Friday, July 22, 2011

Tamil Nadu: Bad 10! (Part 2 of 2)

6. Narrow-mindednessThis is one of the biggest complaints that all other Indians have on Tamils. Where did such an opinion root from? I think, it all started from the anti-Hindi movement. "When everyone else took it as an opportunity to learn another language, why is it that only these people play politics with it?" is the question they all have. We know that some were genuinely concerned about the problems that the people of the state would have to face later if they joined the Hindi bandwagon while others just used it for their political mileage.

But just for that reason can you call the entire group narrow-minded? It's ironic that we are okay with a foreign language (English) when we could not accept another Indian language (Hindi). But that had a reason. It was just that they wanted to have a common language which didn’t handicap the majority non-Hindi speaking people when they competed with the native Hindi speakers. Everyone is reaping the benefits of it today. What the history says is that when it came for discussion in parliament all south Indian states had the same opinion. Even some of the other non-Hindi north Indian politicians stood for English fearing that it would lead to Hindi-chauvinism later otherwise. Nehru formed two committees to close this issue. Both the committees ended up with exact 50-50 split verdict. That means there were also others who didn't vote for Hindi. But why is it that even people from those states think Tamils are narrow-minded? Maybe because it's only the Tamil politicians who took it to streets. Or, there may be other reasons.

One of those reasons that I have come across is that others believe that Tamils don't mix so well with others. I know the justification that comes from my people: "When I am in a group that speaks a language that I don't understand, how can I feel part of them?!". Then they go back to square one and ask, "When all others were able to speak our language, why is it that only you are unable to do it? What is your problem in doing that? That's the reason we call you narrow-minded!". But one thing that others have to realize is, even those who used to scold all the Dravidian parties and their movement for not being able to learn Hindi in Tamil Nadu, change their mind after coming to cosmopolitan environment. It was not their decision to not learn Hindi. They couldn't learn it because they had no opportunity. When they come and try to mix with people, they feel out of place just because they don't know Hindi. Then they find reasons to justify their politicians’ stands while cursing them inside. In the process, they get narrow-minded or start sounding so. It could be avoided if they knew the knacks of gracefully dealing with the situation like the other south Indians do. Unfortunately, some of our guys behave awkward in such situations.

The only way to avoid this allegation is, Tamils should let the world know that it's not Hindi or those who speak Hindi that they hate but it's the imposition of one language over all other languages of the land. In fact, they should be all the more affectionate with the Hindi-speaking people and mix with them more to take their point across. They should just say, "Tamil people are very nice people. It's just that they don't like speaking in others' language in their land!".

I have a friend whose family migrated from Kongu region in Tamil Nadu to Mysore in last generation. He used to be little restless during his marriage time. He used to say, "I grew up in Karnataka throughout my life. My parents are looking for a Tamil girl. I have always had problem with Tamil girls. They are so narrow-minded. I don't know how to handle!". What a pity?! I never thought there could be problems like this in one's life. When a Tamil boy himself thinks like this, there must be something. I don't want to rule him out saying, "he doesn't have self-respect" and all that nonsense.

Even our girls are like that. It’s very common in other places for men and women to sit next to each other. 15 years back itself, I wrote a short story about this after seeing a woman shouting at a boy of her son’s age touched her by mistake in the bus. There is a reason for that. Our culture is like that. When the world is changing so fast we can’t remain static. That wouldn’t help anyone.

Not only our girls. Even our boys don’t mix with other people with open mind. As soon as they come in they will look around for Tamil boys and mix only with them. It’s not that only Tamil boys do that. There are others who do the same thing as well. But somehow it doesn’t look that awkward when others do it. Maybe because it’s too much in Bangalore I feel it this way. Maybe the same thing could be done in a much better way… a way that doesn’t irritate others’ eyes. I think, our boys should at least learn those techniques. It’s such a basic human trait to mix with everyone giving the same amount of importance and respect. We certainly have to improve on this.

This is not only in Bangalore. I have seen this even in my native place. Some people mix with people from their community only. They won’t even have business dealings with people from other communities. They wouldn’t help others like the way they do their own people. In fact, they would even go to an extent of screwing up someone’s business if he doesn’t belong to their own community. People from one community won’t even watch movies of the actors from other communities. It’s so funny and idiotic.

