Whenever someone asks me where I’m from, my immediate response is Chennai! This noisy, humid, beautiful, dirty sweltering and diverse city with its sandy shores, idli sambhar stalls and insane bus drivers has been my home for more than seven years now. Whether I like it or not, this city has definitely grown on me. But of course, most ‘Chennaites’ react to this with raised eyebrows and an expression amounting to “Riiight… so where are you really from?”
They know you are not really from around these parts. They can smell it.
When I proceed to explain that I’m originally from Hyderabad, its all “Ohhh telenguu, like hyderabaaadi biryaaani?” or “ohh reddy garu, so your family are basically like factionists right?”.
Yes that’s right. All I eat is Hyderabadi biryani. Also my family basically goes around in white Sumos wielding hand grenades and terrorizing people (thanks a lot Tollywood). 🙂
Yet even this doesn’t seem to explain my contradicting ‘accent’. So when I explain that I grew up in the US of A then its suddenly “oh..nice.” when really they are thinking “Jeez an NRI(non resident indian); another stuck-up, bratty, clueless foreign return from one of those international schools. Another annoying snob who perpetually goes on about how Starbucks is superior to Coffee Day and complains about everything from the spicy food to the lack of air-conditioned bathrooms yet doesn’t know the difference between chai and chutney. Probably thinks she’s better than everyone else too.”
At which point, the next question is always “Which state in US?”
Well, California (for the most part), to which the reaction is like “ohh, the west coast! Hollywood! So you must go surfing like all the time and meet lots of hollywood stars”
Nope. Not really. I actually have never surfed before. Sorry.
…and Georgia: “I know! Like Hillbillies yaaa’ll (with drawn out Southern accent). Did you ever get mugged by those ‘black Americans’? Isn’t everyone like super racist there?”
No. Just no.
What I began to realize is that it doesn’t matter what I say; It doesn’t matter which corner of this planet I am from. My whole character and personality, my entire identity as an individual will be reduced to some preconceived stereotype. There is literally a stereotype about every single country/state/city in this Earth. No one really escapes from it:
Gujjus: money minded
Punjabi: loud, party and drink a lot
Bengalis: miserly, eat fish
Mallu: coconut oil and banana chips
Tamilian: Enna rascalaa?!
Sri Lankan: pirates
Chinese: kung-fu, noodles. Commies.
Russians: vodka. Also commies
Welsh: Sheep shaggers
English: stiff upper lip, lot of ‘football’
Irish: loud, drink a lot. gingers.
Swiss: banks and cows and chocolate.
Japanese: anime, eat anything that moves.
Australians: ride kangaroos and say things like ‘dunny’, ‘thong’, and ‘barbie’.
Jamaicans: reggae music and weed
There is no escape.
So.. where in the world am I from?
Well, does it really matter?
Did the universe conspire to define and limit me based on some external factors of the environment in which I was born and raised in? I don’t fit into any stereotypes and I like myself that way! Sure, I’m unique. I’m one of a kind. I got no labels or tags. Should we really be judging people and creating barriers based on some generalized bigoted notion of who they are? How about being a global citizen of this planet instead?
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
For the record, I love all my madrasis, mallus, telugus, kannadigas, gujjus, punjabis, bongs, marathis, chinkis, kiwis, aussies, brits, scotts, irish, desis, latinos canucks, frenchies, serbs, ruskies, Africans, hillbillies, yankees, and everyone in between. ❤