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?