Caste is omni-present all across India. In fact, we have made much better progress compared to other states when it comes to shedding caste and community identities. When we are so advanced in many other aspects, it really hurts to see people being so narrow-minded only on this aspect. It’s generally done by the communities that are in majority in most places, which in turn spoils others as well. For that matter, even our politics is still largely driven by caste calculations.

Another complaint is that we don’t learn others’ languages easily. Imposing a language on anyone is wrong. But, when you go out to earn your bread and butter it’s very basic that you learn the language of the land. One can’t justify not doing that. There are reasons for that as well. Ours is not from the same family of languages like most of the other Indian languages. Our structure is different. Tamil is neither a child of Sanskrit nor did it allow Sanskrit to influence its structure as much as other Dravidian languages did. That’s the reason our pronunciation is different from that of the others. However, it’s imperative that we join the global mainstream. There are symptoms of change in the next generation. Let’s hope they change these perceptions successfully.

7. Hygiene / Public Etiquettes Malayalis call us ‘Pandi’. Kannadigas call us ‘Konga’. It’s not that every Malayali and Kannadiga calls us like this. I haven’t come across people with decent backgrounds using such words. It’s just like how some people in Chennai call Telugus ‘Golti’ and some people in Coimbatore call Malayalis ‘Ganji’. Pandi and Konga don’t mean anything more than the lands that touch Kerala and Karnataka. The region adjacent to Kerala is called ‘Pandi’ region historically and the land adjacent to Karnataka is called ‘Kongu’ region. But when these terms are used by Malayalis and Kannadigas, it means something more. Anyone can understand what is loaded within these terms. When I tried to understand with an open mind why they hate us so much, what I understood is that they think we are little different. ‘Different’ meaning?

Some of my Malayali friends have even told me that we don’t even take bath every day. We are not clean. We are not hygienic. When I tried to understand more, I understood two things. One, they may be thinking so because most of us are dark-skinned unlike them. Since we are naturally darker than them and darkness implies dirtiness they might have thought so. That’s not something in our control so we can’t do much about it. Let’s talk about that as well in the last point. The amount of cultural mixing up with others and Europeans is not as much as in other parts of the country. That’s the reason we have remained dark. Two, the representative sample they had to arrive at these conclusions is so. They judged the entire state by looking at the labor class people who went there to do god-forsaken duties like construction, farming, etc. Let’s leave that. Those who work hard can’t be “fair and lovely” like movie actors. They would stink with sweat. They won’t use body spray and cologne as their job doesn’t require them to do such things. They may not be taking regular bath as well. I don’t think we should talk much about it. I have seen people from other regions who work in even air conditioned rooms but don’t take bath regularly so we shouldn’t talk much about this.

When I tried to understand why Kannadigas look at us differently, I realized it is because of our coarse behaviors in public. They call us by another name “Katpadi”. Katpadi is a town in North Tamil Nadu. When they call us by this name what they roughly mean is - “wild”. It’s just because they think we don’t have refined public behaviors. It’s the same answer that I have for them as well. Most of the Tamils that went to Karnataka earlier were all working class people. They went to lay roads and do construction work. So one can’t make a big issue out of it. At the same time, we can’t ignore it just like that as well. Kannadigas also drink. In fact, they even drink along with their families and enjoy. But they don’t get drunk and misbehave in public like how our people do in Tamil-dominated areas. All these influence their perception about us.

A scene that I saw in my initial days in Bangalore – a Tamil man (the same working class man) was drunk beyond limits and creating a bad scene in the city bus. Everyone is scared and stands away from him. Nobody is questioning him. He uses all bad words. I couldn’t even see an insect objecting to whatever he was speaking. One, nobody would have understood his language. Another, I am not sure if he could have done it anywhere in Bangalore. There are areas where it would have been handled differently. But, the question here is, can a Malayali or Telugu man do the same thing in Coimbatore or Chennai?

