Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Milk and Sugar...long post this...

Have you heard of the Parsi legend? That when Parsi's came into Gujrat as refugee's some long long time ago, the King was afraid that they would become more dominant with their strong culture and change their lifestyle too. So the Parsi leader told the King to get him a bowl of milk and some sugar. The Parsi leader took some sugar and mixed it into the milk and told the King that the Parsi's will blend into the society just like the sugar did into the milk and no one will even notice it. And they have kept their promise till date.

When and if you are in Chennai, take a train or bus (or however) to Parrys Corner. Look around you, for every Tamilian living/working there, there are 10 north Indians. Specifically, Marwadi's and Gujrati's and some others. They are all good businessmen and local South Indian's work under them. These settlers do not even speak the local language in most cases. But they have co-existed there for the longest time.

So my question is, if Parsi's could blend into Indian culture, if North Indians could blend into Tamil culture, what is the problem for a visitor who only comes to Chennai/T.Nadu for a couple of days?

So in analogy, the point most North Indians make when they visit Chennai is that they want me to change my entire way of living just so that I can accomodate them for two days? Really? Does that even make any sense? Would you appreciate it if any guest demands you to change your lifestyle for him/her sake?

Why can't you come to Chennai or anywhere with an open mind and not a critical mind? Go to experience the place as is, and do not be a snob. Enjoy the difference. Sameness is a bore.

Now my dear Sid, the very attitude carried on your comments show that you think very highly of yourself, which is good. But the mistake is by thinking so, you assume that the rest of the world should please you. Sorry love, do you remember, Give respect take respect?

Let me give you a bit of a history background. The Mughals or the invading muslims never invaded Tamilnadu. They stopped around Andhra and Karnataka. They did not even come to coastal Andhra, so if you go there and expect to see Hindi being spoken, you will have tough luck. Which is the very reason you do not find Hindi common in Tamilnadu. No one ever had to use it before.

Also, Tamil is an independent stand alone language and has few borrowed elements from Sanskrit. Which makes learning Hindi for a Tamilian very difficult. And then you should also know our country's literacy auto drivers and small business owners really have never had the opportunity or time or money to prepare for Prathmik and Madhyama or for TOEFL. So instead of being all stuck up, try and be nice to them. Say "anna" or something like that and see the reaction you get.

And then, of course everyone loves their mother tongue. You like yours and I like mine. You know how difficult it can get to differentiate between Indians from different part of the country? The stereotype that all Tamilians are dark may be true for parts of down south Tamilnadu but not true at all for chennai. So you do not expect anyone to assume you are a visitor if you consider yourself fairer than the SouthIindians and automatically give you first class treatment. You explain your situation to them and see if they do not understand you and if they are still mean then move on. You chose the wrong people, forget them.

Now lets talk about food. Have you tried Mathura? or how about Sangeetha Apoorva? or Saravana Bhavan (ya they serve more than just idli dosa's)? or just any restaurant? Probably you were looking into wrong places...And mind you, I am not even mentioning any higher end restaurants, these are places I could afford to eat at with my meagre pocket money when I was a student.

All cities have their own stereotypes. Of course stereotypes are not formed without any reason but do not judge a place based on the stereotypes you have heard. Base it on your own judgement. If you go to any place with a prejudice then you are going to come back with the same. But then again remember, YOU are going to Chennai or any place for a livelihood and Chennai DID NOT invite you. So if you do not like it there then move on and stop whining and quit complaining.

Chennai might be in your own country but any individual can see the cultural differences we face between each city in the same state let alone state to state difference. So why would you expect Chennai to be just like Calcutta or Delhi? Would we not loose our character then? Our country is beautiful in that we are (supposedly) united in our diversity too and that the diversity brings the unique flavor to it...

Spongebob, thanks for stopping by and commenting. And I completely agree...FIT IN. Not just for Sid but for all of us. We should try and fit in and be happy in stead of trying to pull out flaws. This applies to me too. I am in USA now and I love this country because I have made an attempt to blend in. Of course I complain on and off and that I did when I was in Chennai too but I never held grudges.

