Live and let live is my mantra while revelling in everyday experiences and through interesting interactions. Thus, I’ve enjoyed holistic absorption about my motherland through a life of seventy-one years in a middleclass neighbourhood.
Never mind if my eyebrows rise at times or disbelief or annoyance creeps in at looks cast or questions asked. We are a mixed-up lot, yet a sameness in national identity. I was rather taken aback when recently the telephone linesman from BSNL asked me from which 'phoren' I hailed? I was in my usual homewear— a 'mithai' pink printed pyjama suit, ear drops to embellish my silvering 'crop' cut, as it is called. Did this appearance or my cottage with a display stand of unusual decorative empty liquor bottles, within a senior citizen home founded by the British, earn me the label, I wondered? Or are my name and surname that are as 'phoren' as can be? At times I do wish I’d been named Janaki appended with a Kamath as was the surname of my unconverted forefathers prior to the Portuguese era.
I’m confused, because I conversed with the linesman in Tamil sufficiently fluent for the phone restoration task on hand, showed him my 'thol' (skin) was as 'karpu' (coloured) as his. In addition, hanging right above us was a photograph of my parents, mum draped in sari and dad in a bandh gala suit. I told him I’d worn a sari to work too as a bank manager. I conveyed that I hailed from Mangaluru, that Konkani was my mother tongue, although Bengaluru was where I grew up and made my home. Despite all this, he still seemed disinclined to believe I was not from 'phoren'.
To give him an understanding of how folks like me ‘came to be’ should I enlighten him on the history of India and explain how the cultures of various rulers and religions through the centuries rubbed off and blended with our Indian regional customs and practices? His reaction is much like my maid’s amazed expression when I was showed her the video of a dog my friends in Australia had just got. Her response, "Ma, angae kuda nai irka?" (Ma’am, do they have dogs there too?). How I wish she could realise her dream to visit ‘phoren’.
Was ignorance bliss at one time? Today with TV buzzing with news and views from all over the world and farfetched theories about our own being ‘videshi’ within our ‘desh’ aren’t we bound to breed a more than ever confused citizenry?