Another time, there was a family fight happening on the streets. The drunk husband was going to hit his wife with whatever he collected on his hand. The wife was scolding him with all bad words in Tamil and resisting him as much as possible. My half-Tamil – half-Malayali Palakkad friend was saying, “This happens only in Tamil Nadu and Tamil areas. Come to Kerala and check. You can’t see this scene anywhere in Kerala”. It was very painful digesting it that night.

More than all these, I have had a fair opportunity to see the villages of all south Indian states. I haven’t seen the village roads being used as public toilets as much as it’s in Tamil Nadu. I have seen them but not so much. Maybe I haven’t seen enough or my sample is not the right sample. If someone could share the list, I can verify and confirm before being judgmental.

Finally, the Tamil debates that happen on internet are of so much of bad taste. I don’t think any other Indian race would use so much of sub-standard language. I haven’t read such bad conversations in English (maybe they are moderated better). I speak a fair amount of Kannada. I can read it a bit. But I don’t know any other languages. So I am not really qualified to compare with other languages. But I checked with other friends. Everyone says that they haven’t come across such conversations in their language. Are they lying? I don’t think so!

Last week when I was on my way to my native place I had an experience. It was 4 o’clock in the early morning I was getting into the bus. I just got in and chose a seat. Most people were sleepy just like me. A guy sitting behind me started playing music in loud volume. In the next few minutes, another guy starts playing a Telugu song beside me. It’s an answer to the other guy’s song. This guy increases the volume. That guy also does the same. I don’t know where this is all heading. A request to the enemy countries that may plan to bomb India – please leave Tamil Nadu if you really want India to suffer. That’s the best thing you could do to teach India a lesson.

8. Publicity Craze: Just travel on the National Highways (NH-7) from Kanyakumari to Kashi once. I have traveled till Hyderabad on that road. Tell me in which part of the country do they keep huge wall posters with all those scary faces. That’s the region that is most crazy about publicity in India. Someone’s birthday, someone’s daughter has attained puberty, someone’s wedding, someone’s death… whatever it is. The first thing they do is, 50 to 100 people join together, collect some money and print wall posters or put up a flux board with everyone’s passport size photo. The amount of funny things they do on these posters are unbearable. One guy would be stamping on a lion, another would be riding on a tiger and so on. Some rogues are even treated like demigods. The kind of photos they put up would be all the more crazy. Their leader will be shown like a roaring lion next to which there would be a replica of this guy. In reality, they may not even have the courage to face cats.

It used to be for party leaders, movie stars and caste-community leaders. It has gone to the next level now. Anyone who can afford to sponsor drinks to these guys on the weekends will have their photos shown like roaring lions in one of the street corners in their place. Some people give more importance to these fellows and end up sponsoring them more drinks just for these posters. In the last regime of the state government, there were few gods and goddesses for the entire state and then there were local deities in each area. That has changed now. In this government, there is only one goddess for the entire state. The local deities shouldn’t expect any such gestures of respect. They should just focus on what they want to loot silently. Even if they breathe louder, they would have to read about loss of their minister post in the newspapers the next morning.

Maybe, I think Tamil Nadu would be a close second next to Mayawati’s UP in this regard. There, only she does it for herself. Here, everyone does it for their leader. That’s the only difference. Whichever temple you go here. There would be presents with the presenter’s name written in bigger fonts than even the god’s name. They present tube light but their names are written so big that it doesn’t even do its basic duty of giving light. They present a mirror but the names are written so big that nobody can use it to see their face. What is funnier is that they don’t just write their names. They would also write about their native place, the current place where they are living, whose grandson, whose son, their children’s names and their grand children’s names. So funny and cheap! May be it’s because of these people that the number of atheists are increasing by the day.

I am not sure about the other regions in Tamil Nadu. There is a group in my region. Their marriage invitation would look like a book in itself. I can almost say anyone whose name is not on an invitation will surely not come to that marriage. Every invitee’s name will be there. The invitation will have as many number of names as the number of meals that need to be arranged for the marriage. Even if a single name is missed, the host would be gone that day. He will be out of everything in their circle for his life. Even if the disrespected guy is not attending the marriage, he will send his kith and kin to spoil the function in whatever possible way they can. I somehow can’t understand this phenomenon. I have heard of problems even after including the name some times. It could range from “it’s not in right order” to “it’s not in bold enough or big enough font” to “it’s not put under the right classification”. Have you come across this kind of uncivilized behavior in your region too? Then I will have to take back my words.

