For those of you who don’t know I am from West Bengal and I live in Hyderabad for job. Geographically and culturally, Hyderabad is considered to be part of south India. Even though West Bengal doesn’t reside in the north part of the country, many a time I find people identifying me as North Indian.
The main take away from this is the two ends of the country differs greatly with respect to traditions, beliefs, culture, food habits and more. People who move from South to North or vice versa take great deal of time to get used to the new environment. Where some become part of the new culture, some show more resistant to the difference.
Coming from Bengal, it wasn’t the easiest for me to get mixed in the south Indian culture. Few things I liked, few things I didn’t. But all these time I have been respectful to it. That is very important when it comes to a country like India with the second largest population in the world. It is obvious to have diversity. That makes us beautiful and unique… We as Indians must be welcoming towards all the beautiful cultures even though it’s quite different from our own. It’s part of our identity… This are the things I feel like telling more often when I see my friends and colleagues to make racial jokes.
Last month I was traveling in Garibrath express with some of my friends from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam for my friend’s marriage. Garibrath literally means chariot of poor… Which is justified considering the price of the tickets. Our train didn’t yet start and we were chit-chatting among ourselves. Then a retired Colonel came and sat opposite to us. His wife’s seat was immediate next to us.
He started a small talk about the train service and all. The train was inaugurated by ex Chief minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and the friend of mine whom he was talking to was also from Bihar. What a coincidence!
As soon as he found out the fact, Colonel added “with all due respect.”
“Please don’t mind…”
Then it came to Duranto Express ( literal meaning is super fast express ) which was introduced by Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal.
“Today you have got representative from Bengal as well”, my friend told to Colonel pointing to me.
In the group of 8 people, only 2 of us did not know Telugu. We all were speaking in Hindi and English.
Suddenly Colonel turned to me with a serious face-
So for how long have you been here?
A couple of years.
Do you speak Telugu?
I was looking blank and confused. Never had I been ever asked that question like that.
At least do you understand?
It was not a proud “No”, neither an embarrassed one.
Then he shifted to my other friend from Bihar.
He too didn’t give a convincing answer.
“So you guys should not be allowed to live here. You don’t want to learn the language. We must tell our CM about this.” He said in a humorous tone.
Then he asked my Telugu friend, “Why do you guys encourage them to speak in other languages? “
My friend then explained that he was born and brought up in North since even though his native place is in South. He is comfortable in speaking Hindi with us because of that.
My friend from Bihar added to him saying , “We somewhat manage without learning the local language since in office all the communication take place in English and our friends are fine with Hindi.”
Being a native Hindi speaker it would make sense to him to speak in Hindi or support it. But what about me?
Hindi is not something we speak in our daily life, neither it was part of our education. We watch Hindi movies and TV shows all the time, and the language has similarity with Bengali … That is the only reason learning it and speaking the tongue was never a hard question.
Colonel asked me why I didn’t learn Telugu again. This time I answered, “cause it’s difficult”. Everybody in the compartment who heard my answer laughed. One good thing about that day was everybody around me were good and sensible people who don’t get triggered by casual conversation.
Colonel got no chill and he had a few more questions in his head. “So how do you feel about the food?”
To be honest I don’t like the food here. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is bad. I’m a very picky eater. I don’t eat most of the vegetables. I avoid sour and hot and so on. There are lot of things that I don’t eat even at my place. Also it will be unfair to judge any cuisine when you have only had it in dormitories and office canteen. These are definitely not the best places to give you a good impression about any food. But the question he asked was not expecting an disappointing answer followed by a prolonged explanation.
Better to finish the conversation on the lighter note than digging deeper into it and upsetting everyone.
“Food is okay here” I said. I tried to be polite…
“Just okay?” …
Colonel carried on the conversation anyway. About IT sector job, about the salary ( yeah salary shaming is a fundamental right of elderly generation here ), about my hostel and many other things.
I could not cut it off… My friends stood up and went to a safe distance from where they could not be invited for another awkward conversation.
I came to know about his daughter who lives in a flat somewhere in Hyderabad, how she fell sick eating the horrible food there.
About 2 poor Bengali guys whom he met long back in Visakhapatnam… One of them was a good artist but yet he chose to work in IT. He could barely manage the expenses. After a month he and his friend has live.
About the cyclone that hit Andhra Pradesh a couple of years back. Colonel’s wife really wanted to experience it. So they went to balcony. Colonel asked his wife to hold his hand tightly… In case she lost balance of her legs, she would fly … Like a flag. No joke, he actually said that.
There are many other things that he told that my brain couldn’t comprehend.
The main reason that he confronted me is when he joined army and he was posted in different places in India, his supervisor always asked him whether he learnt the language or not. I had no courage to ask him again if he had cause that would make a joke of me again.
PS. It was all fun, no disrespect meant to anyone.
That’s all folks! Thanks for dropping by! 🙂