Thursday, June 02, 2011

I am not a Madrasi or a Bhaiyya

Have now completed exactly 8 days in India. Joined office early this week and was brave enough to take the bus the first day of the week. Some new changes in this experience of going to office. First thing, my wife dropped me by car at the bus depot, which is a neat progress and makes me dream of getting drunk at parties and not worrying about driving back home! So far, my dad has dropped me by scooter at the station or the bus stop for years that I have worked or studied. So a well deserved rest for dad as well!

Second thing is that I used an air conditioned (AC) Bus from the bus depot near my house to go to my office at Powai – which is roughly 30 kms from my house. In the last few years, all the Public Transportation authorities like BEST, NMMC ply AC buses which ferry bus loads of harried Mumbaikars from one end of the city to another. It is such a pleasant respite from the hot and sultry travel times that were full of grime, sweat and dust over the years that I used public transportation. One can listen to FM Radio, enjoy the coldness of air condition and travel across the city by observing life outside their windows with no frown on their brows or shirt sticking to their backs. Indeed a small revolution, which would further explode with the opening of Metro Rail services.Way to go Mumbai!

The third thing is that the political parties in Mumbai, which have a strong linguistic and sons of the soil agenda have slowly managed to hallucinate the common “Marathi Manoos”. They are seeing easy ways of attracting followers by inciting strong feelings of pride amongst the “Marathi Manoos” ( a local citizen of Mumbai). They do this to pull the carpet over their inability over the years to do anything good for the upliftment of the same people whose support they now try to garner by inciting strong regionalistic sentiments. The gentleman next to me was a stout, dark middle aged man who generously spread his weight in the seat. He had a family of three seated around him and in front of him. It was time for this gentleman to buy his tickets from the bus conductor. The bus conductor / ticket dispatcher walked towards us and asked him how many tickets he needed. The gentleman replied “4 Tickets. What is the price?” in Marathi language. The conductor replied “Teenshe Vees rupaye (meaning Rs. 320 in Marathi)”.

Maybe the marathi gentleman spoke too fast without understanding that the conductor had replied in Marathi. The gentleman spew his venom saying “Marathit bola nah. Me kaay madrasi nahee tar Bhaiyya nahee!” which meant “ Talk to me in Marathi, I am not a Madrasi or Bhaiyya”. For non Indians – Madrasi’s is a common Indian racist slur used to address all South Indians from the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Bhaiyya is a common Indian racist slur used to address a lot of North Indians – especially from states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and around. Over the years, the politicians in Mumbai especially and rest of India have done well to divide people based on this difference in language and region a person belongs to. While the likes of US and UK look forward to shut doors for Indian nationals or make it more stringent as they don’t want the smart Indians taking their jobs, similarly politicians in Maharashtra have been vociferous to keep out the “Madrasi’s and Bhaiyyas” using similar protectionist measures. Though it has not been that effective, but still they have been effective in creating a false feeling of pride of being “Marathi Manoos” by arousing unwanted strong regionalistic sentiments. I have nothing against Maharashtrian or Marathi’s. In fact I speak, talk and read Marathi much better than my “Madrasi”. I enjoy watching Marathi Movies (from movies of Dada Kondke, Nilu Phule, Lakshmikant Berde, Ashok Saraf to recent movies like Jogwa, Natarang etc), have loads of Marathi friends and feel more at home in Maharashtra than Tamil Nadu. I have been born and brougt up here and taken Marathi as a language for more than five years at school. I can hum Marathi songs and still remember the TV serials like "Aavhaan", "Gotya", "Bhikajirao Karodpati", "Zopigelela zaaga zaala" and other such Marathi serials which i watched as a kid on National Television - Doordarshan (DD). My mom and dad can speak broken Marathi and understand it totally. They infact own and read Marathi cookbooks like "Ruchira" which typically dictates some pickle and lunch menus. My sister and wife can speak it as flawlessly as i can.

What has let me down is that the real issues of education, poverty, social upliftment, job training have been ignored in the quest for Marathi pride over no solid foundations. God bless Mumbai and the Marathi Manoos. My fingers crossed for all my fellow comrades out here!

Marathi manasa zaga ho ! (Awaken Oh Marathi Man!)

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