to most indians – it is just a way of life i guess.

  5. AB

    October 2, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Superb! A must read for Mr. Raj/Bal Thakeray šŸ™‚

    PS: Got the hint for the next gift.

  6. WSW

    October 3, 2008 at 1:58 am

    exactly, why is the Q even imp?

    @Saurabh Garg
    In your probation period, this can and will be perceived as being smart alecky, though each day the temptation to retort with this answer is increasing for me

    Thanks but a name, any name -Eeena,Meena,Deeka would be better than Anon

    Maybe they are harmless but for me they are damn judgmental!

    @AB did? and when i actually spell G-U-C-C-I out over the phone you dont?

  7. Dinesh Babu

    October 7, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Where am I actually from doesn’t matter, How are you going to be in the new place is what matters. Being a Roman in Rome is the respect you give for Rome and the respect you earn for yourself. You are right, Stereotype is just stereotype and there are always exceptions.

  8. C.. CC

    October 7, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    seems u too vella to write all tht..
    and seems i m even more vella to read this and post a comment!

  9. shabbeer

    October 8, 2008 at 4:48 am

    well sometimes stereotyping helps out,

    u tell me of the difficulty of being thought abt from a different state, i thought about to be from UAE, Egypt, Pakistan and i dont knw where, but it pays out sometimes when i bargain as the shopkeepers discuss amonng themselves in malayalam or hindi abt cheating me a few dirhams, and look stupid when i say never do tht in their own tongue;)

  10. Amodini

    October 10, 2008 at 11:48 am

    The whole “where are you from” thing has always gotten to me too, and I wrote about it, some time back :

  11. Anuja

    October 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Wonderfully written!

    Will come back for more later…

  12. B

    November 27, 2008 at 1:39 am

    I guess ppl are always looking for someone to connect with when they ask that qs. If u turn out to be from their state, some kind of bonding and back slapping naturally ensues-I guess thats why this qs is so popular

    Nice post BTW never thot of this so seriously


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