I’ve lived in many cities. So many, actually, that I no longer know how to answer the often asked ‘where are you from?’
I remember when I was in class 5 a friend asked what my caste was. My only recollection of that word was the oft repeated line from my school books ‘sex, caste, creed etc’. I replied that I didn’t know if I had a caste. Quite a profound answer if you think about it but I wasn’t trying to take a political stand. I really didn’t know if I had a caste.
Also in class 5 (I had a weird class 5), a friend asked me which political party I was from. I didn’t know of any political party except the Congress and that’s what I told her. She said her family was from Congress too. She smiled and asked if I would like to borrow her movie VHS tapes.
We all like to find out if the person fits in with our idea of what they should be.
We all like to know where to peg the person quickly so that our choices become easier. Do I share my phone number or do I politely find a way out of this conversation?
An ex-boss used to tell me that Indians are the most judgemental and prejudiced people. I don’t know too many non-Indians to really have an opinion on that.
But I do know that behind the simple question ‘where are you from’ is a frenzy of brain activity, where based on your looks the questioner is trying to peg you in Chennai, but your accent seems Punju. Behind that question are little brain cells crackling in anticipation, waiting to put you in a nice cosy bucket labelled ‘generous punju’ or ‘humble gujju’.
Once a punjabi uncle came over. I offered him nimboo-paani and a couple of snacks. He looked up and said, now I can tell I’m in a fellow punjabi’s home. You’re offering me more than just the one mandatory snack
Like it or not, where we’re from, the choices we make, make us the people we are today. Which is why we will be judged for using IE instead of chrome. Every little thing counts.
In this world full of madness, people, thoughts, and a gazillion things to process, our brain needs its buckets.
Chrome is one. F.R.I.E.N.D.S is one. The kind who like Supernatural are in another. Without our buckets, we don’t know what to do with you. Without our buckets, our minds are constantly
abuzz. Never at peace. Never knowing how to be around you. Because we, focus so much more on you than ourselves.
There’s a personal moment of ecstasy knowing you have them neatly labelled and pegged in a corner of your brain. It helps make sense of the world.
Having lived all over the country and having switched more schools than most, I find the title question so hard to answer.
So this is what I usually say ‘I’m from Chandigarh, but I was born in UP. But then I really truly grew up in a way at MICA in Ahmedabad. But if I were to be completely honest, it’s Mumbai that really made me the person I am’
And then I just sit back and hear the brain cells crackle