I have seen four or five elections in Karnataka. But I have never seen the amount of drama, scene and noise that I used to see in Tamil Nadu here. I see that it’s increasing here also these days. Just like the auto-rickshaw drivers, looks like even this is being copied from us. Luckily this time in Tamil Nadu itself it’s controlled by the election commission. It’s a good thing that has happened in Tamil Nadu politics after almost 40 years.

It’s very important to talk about Madurai at this point. They will print a wall poster even if a guy is going to piss. All they need is, the guy who goes to piss should throw them a few 500 rupee notes for their liquor expenses. I have never seen a place where there are so many cut-outs of a movie star kept so generously. Not just in streets, during the earlier regime, they used to put up a politician’s photo even in houses and shops and on T-shirts, vehicles, bags and everything. That’s just a licence for them to do any atrocity anywhere. Looking at the photo of this guy, the public will keep quiet. It’s all history now. I had been to Madurai recently just after the election results. Within four days, I don’t know where his photos disappeared. If they were so scared, why did they have to behave so earlier?! And, why do they hide like this now?! Madurai is supposed to be the capital city of the mighty Pandiyas. Oh my goodness! I am sure it wouldn’t have been this horrible then. I can’t believe now that a person like Nakkeeran lived in this city once.

9. Money-mindedness / Inhumanness The legend has it that our forefathers used to go all around the world for trade in ancient times. They say that the Malayalis and Tamils are known for their migration to unimaginable places. When the Malayalis were entering into the countries on their west, we were traveling to the countries on our east. The nature was never friendly to us. So we had to go out to look for our dreams. That is what made us experts in money making. But over time that money mindedness has started swallowing us and our character. Be it our politics, our businesses or our education or whatever it is… everything has become completely commercialized now. All the values have been thrown out.

I have heard that there used to be a trading style called “Madurai business”. Any businessman in Madurai those days would sell everything for the original price without profit once he has earned the profit that he had fixed for that day. It’s just like what they do in vegetable markets in last few hours these days. In the same land, the amount of coning that is done for money today is too much. Anyone who goes to Madurai to visit Meenakshi temple tells me only bad experiences after coming back. They read a big list of cheating experiences - this guy cheated me, that guy cheated me, got cheated on this, got cheated on that.

I read about a popular Tamil writer’s account on what he saw in Madurai bus stand between a guy who sells tickets and a north Indian elderly couple sometime back and was disturbed for many days thinking about it. The couple comes from Chennai to Madurai in order to go to Rameswaram from Madurai. This guy sells them a ticket to go back to Trichy by a Chennai bus. Why does he do that? All he wanted was the few hundred rupees for his night liquor. It’s not that it happens only to north Indians in Madurai. It happens to us also. It’s not that they have classified different behaviors for strangers and locals. They would even do this to their own family members.

I remember in my college days I read a story about a parents who killed their own daughter by setting fire suspecting that she had stolen 10 rupees. After killing her, they realized that she hadn’t stolen it. I couldn’t sleep for many days after reading this. Is a life not worth 10 rupees?!

The mushrooming engineering colleges in every street of Tamil Nadu don’t indicate the advancement in our education standards. They just tell us how money-minded our people have become these days. There is a Tamil politician from the grand old national party who speaks politics like an intellectual. He was licking the yellow towel old man more than even his own high command in Delhi. I couldn’t understand why this guy was behaving so earlier. Then when I heard about it, I felt like spitting on his face. Can you guess what could be the reason? Just because this guy got approval for his college from the then chief minister without any questions, he has been paying back his dues like this. Now he is minting in his education business. Then why won’t he be that loyal?!

Likewise, I used to wonder why many politicians across party lines praise the old man like this. When I get into details, the common thing across all these cases is that they get financially benefited by this man in some way or the other. There was a time when people used to justify poor men who commit crimes out of desperation to make money. But it has become so common now that people justify all sorts of corruption and crimes by even the well-to-do people.

