The great divide…

There was a time when life was simple. There existed a bonhomie in all of us which enabled us to get along with each other in high spirits. There was never a talk of religion, language, money or power, we all thrived in the diversity of one another and barely knew the other beyond their name and character. We never spoke about regionalistic or societal stigmas, in fact we never knew they existed or what they meant. We lived in a world of Tintins, Asterix, Amar chitra kathas and Archies and practiced the camaraderie of the secret sevens and the famous fives. Relationships were established at the drop of a hat, discussions were about all things beneficial and mutual, we never thought about isolating and excluding the other.

We studied in convents, we said our morning prayers to our father who art in heaven and earnestly prayed that we pass our exams. During the holy month of Ramadan we ate biriyani at our friend’s place and parceled more of it back home. In October / November we celebrated diwali together and prayed to the Goddess of wealth for extra pocket-money to take us through the festive season. Come Christmas we would go carol singing in the residential areas of Fraser Town and Cooke Town. We did this every year, it was life, simple and sweet with no complications and invigorating. Life, the way we knew it.

Bangalore is probably one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India. It has graciously welcomed people from beyond the borders of Karnataka and rightfully so. The Bengali association, Sindhi colony and the Tamil sangam peacefully existed next to each other. Church bells, vedic hymns and the holy verses from the Quran reverberated through the morning fog as the sun slowly rose in Bangalore’s east. Everybody existed as one unit in this society. We bought our clothes from Faazals on commercial street , bread from Thoms bakery and milk from the local Nandini diary at the corner.I am Tamilian by birth who cannot read and write Tamil, I can speak tamil though. I learnt hindi and Kannada in school and know my hindi better than my Tamil and Kannada. I have a surname that sounds more Punjabi and a first name that sounds Bengali. I have spoken as easily with the Tamils from Sri Lanka as I have spoken to the Punjabis in Australia. I can understand Malayalam and I can read Telugu. My english is better than any of my known vernacular languages and it has not dented my patriotism or made me feel guilty in any way. I have considered each of these languages including english as only a mode of communication, nothing more, nothing less. I have never considered language as an identification card. I have lived and loved Calcutta as much as I loved Flurys on Park street where I would relish those delightful chocolate confectionaries wrapped in gleaming colorful paper. I have gorged on the rasagullas of KC Das with equal fervor. I have loved the vada paav from Mumbai as much as I loved idli and sambhar from Adyar Anand Bhavan in Chennai. I have absolutely relished the nawabi biriyani from Hyderabad as much as I have loved the Christmas cake from All Saints Bakery in Bangalore. I have enjoyed rasam as much as I have enjoyed the khatti rolls of Old Delhi.I have thrived in our wonderful diversity and grateful for it, food apart.

Slowly things changed. The river Cauvery that meanders through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu became a bone of contention. Tamilians and Kannadigas fought over water. People fought over mosques, temples and churches. People fought over unveiling of statues of poets and pelted each other. Thoms and All Saints merged as one unit, Rashid and Sultan became a force, Hegde and Gowda unified against Swamy and Iyer. Maharashtra wanted to acquire parts of Belgaum in Karnataka.There was this great divide. A divide that created factions and frictions, it was almost surreal. It became important to identify with a faction. Kannada activists fought for the renewal of the “dying” spirit of Karnataka and promoted usage of Kannada everywhere. Statistics revealed that the population of non speaking kannadigas was increasing slowly and surely and the mighty “resurrection” of Kannada began in the most unsophisticated manner. Mumbai is going through a phase of upheavals where certain parties are raising ridiculous slogans of ” Mumbai for Marathis”. Celebrities, Industrialists and even the most non political Tendulkar have been lashed by the regionalism cane. Mumbai is for the Tendulkars as much as it is for the Khans and the Bachchans.