Vimmuuu...dude you are right. It does matter where or what, I hate people saying anything ill about places where I feel I belong too. Like Trichy, Chennai, Kansas, and Dallas. I have made statements like, "I will never live in SFO." But that was because I am afraid of their rents, gas prices and traffic jams. Other than that that city is a vacation heaven. I love the world too much to pick and choose places I like and hate.

Sid, I am glad that you jump started the comments with your views and opinions. I have tried to respond to your comments as best as I could and hope I did not hurt you in anyway but just show you my point of view. I hope we either agree or agree to disagree and let things be. And please be polite in your comments.

Thanks for everyone who took time off to comment. I am glad we got to talk.


PS: Coming up...few posts of my anti-chennai experience in theUS.


P said...

O boy! Sid really annoyed u! in all fairness, I think he is a little confused. I read his multiple comments on the last post and realized he is talking about 2 different things.
1. His frustration about absence of 'north indian' food and that he couldnt find ppl to converse with.
2. people were indifferent to him....

for the 2nd point, i would say sid shouldnt generalize all tamilians based on 1/2 uncomfortable social encounters... there probably are ruder ppl in Maharashtra(bombay to be precise... we are an egocentric lot...very similar to the new yorkers!)

for the 1st point, considering the fact that he has traveled so much, I felt sorry that he didnt enjoy his time in chennai... by this time i would have expected him to be ok with novelties..! may b next time!

the only reason im commenting on his comments here.. is cause you addressed him directly in ur post!

shilpa said...

Agree. we all tend to generalize and put people into baskets. Some people from up north were shocked when they heard me speak in Hindi and said stuff about Andhra that I didnt like. I am a Maharastrian telugu hyderabadi who has lived in a lot of cities in the south and in mumbai(but never up north). I feel close to a lot of places(Hyd, Mumbai, blore, TVM) and dont like it when people assume things.
Every place has different kind of people. When I was in Delhi i was shocked at how muhc they cared about how you look more than anything else. We dont do that down south, and I felt uncomfortable.
I have also seen south indians visit cities in the north and expect south indian food to be the same as served down south....not possible right? we all are guilty of this i guess.

Anu Russell said...


Sid is one of the many that feel like this...hopefully he will look past trivial things and see the bigger picture...

Totally agree with you. We all have prejudices. I was telling my friend this morning that I also used to be prejudiced against people...but when I interacted with them I realized that I was wrong and then changed myself. I grew up and I only wish people would do instead of just tagging along with stereotypes.

And in saying so, I am in no way perfect...I make my judgments only to be squashed by someone else or some experience...I just hope at the end of the day we all see the same light and agree to live peacefully :)

sid said...

oh my my!! Flattered to receive so much of attention that I got an entire post focusing specifically on my opinions.
I wish we could have met in Chennai, it would have been a great conversation with a hot cuppa!!

Opinions do change with time and I am open to change. Surely, will try to sync up with you if I ever get a chance to visit Chennai next time.
However, our harmony only runs in our attitude towards life and accepting new ideas. My opinions are basd on my two visits and there are majority of people echoing the same.
However, sometimes majority means, all the fools are on the same side. Certainly, no harm in accepting it and if all my opinions are proven wrong, I would be delighted that I learnt something new because at the moment whatever venom I have spitted against Chennai (Sorry, If I had been impolite) was not meant to hurt anyone.
Dear writer, I am so biased because when we judge Chennai, we compare it with likes of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or Kolkota which are more cosmopolitan.
If chennai claims to be a metro, it would be helpful if you fellow countrymen ever listen to the sincere plea under all the whining.

To hell with weather, I would love to live in hot and humid chennai if it welcomes me like Hyderabad or Bangalore did.

On the other hand, as chennai is an integral part of the country and has brought so much of glory to the country (be it in sports or technology) which has national language as hindi, can't you people make hindi as your second language. I am aware the way, hindi was being imposed initially was not fair and there were demonstrations to avoid hindi at that time. Still, let bygones be bygones and if chennai make hindi as second language, there is nothing better than this.

I have never ever mentioned the horrific weather over there because I have lived in more humid places than this and its hardly a botheration.

