Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Of Being Tamil And All That Jazz

Right then! In a very convoluted stiff-upper-lip sort of way, as is wont of me, coated lightly with a longingly British accent, I'm going to try and attempt a soul-searingly revealing revelation on the experience of being a Tamilian having grown up and lived outside Tamil Nadu.

Almost everything Tamilian is unbelievably beautiful to me. I'm exposed to Tamilian-ness in slight proportions, and anything in moderation is good for you. That's one of the main reasons why relationships are at its greatest beauty at the start.

The Tamil I speak is polished and Brahminical. That's because the only Tamil I speak is to my family, and the only Tamil that they speak is polished and Brahminical. We have been spared the street Tamil that has swallowed Chennai and the rest of Tamil Nadu in recent years. And I still prefer to call Chennai 'Madras', although I am sure that this urge in me is not quite as strong as some of the old-timers in or from Chennai.

I have had a multi-dimensional multi-faceted upbringing, having been exposed to various cultures, cuisines, ideas and lifestyles, mainly because Bangalore is a melting pot of the same, and if you choose to become a sponge, there is no end to what you can soak up. Also, my parents have been extremely open-minded and forward-thinking. If I had grown up in Chennai, it would have been extremely difficult and a real struggle to stop myself from becoming uni-dimensional, simply because the local language and culture there is so omni-present and inescapable. This is not to say that there are no well-rounded individuals coming out of Chennai. This is to say that I would have found it extremely difficult. My tolerance towards North Indians and all things North Indian, which was already thrashing about at an all-time low a couple of years ago, would have probably been non-existent, to say the least.

However, I am more uni-dimensional than others in one regard. My knowledge of Indian vernacular languages is abysmally poor. Both Hindi and Tamil flounder in the face of English, and Kannada, despite my socialization in Karnataka's capital city, does not even warrant a mention. So while I am at home with all things Westernised, I am quite out of my depth with all things Indianised, even though I pretend not to notice it and admit it, to myself or to others. So I don't get a lot of things that are said or sung in Hindi and Tamil movies, more so the latter. Vernacular literature does not even exist in my repertoire of literature. I feel that I have lost out on a big part of an education that ought to have, almost by default, come to me. I grew up fairly angry at this and quite jealous of my cousins on the other side of the border, often admonishing my parents for not having given in to their roots and moved to Chennai, where I felt that I rightfully belonged. Today, I am thankful that my parents had enough sense to move to Bangalore two decades ago. I cannot imagine living in Chennai today. It is a nice city and I love going there, but only on trips. I don't think I could survive there for more than a few months, but I'm sure I'll adjust. But why adjust when you can have the real thing?

Anyway, as the more discerning readers might have discerned by now, I suffer from an identity crisis, not very dissimilar to the second generations in the United States and other far-flung lands of fortune. I am a Bangalorean, yet I am a Tamilian. And I am proud of being both!


Su said...

But why adjust when you can have the real thing?

Huh. Huh. Huh.

Your choice man. at the end of the day, whatever rocks your boat. someone in timbaktoo probably thinks thats the real thing. for all of us, its the place that makes us happy

Su said...

Update bitch