As more factions are created, more fragments are harvested there is a consoling factor. There are people in this world who exist beyond themselves, there are people in this world who do not microchip themselves with a serial number stating their religion and ethnic peculiarities. The minority breed of Indians frankly do not have time for blackmail from religion and politics or for brainwashing from the old school of thought. They give two hoots whether a temple or a mosque is built in Ayodhya but they do care if their freedom is infringed on, especially their right to free speech and expression. They live as one and see others as they see themselves. My old friends have traveled with me and I continue to make new friends. I give a damn about my roots or worry about tracing my ancestors and plotting my family on a tree, the only roots I cling on to is the deep roots to the Indian soil and I do not worry about the language I use to express it in, even if it is the colonial one. The day when we get rid of reservation, the day when we stop putting our religion on school, university and government applications we can call ourselves an evolved society.

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20 Responses to “The great divide…”

  1. Nicely written as usual. I guess that becomes a tautology for you. Good points to note: wider spectrum covered. You do note things that have have happened throughout the years with you.

  2. I become the first one yet again 🙂
    Nicely written as usual. I guess that becomes a tautology for you. Good points to note: wider spectrum covered. You do note things that have have happened throughout the years with you.

  3. A part of my comment on AB’s blog today:

    India today is a prominent player on the world stage and we are constantly striving to become a major force in the near future. We have opened up to the international community in a big way and our people too have made their presence felt all around the world. So while we are nurturing international ambitions, how can we even think of creating rifts between our States on the basis of languages and other considerations? Wouldn’t this prove to be a dampener to our global aspirations? All of us should stand united and defeat these nefarious designs, whatever the cost.

  4. parmaatma Says:

    The photograph that you have posted above actually shows the real world as in now. Children in any part of the world, in any age and time, live without those differences.

    The smiling countenance of those children can be interpreted in two ways – positively, as innocence and unsacrificed love for life; or negatively, as lack of ownership and lack of belonging. But that depends on the perception of the viewer.

    I believe, it exists in that age group at all times as a constant reminder of inclusiveness for the responsibily aging and the aged!

    Good one,

    • Absolutely so Sudhir. I lament the passage of time. The smiling faces also represent a few adults who do not pass a judgement or restrict their collaborations with people based on where they are from. It most certainly can represent now. Children now know the difference between a camry and a corolla but may not know the difference between independence day and republic day. Children too are evolving but they probably still see themselves in the rest.

  5. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    Well,you needn’t mention of your adeptness at English as it becomes manifest when I scroll through the dictionary so that I can decipher your unbelievable diction.

    A correction though,its better written as RAMADAN….

    One reason why I have never missed your blog ever since I came to know about it is that I am very conscious of bettering my English.And why shouldn’t I be when I have prepared my self for Journalism this year.And where else can I get a better tutor online……or may be offline as well……

    This reason of course is besides my

    • Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

      own willingness to follow your blog

      • Salman – Thank you and correction made. I am honored with your comments but you are much too kind. If you are preparing for journalism, I do not think I am capable in the least to be your tutor. But, I am honored at your suggestion.

  6. Thanks a lot…..your always welcome.Actually,journalism obviously requires excellent command over the language.SO,I meant you can be the most capable in doing so.Just by reading your blog,I learn a lot of new words.

    Please feel free to correct me if I go wrong in my language anytime…….it would be an honor.

    • Salman – I send my blogs to Pritish Nandy for his comments. Sometimes, he retweets my blog on his twitter account, then I know it is a good read. When he does not, it means it is not up to the mark. I too learn everyday and you should start your own blog too, that is if you have not started one already and I will be happy to read your blogs.

      • Thats what my brother had advised me recently.He has been in london for five years and is almost a CA now.

        Well,Blog is a bit too big thing for me.I like to be confined to some newspapers published in asia.I struggle to find topics…….presently what is going on in my mind is the Burqa issue of France.Though I have written about it in newspapers but cant elaborate enough to post it on the blog…

      • Salman – Your brother has given you very good advise.

  7. Another Gift from Brits to India – Divide and Rule ! it worked before and will work till infinity it seems.

  8. archana(bengaluru) Says:

    already mentioned in ABji’s blog, sharmila.. excellent posts. All included. I am sorry i havenot commented on earlier posts, but do keep reading it regularly. Its not just the command over the language, or the content that u write here, you really feel from the bottom of your heart which makes ur posts far-out. I am happy that i know you as fellow member of EF!

    • Arch – Thank you and you are much too kind. I am happy if people enjoy what they read and get a message as well. I am happier knowing you, a fellow Banglorian.

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