Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chennai (Un)friendly?

No matter how much I try to forgive the ethnocentric North Indian, he goes a step further which forces to me extend my patience by another level. One thing is for sure North Indian will never understand the linguistic attachment of the Tamizhs. For them it is as bad as a separatist movement. I can understand that they never have had the need to defend their language but that does not ever mean that whoever does is wrong. To rate a city, a culture, a race as being unfriendly on this one aspect that they don’t talk your mother tongue is nothing but a gargantuan misjudgment. Well I am surprised that how people manage to defend it.
Let us set some facts clear here:
1.       Tamizh is not a regional language, it is the official language in three countries(India, Sri Lanka, Singapore) which makes it more international than any other language in India (Hindi-Urdu – 2 countries, Bengali – 2 countries)
2.       Chennai is not one of those cities that will awe you and make you fall in love with it at the first sight. Unless you are born here you will hate it the first time you encounter it. Chennai is like Whiskey one has to cultivate a taste for it. Once you have spent some time here you will accept it and if you happen to spend more time here then you will love it and you will prefer it over any other place on earth.
3.       Chennai is more deeply rooted to its traditions than other metros, but this is the charm of the Queen of Coromandel.
Now assuming that you visiting Chennai for a short time and not able to spend time here, I would advice all those travelers to go to Wiki travel and see what the travel guide says about visiting any city before cribbing that people of Chennai talk in Tamizh or English only. The travel guide says pick up a bit of the local language it does not say anywhere that teach the local populace your mother tongue. I am so surprised that people who willingly learn ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Excusez Moi’ while visiting Paris cannot do the same with some ‘anna’ or ‘akka’. Even the French are widely perceived as being haughty for defending their identity but well their alien origins gain them some respect, however as a native we don’t stand to gain that either.
I am not telling that Chennai is perfect, I agree that it has the worst auto & taxi drivers in India who take you for a ride – pun intended. I agree that they fleece people from other places. I also agree that people do not talk Hindi even if they know (I am not elucidating the reasons as the issue would take an unwanted political overtone). But I am just challenging branding of the city and its people based on this one observation. Chennai has one of the most welcoming cultures but it is subtle. People of all languages live with pride about their identity here. I am not telling this because I am Tamizh, I am not.  I am a Telugu by race but I identify myself more as a Tamizh than Telugu. We have lived here so long that now ‘The’ Telugu people question our Telugu identity time and again but I have never felt alien in Tamizh Nadu as they have never even once questioned my affiliation to Tamizh though I speak a different language, follow a different tradition, am from a different culture!
Give it thought which other place in India would let a person born in another state become the CM of that state? We have had a Malayali CM, a CM who was born in Karnataka. Where else in India would people make a person who speaks a different language your heart throb and would be willing to sacrifice lives on him? Our super star(wishing him a speedy recovery) is not Tamizh if you did not know, he is Marathi. And still you say we aren’t friendly. True friendship runs deep; it is more than the shallow smile and light hug. We might not be doing that well but we make sure that you feel at home if you choose to stay. We don’t hold your origins against you; we put you on our shoulders that take you to dizzy heights. When we say it is ‘Vantharai Vazha Vaikkum Tamizhagam’ (Tamizh Land gives life to whoever comes) we mean it, to the T. Just a thought what happened to Vani Jayaram and Kamalahassan who wanted to make it big in Bollywood? Accepted, when Sadhana Sargam Sings we do stress on the way she pronounces ‘Zha’ but nevertheless we respect her melody and she continues to win appreciation from Tamizh audience.
If being friendly, is talking your language and later throwing out citing your origins or conspiring to side line you just because you come from a different place, Chennai is most unfriendly and so be it.
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