Every Sunday, at 9:00 a.m., a group of 4 friends would come over to my house to enjoy a south indian breakfast of medu vadas, dosas and idlis. This was a ritual which had its root in an incident which took place in the past. Things were not always so rosy. I am from Hyderabad and shifted to Lucknow when I was a 10-year child. In the younger years, it did not matter where I came from. People were generally nice and it did not matter that I am a south Indian by birth. But as we grew, our minds became corrupt with the influence of the many factors at play. It was not that I was an outcast, it was just that now I was â€œTumlogâ€ and was addressed as Tamilian, even though I am from Andhra Pradesh. Of course, nobody meant it in a derogatory way. This I can say from the fact that they made fun of each other also, it was just that mine pushed me away from them by creating a line.
This carried on for some time and I accepted it as a part of life and replied with a casual â€œChalnaâ€¦.kyu bakwas kar rahaâ€ without expressing my feelings. But, one day, a friend from my group had a birthday party at his house. This was something new because until now we always celebrated birthdays outside our homes in a club or a restaurant. It was a lip-smacking dinner of Chole bhatoore, Gajar ka halwa and Aloo ki sabzi. After dinner, we came out to chat for a while and then everybody insisted that I celebrate my birthday in the same way inside my house so that they can actually taste authentic South Indian cuisine. I was taken aback because of the sudden interest in south Indian cuisine and instinctively blurted out,
â€œAfter all the condemnation of a South Indian since when have you become interested in it?â€
They all laughed it over and carried with their banter. The next day, we all met again, as we did always. While discussing our plan for the upcoming Sunday, I said that I will be busy helping my mother in breakfast. We have a special Sunday breakfast with all South Indian food. Though I was skeptical about sharing this with them, I secretly wanted them to come over and be a part of this half of India also. Surprisingly, they all asked if they could join as well. I knew it is not that they mean ill for me or are deliberately trying to belittle me. I was aware that this is their way of making fun, just like a friend who always fails but has a crush on the class topper. But, what they did not realise that this was different. I wanted to express this feeling and see if they were accepting of this or not.
Sunday came and so did my friends. I had helped my mother in making the best breakfast that we would ever had made. After a while, when everybody was going gaga over the delicacies, I slid in my thoughts,
â€œSee, we have such a wonderful cuisine which is as much a part of India as other dishes. God knows why you people discriminate against south indian people.â€
Then while licking his fingers, a friend denied any such allegation. I knew this would come as I was sure hurting my feelings was just unintentional. Then I dropped the bomb and said,
â€œIt is strange how you people keep condemning the south yet take plaesure in their culinary expertise. I think it is time we reflect on our sentiments.â€
I still cannot forget the look of bewilderment on their faces. After a silence of few seconds, which seemed like hours, someone, with authentic curiosity, asked what I meant and who dared to question the integrity of the country. When I pointed out that I did not like it when they said things like â€œtamilianâ€ and made fun of my accent, which was actually a north Indian accent because of having stayed here. I could not articulate what I felt, but the message was well received. And then one of them just said,
â€œPagal hai kya, chill maarne ka reâ€¦Chal ab nahi karenge. Pehle batana tha.â€
And they resumed their banter and continued eating. Ever since that day, we assemble in my house and Â have a hearty breakfast while the other days I walk into someoneâ€™s house for lunch. Did they change? Yes, they did. They now started making fun of my hair while I passed sarcastic comments on their clothing sense and singing abilities. I realised that day that we need to be forthcoming, in the right place and at the right time. Sometimes people are not just aware that they are being hurtful, a slight nudge will suffice for them.