Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Identity Crisis

I belong to the hinterland where the two most populated, poor, backward, economically outcast, and grossly underdeveloped states of UP and Bihar meet. I have met enough and more people who are rather surprised when they know that I am from the land of Bhaiyyas/ Biharis. The first reaction I get is, “But you don’t look like that!”, or worse still, “How have you managed to come so far” which puts me in a defensive state. I am left to wonder what makes it so difficult for people residing in THAT part of the world to have a better career and better life. Sure opportunities were very limited and access to the outside world would be limited too, but it never stopped anyone from doing anything. In fact after coming to Bangalore, and interacting with people from every part of the country, I realized that I was better off than most people, in the way society was structured there. I had absolute freedom to do whatever I wanted, right from pursuing what career I wanted, to choosing the man I wanted to get married to. My parents had been a guiding force for me, till I became old enough to be responsible for my own decisions. There were no forced decisions. I committed some mistakes, realized the consequences over a period of time, and moved on.

Life in Bangalore seemed complicated, driven by a lot of stress in college and not knowing whom to trust. That was a period of immense confusion, uncertainty, with absolutely not a single friend to talk to. Things were tough, and I am happy that I made the right decisions during my stay there. I guess I would attribute this to my parents and the way I was brought up, to my teachers in school who taught me to be independent, to take responsibility for my actions, and to accept the consequences of whatever I had done without any remorse.

I would attribute a lot of my success to the people who were around me during my growing years. Not that I have been an overachiever in my life, but that I have done reasonably well, and I am quite pleased with the way my life has turned out to be. I have never been ashamed of the fact that I belong to a remote town of a remote state, and I actually am amused when I hear comments on the same. People sneer at times, are surprised and ask me absurd questions like, “Are u sure you are from UP, I think this place is in Bihar”; as if the consequences of incorrectly identification of states would cause either permanent shift in LOC or McMohan Line. How does that matter, is what I am left wondering with. Cities on the boundary of two states share nearly the same culture, food habits, and folk songs, so how does it matter if my home town is in Bihar or UP.

Similarly I am surprised when some people belonging to that part of the world, completely and vehemently dissociate themselves with any linkages that might suggest that they are from land of bhaiyyas. From altering their accents, to changing their food habits and customs, these people suffer from identity crisis. In my opinion a person who is ashamed of his/her roots can’t live in peace. I am not promoting the latest flick “Deshdrohi” here, but the fact that this is a typical Indian mentality. When such people, (belonging to any part of the country), go abroad, they are so mesmerized by the “Foreign” concept, that their long forgotten social servitude rises manifold. So right from avoiding desi people, they adapt to western food habits as if their annaprashan (first solid feed of new born baby) was done with burger and coke. I know a person who and whose mother proudly proclaims that they don’t eat “Hindustani Khana” in their house (which happens to be in US). They twitch their nose at people who do so, because it’s so appalling. How can you eat which is so smelly! I had simply smiled then, when I first heard this. I and my husband keep traveling abroad, and we simple can’t do without our daal, chawal, roti thing. We need to have that, if not daily, at least weekly, and we make sure we do that.
Some times these people even cross the lines, and dissociate themselves from their parents, because their parents have suddenly become too inane and too interfering. Being not satisfied with what life has given such people run after something which have not been theirs.

I guess that’s how most of us are, dissatisfied with ourselves, we strive for things that are not meant for us, or rather wouldn’t bring us the desired happiness. Most of us know that, and pretend to not know, and continue to strive…..


KP said...

one should always refrain his/her self from stereotyping people. Being Gujju...I see it all the time due to my profession! As a gujju in US, we are supposed to be business owners and nothing else.

I aint no saint either..I have been guilty of this offence in the past.

"Identity Crisis" is an issue...its due to the fact that we are trying to grab best from two different cultures.

The example..stated in ur post abt US family is an exception...one shall not forget..where they came from!

Last para is debatable, but how do we know that some things are not meant to be...it might very well be the fact that...most of us arent trying hard.

one more point...u shud take pride that u r from land of Bhaiyyas/ Biharis. As I have learnt abt IIT and lot of IITians Bhaiyyas/ Biharis (People I work with...They are simply genius...and they are atleast a head above lot of us).

Well put:). your Writing is exceptional and flawless!

preeti said...

no matter which timberland or amberland we belong to, at the end matters how good a person we become in our lives.. we all commit mistakes, despite the upbringing, because perhaps life teaches us the hard way and we become more learned that way! i belong to a small city and am proud of my city.. i ve met people boasting about the fact that they belong to Delhi, Kolkata etc but how does that become so significant and the 'self' becomes insignificant, is what i wonder :)

A Girl from Timbuktu said...

@ KP: Thanks a lot KP for your comments, and observations.
The intent of last para has not come out clearly. What I meant was that, accepting oneself/one's background and then strive to achieve things is commendable, but feeling ashamed of one's roots, or culture and hiding one's identity is ridiculous. One more point, the family of "not eating hindustani khana", has moved to US couple of years back :). Their mom resides very much India.

@ Preeti: Well put :)

Uma said...

Totally identify with this blog. I myself belong to that place of bhaiyyas :). AFter spending 5 years in blore..i do understand what u mean. Ppl find it sooo difficult to accept/believe the fact that i can speak proper hindi/english and studied from a decent college and now doing quite well :)..to b e honest don't give a damn what anyone else thinks of u..Just keep doing the right thing..Its real fun as u already know to shock ppl out of their mindsets..isn't it..

Kislay said...

Great post . All I have to add is that I can empathize . And about people forgetting their roots , how true and how amusing . They haven't heard of the phrase "dhobi ka kutta , na ghar ka na ghat ka " :)

Puja Upadhyay said...

Thankfully now Bihar has a better chief minister in Nitish Kumar. The worst was being called 'from lalu's raj' as if he was some king and we were merely meek praja or something.

I have seen a lot people from Bihar having the inherent pride of doing well in spite of being from a backward place. I attribute it to the survival instinct that makes people like us work harder, because we can't take things for-granted. We make an effort to create an identity for ourselves.
Loved this post of yours, one of the best that puts things in perspective.