Now, the salvos that your fired at my persona are certainly welcome. Yes, I am proud individual and do think highly of me. I do not feel that anyone should think lowly of himself and never allow anyone else to do the same.

Your example of "Milk and Sugar" sounds a little naive here and also questions the high regards that I have in my heart for your writing and creative skills. The example you quoted is in the era when India had no existence as a country. However, here we are talking about one united country.
I hope, we both understand that India is a diverse land and her beauty lies in its diversity. A few steps from both sides is more than enough to fill the chasm. A sincere attempt to make hindi as a second language will allow local ppl of chennai to deal with any person in a much amicable way. Also, if a northie is coming to chennai, he can also pick up a few words over the period he spends.

I have aroused a few emotions here but sincerely, there is nothing personal here MY LOVE.

Kavita said...

well said & bravo!

I do wish ppl would stop sterotyping northies vs southies... to me everyone is the same, if I dont like them its because of who they are and not because they are from a particular region and could imbibe characteristics of that region..

I am tired of being the butt of mallu jokes that my acquaintances from banglore find highly amusing to rattle of in front of me..I can understand the attitude coming from ppl who grew up in rural areas with no access to the outside world.. but such discriminations and prejudices coming from ppl growing up in cosmopolitan India, I cannot understand and appreciate.

parsooram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sid said...


The words you used against native of a particular place doesn't go well with the good and open hearted debate we had till this point of time.
None of us is interested in degrading each other's character and also criticizing a place just for the sake of it.

I commented on this post because I had some personal reservations and I thought its better to let them out and see if they hold their ground in terms of reality.

Anyways, comments like your (referring to Bhaiyas or ghaati's) are enought to make me indifferent to any such further debate.

Parsooram, please go through all the comments for this post and see if any terms like these have been used to downgrade the natives of any place.


sid said...


And yes I forgot to add, I do not need any invitation from anyone to visit chennai. It's compulsion that made me to visit Chennai.

The only sad point I see is, If you cry anything bad about UP, MP or Bihar, in most of the cases, ppl accept it and still say as its our place, we love it.

PPl tell me that I come from a very small city from MP where there are still power cuts and there are bad roads in your place and people are a bit different. I never argue like Anu is doing at the moment. All I say, hey, that's my place and I love the place and at the same time, what you said was true!! I am not so insecure about the criticism either aimed at my place or at me personally.
(you can notice that very well in all my comments)
However, I find it missing in your response. I know, I am still annoying you with my comments but can't help it!!

Anu Russell said...


I do not live in Chennai any more...but if our trips coincide we can definitely meet :)

Chennai is on track with development with any other Metro in the country...agree? Ok so my point is then why does anyone want to change the city? For a few, millions cannot change their lifestyles and take Hindi or English classes. You can take me out of Chennai but not the Chennai out of is me, my culture, my persona...all of which chennai has helped developed and I see no flaw in it. I like it just the way it is.

Oh, and I do speak Hindi as well as any other Mumbaiya was need and not necessity. Unless there is a necessity for people to learn something they wont...agree? And people who do not travel out of Chennai do not need Hindi...I learnt Hindi in School but could never speak it until I moved to the US and met my husband to be.

Oh you are so right about pointing that we are living in one country and talking about one country. But look around you, the only time we unite as a country is when a disaster strikes or when there is a cricket match. The rest of the time we hold our differences and are proud of it...we have a long way to go...and one step in that direction is to try and get rid of our prejudices against our own country men. Agree? And the above thing does not apply just to you Sid, but to our entire country.

And finally...If I am a downright mean person then my knowing Hindi wont make me amicable...will it? I will just be mean and this time in Hindi...agree?

And I have to give it to you hands down...Sport of the Year. You put forth your points and discussed what you thought was right or wrong. I know I cannot convince you 100% about the way I see things but at least we have a dialogue going and you will remember this when you visit Chennai again...and maybe, just maybe you might like Chennai a bit :)

Anu Russell said...


The milk and Sugar example I think applies to even today...we might all be one country but we still hold prejudices...but if we mix together like milk and sugar...then we will have no problem and a discussion like this would never have started...right?

