Crossing over, step by step

Last Updated : 08 January 2010, 11:26 IST
Last Updated : 08 January 2010, 11:26 IST

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It is hard to believe that some F words — so notorious otherwise — can change the outlook of a whole lot of people. Believe it or not, this is happening in India. There are several F forces that are responsible for the breaking down of barriers between the North and the South.

Time was when the populations of these two halves of India, divided by the Vindhya mountains, behaved like sour strangers, spoofing each other’s cultural motifs, languages, lifestyles, clothes and even food.
The Northerners had their jokes about the Madrasis (as they labelled all South Indians) and the Southerners dismissed their North Indian compatriots as infra-dig Bhaiyyas. But a miracle has happened in recent times — and just five F words have brought about this incredible change. This miracle has arguably happened because of five prominent causes and these are...

Films & television
They have created a nationwide hunger for glamour and beauty that is common to all Indians. Films today — be they from Mumbai or the Southern film industries — play a big role in cementing the national identity of young Indians, who recognise Shah Rukh Khan exactly as they do Madhavan. South Indian women drool over the good looks and sculpted body of  Hrithik Roshan exactly like the women of North India. Men, across India, pay heady compliments to Kareena Kapoor and Asin. Bollywood films are released routinely in all the Southern states and are declared hits just as they are elsewhere.
Indeed, some commercially successful films are made into Tamil versions. Kanden Kadhalai, a remake of Jab We Met, with Bharath and Tammanah as the lead pair, has brought crowds to the theatres in the south. So also, many South Indian superhit films are remade in Hindi for a larger audience.

Music maestros like A R Rahman, directors like Priyadarshan and a huge number of technicians work for films in all languages.
Television serials are not far behind. The elaborate costumes and jewellery, the ceremonies that surround opulent weddings, the way festivals are celebrated — all these are ideas that cross-fertilise regional cultures. They particularly unite women in their search for celebrating life and its beauty. The give-and-take of the film and television industry, its widespread appeal and its dazzling glamour have helped to bring the south and the north together.

There is a hunger for glamour, which includes a huge appetite for good clothes and funky accessories, among the youth. Young India today does not worry about who creates their clothes or who sells them as long as they are happy with what they wear.
Bridal wear, Western wear and workplace clothes have crossed the North-South divide. Everybody, it seems, wears jeans and T-shirts, business suits, salwar kameez or churidar kurtas.

Witness the fact that the recent Lakme India Fashion Week featured designers from all over India. Importantly, the collection of Chennai-based designer Chaitanya Rao, called Covet, was hailed as one of the best collections on the ramp.

Dosa-dhokla diplomacy
Food comes next on my list. Recently, a restaurant called ID — short for idli-dosa — in Chennai won an award for its magnificent pongal. The honour was not only given for the quality of the food but also for the new concept of service which is modern Indian.
Young families in all southern states are now eating every kind of Indian as well as international cuisine with a hearty appetite because their minds are open to new lifestyles thanks to education, travel and workplace camaraderie.
Fortunately, these millions of young Indians have spawned a new Pan-Indian lifestyle without losing the essence of their traditional lifestyles, which are unique to every state or region in India.

The result is that while one can taste South Indian delicacies in Chandigarh, the stronghold of Punjabi culture, one can also feast on the specialities of Punjabi cuisine in the southern tip of India.

Let’s not forget Fun, the driving force of youth today. The new national concept of fun has caused millions to enjoy family holidays, school and college reunions, weddings, festivals and office parties with equal enthusiasm.

Young people climbing the ladder of professional success now look for posh pubs, fine dining restaurants and offbeat holiday destinations at home and abroad.
They think nothing of signing on event managers and wedding planners for the big day of their lives. As long as the events create a sense of fun in their lives, they do not worry about the origins of the ritual — be it the mehendi, the sangeet or later, the baby shower.

And finally, comes ‘Freedom of Spirit’. Our minds are more open today to the winds of change. Our national identity is shaping up silently, giving us recognition and confidence to walk tall. Is it a wonder then that we take pride in the success of industrialist Lakshmi Mittal exactly as we do in the triumph of Nobel Laureate Dr Venkataraman Ramakrishnan?

Published 08 January 2010, 11:26 IST

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