Ethnicity.

I do not know if this ad ran or not during the Super Bowl. It was sent to me by an American of Indian origin who knows my own angst about being called a Hindu.

Like the American Indian, or more aptly the Native American, there is no word Hindu in our scriptures and there is no one size fits all for the so called Hindus.

I have written about it earlier and you may find it quite amusing to re-read it. This post is to talk about the other aspects of being Indian in India.

Like the Navajo would not like to be called a Redskin, I would not like to be called a Madrasi though genetically I am from the South of India, but was born in Western India. And South India itself is divided linguistically into Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, with Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu being the local languages respectively.  Since during the British times all these states were part of the Madras province, North Indians insist on calling the whole jing bang lot as Madrasis.  This kind of profiling repeats itself in the rest of the country and it leads to the following problem.

When I am overseas, I introduce myself as an Indian. If I meet an Indian overseas, the first thing he will want to know is which part of India I come from so that he can slot me into the stereotype that he has about people from that part. So, for him I become a Tamilian from Maharashtra and that stumps him as he does not have a ready stereotype to typecast me, and my English stumps him further as the accent is not something that he can identify as being from any one part of the country.

What I would like to impress about India or for that matter, Hindus,  is that you simply cannot stereotype it or its people. I am sure we can’t for all countries with varied cultures within either.

For those who are interested in knowing something about India viewed from an Englishman’s point of view, and who has written extensively about us, here is a video that is worth spending about half an hour on.

Throughout the world there is strife of some kind or the other based on either ethnicity of sectarianism or religion.

In our neighbourhood, in Pakistan, you will find Sindhis, Punjabis, Mohajirs, Baluchis and the Pashtuns defending each individual turf when it comes to ethnic identity but when they now go overseas, claim that they are Muslims from India!  Bangladesh is up in arms between fundamentalists and the so called secularists.

In another neighbouring country, ethnic identity is about to erupt and cause more trouble to an already very troubled country.

So, where does it leave us?  Is Lennon relevant any more?

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