I am sorry to have disappointed you...but this story always spoke to me about how human beings can live peacefully...but wont make an attempt...

Anu Russell said...


I agree...we should stop doing that...I am guilty of it too...dang!

I think henceforth I will make a sincere attempt to bring up judgments on a person the minute I hear where they are from...

Anu Russell said...


Thanks for visiting...

Everybody has prejudices...we all hold them to our heart and live by least we are able to discuss it here and bring it out in the open...hopefully this post will change the way Sid and I and others look at things...and probably you too :)

And obviously you have hurt Sid's an apology on the way I hope?

parsooram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anu Russell said...


Thanks again for visiting the blog. I do not want to comment on what you have written here because I do not relate to it and you are going off topic. This will be the last comment I will publish from you.

To my other friends and readers,

As far as I am concerned Both Madras (I have no qualms calling it Madras and in fact prefer it to Chennai) and Mumbai are great cities and so is the rest of the country.

I am not a segregationist and would not like to be seen as one. This is a good discussion as far as all of us remain civil and polite and direct and it was fun while it lasted...I am so happy that we got to discuss this topic...

Hope y'all enjoyed it too.


sid said...

Chill Chill Just Chill!!

What a debate, nice people and so many nice points. All points were valid and I enjoyed every bit of it!!

perspective said...

I couldn't resist jumping into this debate.
I agree with the Milk and Sugar concept. I agree that each city has its own culture and that culture needs to be preserved. I hail from Pune and I find the cultural invasion in Pune quite saddening. These debates arise due to indifference and ignorance of people about each other's cultures.
I find it utterly disappointing to know that some 'P'eople (thanks to Parsooram for this ingenious way of referral) think that people in Mumbai are rude. I am quite shocked to hear such comments from people who hardly know mumbai. I guess they were sleeping when people were helping each other during the heavy monsoon floods or the recent 26/11 attacks. I advise such people visit the place atleast once with an open and unprejudiced mind and mingle with the people here. Mumbai has embraced people from across the country, sometimes from across the eastern border as well. So, lets keep Mumbai out of this please. It has accepted anything and everything this country has demanded of her, but I am sure that even she would not agree that she is rude!

Anu Russell said...

Perspective...thanks for stopping by.

I completely agree...if all of us are not insecure about where we come from and what our culture is...there will be no invasion...the changes will only be temporary...

And please stop telling what P should or should not say. P was born and raised in Mumbai and she has as much right over the place as much as you do. She infact speaks Marathi better than she can speak her mother tongue. So she is just pointing out her view like you did.

P said...

Just to clarify my stand: Parsooram, I too am from Mumbai and it is my city too....for all intents & purposes I am a marathi too. always is amchi mumbai.....and yes whether I choose to call it, bombay or mumbai, nothing will diminish my sentiments towards this city. There was no disrespect intended when I called mumbaikars rude!

sorry to rub you the wrong way! I too possibly would have reacted this way, if some outsider had the audacity to say that to my face! Infact, it is because I feel so strongly about Mumbai, that I understand, why people were bothered by this and the earlier posts. I do identify with the discussion.

Infact, it was only after I lived abroad that I have learnt to love India as a whole than just bombay as a city!
Chill dude... you are taking this way too personally.

P said...

ohhh... too much heat! from the summer sun and from this discussion!

I miss your narrative posts with your unique views! BTW... great job with writing bout Sanjana when she was growing up.. i was just glancing at those older posts and it made me smile! Wonder how much more happier they must be making u! :)

I vote for more posts of that genre.. that make all of us smile instead fight! :)
BTW.. you have been tagged! :)

Anu Russell said...


I agree...too much heat...this did not mean to be that :)

Yes yes...babs will be starring again soon :)

Will tag on it soon :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Anu,

Thank so much for bringing this topic out and getting various views/opinions. It helps to hash things out rather than keep it brewing within. Everyone contributed their POV. All it matters is, at the end, we all give and take respec no matter what opinion we stick to personally.

Thanks again for the post. You are a sweet girl :)