South Indian Naashta
Updated: Nov 1
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 “Tumlog” 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 “Chalna….kyu bakwas kar raha” 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,
“After all the condemnation of a South Indian since when have you become interested in it?”
They all laughed it over and carried it 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 to 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,
“See, 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.”
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,
“It 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.”
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. Then I pointed out that I did not like it when they said things like “tamilian” 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,
“Pagal hai kya, chill maarne ka re…Chal ab nahi karenge. Pehle batana tha.”
And they resumed their banter and continued eating. Ever since that day, we assemble in my house and have a hearty breakfast while the other days I walk into someone’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.