Whichever jungle I go to in Tamil Nadu, people there will show a nearby land and say “this land was snatched from this guy by that guy by force”, “they threatened him to grab this land”, etc. I don’t understand the craze for land of late! Though it’s a global phenomenon that people think they can buy anything if they have exorbitant money, it’s too much in Tamil Nadu if we compare with the rest of India. After the recent elections, I feel as though I have been proven wrong partly. But I will need to see few more elections before conceding my defeat.

10. Nature Though we are not directly responsible for this, it’s a big problem for us. All of the above problems are due to the nature as well. Most of our land is dry without water. It’s not possible to build any business in our land. Because we are close to the equator we look dark as well. It may sound very silly and cheap but I strongly believe that the not-so-pleasing appearance of our people also leads to a lot of hatred from some sections of our other countrymen.

We just heard of the name Tsunami recently. But we have been suffering a lot due to Tsunami from time immemorial. It’s this Tsunami that wiped off our Lemuria legacy. It’s this Tsunami that wiped off all our literature and history. Mr. Kalki has written in detail about how Tsunami spoiled our coastal towns and villages every now and then. Just in the time of our parents’ generation, Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram got wiped off by Tsunami. I have heard that the current Nagapattinam has come too far from the original Nagapattinam that was established first on the east coast. Every Tsunami pushes the town many miles further away from its original place. They say even Vallalar made a comment about Kadalur becoming Vadalur and Vadalur becoming Kadalur. That means, Kadalur will get pushed till Vadalur (which is far away from the coastal Kadalur) and Vadalur will start getting called Kadalur. Tsunami hits us at least once in every generation and wreaks the entire coastal region. No state in India would have got affected so much by this Tsunami.

Another problem that we have is the strategic location of the Lankan Island where Tamils are subject to unbearable atrocities from the day mankind was born. When outsiders invaded the Indian peninsula from all other directions, the native Indians ran down south. They can’t run down any further below. There is only Indian Ocean beyond that. This is where they were forced to fight back. That’s what has given them the fighting spirit that most others don’t like in them today.

Not just that. There are proofs of early migration of early human beings to India just after having taken birth in Africa. Do you know which part of India they migrated to? It’s the southernmost land of Tamils where they migrated to (I know there wouldn’t have been a language called Tamil by then or it wouldn’t be in the same format as today!). If I have to be even more precise, it’s in the current Madurai or Theni district to where researchers have traced the first migration from Africa. It has been confirmed by the DNA tests performed on a sample from Piramalai Kallar community. So it’s not our mistake that we look and behave like Africans and tribes yet. It’s a problem with our DNA. So it may take us some more time to get refined like the rest of the Indians.

Another injustice meted out to us due to our presence on the southernmost tip was that most of the times we were ignored by the rulers in Delhi (it’s a different story that it all changed later). It’s not that only we were ignored. Even those from North East were ignored more than us. It’s natural that one gets secessionist thought when ignored like this. It’s natural that the ignored groups will start feeling that they are not part of the mainstream and different from the rest.

When I think of the abnormal craze that our people have for movies, this is what I conclude. As we were hardworking people basically due to the nature of our dry land, we needed entertainments to celebrate ourselves forgetting the physical and mental pains, which is what would have led us to the drama theaters first and then the same interest to the movie theaters.

It’s our strengths that have become our weaknesses in many cases. That’s how it is for everyone. Whatever it is, this is what we are. Having said that, we should sincerely try our best to change behaviors that need improvement. I know, even here, there may be someone who will argue, “No, that’s not what our ancient literature Tholkappiyam says, we have to remain what we are forever!” I have no other go. I just have to agree with them! :)

If you are someone who is getting angry like mad reading this, please read my post on the ten good things that I like about Tamil Nadu here - http://bharatheechudar.blogspot.com/2011/03/10.html. Even after that if you are not able to control your anger, please ignore me as another man without self-respect in the land where there was a political movement in the name of “self-respect”. But I beg you to kindly not drop a comment that proves us to be race that is worse than even what I had written of. Otherwise, I am open for your decent criticism.

Likewise, if you are someone who is feeling very happy reading all bad things about Tamils, I recommend you to read the above post too. You may find a reason to scold me! :)

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