Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thoughts on North Indians

Everyone seems to have an opinion on North Indians nowadays. The Lt. Governor of Delhi (btw, what on earth does a Lt. Gov. do? What does any Gov. of Delhi do, for that matter- Lt. or otherwise) recently applied his impressive analytical skills and pronounced on TV his verdict on the North Indian. In measured, ponderous tones he intoned: “Indisciplined”. Not one for half-measures, he drove the point home further “Not law-abiding” he said, leaving no room for misunderstanding “In fact, they enjoy breaking the law.”

Not to be outdone, Raj Thakery, that radical New-Age philosopher from Mumbai has been saying it with sticks and stones in recent weeks, feeling- understandably of course, that words are after all mere words, and sometimes more concrete forms of self-expression are called for.

South Indians of all description have of course long regarded the Vindhyas as their comforting natural defense against the bad-lands of the North – A trip to Delhi or any place northerly often being regarded as a descent into purgatory. “They are sooooo uncultured” is a common refrain.

As a Northy who has migrated South, I tend to sympathize. The North is strong medicine. It is the home of the boor and the uncouth. Decent sorts do exist, of course- after all I lived there, once. But if you throw a brick in Delhi, for instance, four times out of five you are likely to hit someone you’d rather not invite home to dinner. Not that anyone is likely to accept an invite to cocktails followed by community singing after being hit by a brick. In fact, it is the Delhite’s propensity for throwing bricks at his fellow citizen that caused the hon. Lt. Gov. to get all worked up in the first place. Possibly other means of anthropological research can be pursued.

But what causes the North Indian to be so boorish, uncouth and uncultured? Is it something to do with the soil? The wind patterns? Is it the diet? Or are sociological factors to blame?

Tempting as it is to grab at society and upbringing as the root cause, I regard that as mere lazy reasoning. No, deeper thinking and hard research is required to come to a more balanced conclusion.

My own research has led me to suspect dietary factors: namely, the humble Winter Radish (Raphanus sativus longipinnatus), also known in Hindi as ‘Mooli’.

Reason for yourself: is Mooli an important part of the diet in those states that claim to be disciplined and culturally advanced? - think of Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Manipur…The answer is a distinct and firm NO. Is it consumed in gargantuan quantities in the so-called ‘lunatic-fringe’ states? – Delhi, UP, Bihar…The answer is an emphatic YES. Voila! The needle of suspicion firmly points towards this treacherous white tuber.

But how can a sub-species of radish cause lawlessness? The answer is gas. Eat Mooli, and you get flatulence. The bubbles permeate through the surface membrane of the large intestine and get into the blood vessels, and thence to the brain, where they cause an air-headed or giddy feeling (known scientifically as aerius capitulum), which manifests itself behaviorologically as a lack of respect for societal and legal norms.

I have experienced this personally: I love Mooli-da-Paratha as much as the next man, and after putting away four or five at Lalitha’s Paratha Point on Dickenson Road, I am rearing to conduct anthropological experiments with a brick. (Though of course, being a cultured Bong, I use a half-brick)

This, then, is the solution: Eliminate Mooli from the North Indian diet, and all will be well.

(Images from Wiki)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Thoughts on Chennai-4: The Sea

What distinguishes Chennai most from Bangalore is of course, The Sea. What is a sea? A sea is a big expanse of salt water, with waves and froth and suchlike, which fisherfolk wash their bums in. I kid you not.

My first day by the sea in Chennai, up at dawn for a jog along the beach, having just rented a dream house by the seashore. Ran over a weedy fisherman-type sitting in a scooped out hollow in the sand. Weedy fisherman-type crawls out of his sandy dugout, cussing freely. In the hole is a brown gooey mess I do not want to dwell on too much. I am still having nightmares about it. Walks into the surf, slaps his bums vigorously, lowers his pulled-up lungi and is done for the day.

Then I notice there is a long line other fisherfolk lined along the beach, one every five meters, in a neat serrated row stretching into the horizon, where the beach, sea and sky merge into a vanishing point.

Now I don’t know if defecating on the beach is a Chennai innovation or if it is done all along the Indian coastline. A child of the heartland, my only major experience of the sea until now had been the sanitized version shown on Baywatch. In fact, I’d always associated beaches with Pam Andersons boobs. No boobs here, only bowels.

Now, obviously we don’t have bum-washing by the beach in Bangalore, not having an ocean in our backyard. Of course, we do have our expanse of large water bodies- Ulsoor Lake comes to mind. But I doubt people wash their bums in Ulsoor Lake. You’d probably die of typhus, botts and the glanders if you tried. Of course, the newspapers have been carrying stories recently of people dying of cholera in ‘RT Nagar’ or somewhere. Maybe they have been washing their bums in Ulsoor Lake.