Monday, October 18, 2010

A reponse to "Kannadigas, stand up for Karnataka"

Maybe I’m mental, but there is something very odd and disturbing about Arvind Adiga’s recent piece in the Times. (

Your Delhiwallah might associate virtues like modesty, thrift, and hard work with the Madrasi, but in the south we have always thought of Karnataka as the ultimate locus of these values.”
How much more clearly could you demarcate boundaries between us, and them? YOUR, and but IN THE SOUTH. I mean, Jesus Christ.

“Film stars did not rule Karnataka (as they did Tamil Nadu); Naxalites did not over-run parts of the state (as they did in Andhra Pradesh); and strikes did not cripple its economy (as they did in Kerala).”
Oh hey, wait. Here he is, doing it more clearly.

Now he’s talking about the political crisis, there he is, trying to pin the blame on the money flooding the state from IT and other sectors, but particularly from mining interests in the North.

At this point, I’m thinking, ok, the man is going to talk about the need for accountability, for the proper exercise of democratic rights, about governance, transparency and all of those seemingly relevant measures.

But oh NOO! Lookee here “Culture, in the south of India, has always been a bulwark against money”
A bulwark against money? You want to bulwark-ize your money? What did money do to you, man? It doesn’t force itself down your throat and make you lose sight of what is important. It doesn’t magically acquire propelling powers and push you towards a Louis Vuitton bag when you think the money would be better off growing fat in a bank account.

Mr. Adiga, I wish you’d thought out your argument, for I feel unable to respond appropriately, being unable to see ANY logic underling ANY of your assumptions.
So tell me two things- 1) what is it about money coming in that is so very dangerous, and how is it responsible for the recent debacle in the legislative assembly? 2) how does culture, dancing, costume, food, language etc, how does all of this protect you from these evils? How would my knowledge of Kannada prevent said debacle, or even stabilize the situation?

“…the Kannadiga sees his language and culture being eroded everywhere”- it’s called being a cosmopolitan city, sir. And yeah, that “erosion” accompanies the money. For heaven’s sake, do you know that this country’s Constitution celebrates diversity? Change your vocabulary, get a little less resentful. Call it “multilingualism” instead of “erosion”. Call it a wonderful amalgamation instead of dilution. Or stay there, in your little houses with your steady, stagnant, income, we’ll take our business elsewhere.

“There is money, but there is no pride in Karnataka any longer.” Oh no honey, you got pride alright. It’s actually starting to resemble jingoism. You might soon start giving Maharashtra serious competition, if you keep on like this. Won’t that be a day worth celebrating?

“New malls are being built, but serious issues lie untackled: deteriorating infrastructure, environmental pollution, and tense Hindu-Muslim relations in places like South Canara.” Ah, yes, and my knowledge of Kannada and the great Kannada poets is going to fix all of that.

“Part of the problem is that many of us have divided loyalties.” DIVIDED LOYALTIES? Are you hearing yourself, man? You don’t have to tell me about pride in one’s history, language, culture. But to put that down in this manner, to say that if a person speaks Telugu and another speaks Tamil, their LOYALTIES are divided, why, you might as well set our pretty Preamble on fire right there. Call me crazy, but a writer with a following should really watch his words more closely than that.

“If you live in Karnataka, you are a Kannadiga; and your children are the inheritors of Krishna Deva Raya and Professor UR Ananthamurthy.” So I am to lose my sense of identity as a mongrel with blood from ten corners of the Earth and say that I’m ethnically a Kannadiga? Call myself a proud resident of beautiful Bangalore with all the pubs and the great, sweet people, I’ll do gladly. But call myself a Kannadiga, I won’t, and I’m not so sure Kannadigas would appreciate it if I did either. THAT might be seen as dilution too, ye know.

“Please develop some sense of ownership and belonging in Karnataka — for the sake of your own children.”

Now this might be the first sensible thing he’s said in this piece. Yes, a sense of ownership and belonging helps make better citizens, people who care about the city and its advancement. But does knowing the language necessarily contribute; or put differently, is that the ONLY way in which to develop a sense of ownership and belonging?

A person feels like she belongs if she is made to feel welcome. If you’re going to wrinkle up your nose at me and say ohhh chee north Indian, look she doesn’t know ANY Kannada and her family throws huge parties and wears their gold where it’s visible, hell no, I won’t feel like I belong.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against promoting vernacular languages, and preserving our dances, culture and costume. I’ve studied Kathak for six years and I understand why my Tamil friends get angry if they’re expected to know Hindi. Hell, my mother tongue isn’t Hindi either.

However, what I do not appreciate is being told that if I am to live in a particular state, PAY for my food and board and actually help said State’s economy by consuming its services and what-have-you, I must learn the local language and culture.
Let us come to you.

The more you raise a hullabaloo, repeating learn-my-language-learn-my-language over and over till our ears are bleeding and we feel like clubbing your varied and beautiful languages into one big bracket that we call the jalebi languages; the less respect for said language and culture you are going to see.

And if you were truly confident about your culture and identity, you would be feeling too damn superior to ask us to learn Kannada. You would be thinking- his loss, this is my language, it is beautiful and I feel privileged that I am of a select group of people that speak it. Yes, Adiga says that the Kannadiga is in the middle of an identity and culture crisis. Dear sir, its not just Kannadigas, its everyone from anywhere in this country. And that’s for y’all to figure out. And not by counting on us to speak broken Kannada with awful Punjabi twangs, eh?

Trust me, I came to Bangalore and loved it- for the trees, for the weather, for what I was told was a city full of nice people and yes, for the filter coffee. Yet more and more, I am irritated at being told repeatedly to learn the language. If you’d just let me be, I’d pick it up myself, I’d even come to you all excited and want to know how to say “I hate you, you thieving autowallah!” in Kannada. But now, I’d rather eat you first.

PS- as for the economy, the infrastructure, the state of the government, look elsewhere for more concrete solutions, “m’kay, pumpkin?” Maybe my broken Kannada ain’t gonna fix that, maybe you’d have better luck with proper planning, accountability initiatives, citizen involvement et al. And I promise you, as a RESIDENT of Bangalore, I’ll be there.


Shashi Dhar said...

Why do you think you will post this and become a great analyst... There might be great mistakes in the write's analysis and his way of approach... But let me tell you that the states in India were formed by languages of the majority and to preserve everyones language in respective territories... So Kannadigas got there rightfull territory and its Karnataka,., The administrative language here is Kannada.. No matter whatever shitty response you give.. Its a rule in Karnataka that you must learn Kannada if you want to settle here... About your so called COSMOPOLITAN argument, idiot ignorant asshole, no matter how much ever the city might progress it will remain in Karnataka and will always belong to Kannadigas.. If you dont want to be called like that then you are to be rightfully thrown out of Karnataka.. You motherfucker (I wont appolagize) most of the immigrants like you are beggers who come here begging for jobs and other facilities and I couldnt stop laughing after I read you saying "we will take our job somewhere else... HAHAHAHA.. You shitty stinking outsider wait for us to come and get you... You have a choice either respect the locals and mix with them by learning Kannada or motherfucker just go through our history nobody could ever conquer Karnataka in ages of invasion, what the heck are you going to do in the ages of democracy.. We will rip you off in every way you can ever imagine.. Soole magne, Nimmamman tullu, ninnakkan ooralli iro nayigalu denga... Warning asshole run away from here.. If u hav the guts meet me i will show you what Kannadigas can do... We will even come to your native and beat your ass there.. You motherfucker last warning for you..

Shashi Dhar said...

SOOLE MUNDE, Nimma Amman halka Munde