Are You An East, West, North, South Or Central Indian? And Does It Matter?

Posted: May 5, 2015

We are quick to categorise Indians we meet and label them based on the state they belong to. Is this necessary?

Being an Indian, brown skinned, dark eyed, with black, lustrous, straight hair is definitely enough to attract many eyes. My daughter Aadhya often grabs a heap of attention on the train, bus, park and nursery for having those beautiful locks of hair and lovely black, big eyes.

Waiting for my turn to come at Supercuts, with Aadhya sleeping on my lap, I was seated beside an old English lady. She looked at Aadhya lovingly and asked me if she ate well, slept well and if I got enough rest. Humbled and touched by her queries, I answered her.




The first thing she noticed was Aadhya’s locks of dark hair. She loved them and mockingly said, ‘I would trade anything for those lovely black locks’.

I smiled and started stroking Aadhya’s hair and realized once again that it is lovely.

Looking at my toe-rings she must have guessed that I was Indian. With a twinkle in her eyes she said, “I have been to Kerala long ago. I still remember those women with lovely long hair and freshly cut, woven flowers tucked in. How jealous I was then!”

Getting a bit carried away, she continued, “I love India. Kerala and Rajasthan are so beautiful. I had been to the Ajanta caves too. So beautiful! As a memory, I bought beautiful fabrics, and sarees with golden borders for my friends and family. That trip to India was so currilicious and aromatic.”

Full of charm, diversity and with so much variety to offer, India for outsiders is like a different world. It hurts when anyone talks to me about the poverty, corruption  and rapes though.

I must confess that by now I was missing India to an extent that I wanted to board a flight right away! This was India for her; probably, she only shared the best with me and kept the worst experiences to herself.

Where are you from?

Getting back to track, we Indians are blessed with a diversity of attractive, sharp features. Some of us are so blessed that they people can guess which part of the state you belong to on the basis of skin color, height, accent, ornaments etc etc.

Brown skin, big eyes, distinct eyebrows and raised cheek bones is enough for an Indian to make out that I belong to the southern part of India. Are you a South Indian? My affiliation towards Maharashtra and Karnataka is questioned then. I reply, “My mum is a Kannadiga, well, from North Karnataka and my father is from Maharashtra.” The next question shoots, “You said Trupti Sharma, which doesn’t sound Marathi”.
Well, I expect this question these days and then with a smile I reply, “I am married to a Punjabi”.

We are so inquisitive about xyz’s origin. To speak to an Indian, one has to know whether he/she is from South, North, East, West and Central India.

Recently, on a journey to Cambridge, I had to change my train from London Paddington. As a first timer on a tube at Paddington and with a presentation at Cambridge this time, I was a bit nervous. The tube arrived and I stepped in. Unsure whether to sit or stand, (at times I am so indecisive about small things), I finally perched, noticing that besides me was a gentleman wearing a ‘Kadaa’ showing that he was a Sikh (Yes, I too am blessed with guessing ability).

Settling down, I opened my bag and took out a map, into which was tucked in a novel that I was reading. With some handwritten points on the map,  it was evident to anyone on the tube that I was a first time traveller on the tube.

 When nervous, diffident and upset, a soliloquy helps a big deal. I whispered a little louder to myself, “Good, you are doing well”.
Folding the map and tucking it away in the novel, I packed my bag waiting for St. Pancras station from where I would be boarding a connecting train to Cambridge.
“Hi, I am Michael”, said the gentleman now sitting besides me.
 “Oh hello, I am Trupti”, I replied with a smile.
 “Are you a first-timer on the tube? You seem to be nervous”, asked Michael.
 “Yes I am, but I should be fine. Earlier I’ve been on the tube with my husband and this time, I am all by myself” , came my reply.
“Don’t worry, I am walking towards Kings X and I can accompany you”, with a very English accent, showing his concern.
Not sure whether to say yes or refuse, I finally agreed to walk with him. After learning that I was going to Cambridge for a presentation, he definitely was impressed.

He hesitantly asked me, “I guess you are a South Indian?”

I quickly replied, “Partly. Now that I am married to a Punjabi I feel that I am an Indian first and then anything else because I feel that I am part of a National Integration program. My daughter will have traits of Maharashtrians, Kannadigas, Punjabis and if we stay here for a bit more longer, then English too”.
Michael laughed and said, “I guessed that you are a South Indian as I saw that novel in your bag. There is something very classy about South Indians. They love books.” He chuckled and added, “A Punjabi with a novel is a rarity; instead a can of beer suits them better than a book!”
We both laughed at that. I said though, unconvinced, “There are some exceptions though. My husband likes reading only Science Journals but not a can of beer.” He agreed that there were exceptions.

We spoke about the current scenario in India, the changes needed, the scope for progress and touched upon many topics about India. Some discussions may not lead to a Eureka moment but leave you feeling happy and satisfied. This was one of them.

At last we reached our destination and parted thanking each other for the conversation. I had almost forgotten about my presentation and nervousness was miles away!

I got into the train and couldn’t stop thinking about how being Indian is sidelined when it comes to South, North, East, West and Central! India has more to offer besides ‘curries and chutneys’ and why is there a necessity to tag ourselves with South, North, East, West and Central?

Conversing with an old Englishman on the train long back, his sentence struck me like a bolt of lightening that forced me to think.

He said, “I love India. For me, India is India and I don’t believe in South, North, East, West and Central’. He questioned me, “What about Indians, do they feel the same?”

I was speechless and without an answer. The best I could do was only smile. To my rescue, my destination had arrived. I rushed to the door and alighted from the train with lot of thoughts in my head but a blank face!

First published at the author’s blog

Image of Indian flags via Shutterstock

I have always loved writing and strongly believe that writing can create social awareness . I

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