The closer my deadlines, the stronger the urge to ignore them and blog-surf away, especially when it is late at night. Usually a cloud of all-forgiving benignity settles over me at this time of day and I am willing to overlook the world’s faults rather than get all worked up as I normally do.
Despite having lived in the north for more than a decade and having learnt to fight in Hindi before I learnt a single cussword in Tamil, I used to get rather pained by the broad-brush painting of half the country as ‘Madras’ and all the other displays of geographic and cultural ignorance so well-detailed in the blogs linked to above.
But that was until I began working in the north east of the country. Before I went there for the first time, innumerable people asked me if it was safe travelling in ‘tribal areas’. If I would get anything other than raw meat to eat. If there were roads to the places I needed to go. What language would I speak to the ‘tribals’ in? What would I do if I fell ill? And so on. Initially I delivered long lectures on how the north east is perfectly safe, in fact safer than many other parts of the ‘mainland’, told them that the people I was going to work with all spoke not only Hindi but also fluent English, that they have some excellent roads up there thanks to the Border Roads Organisation. After about a week and twenty such encounters, I stopped. I snapped if the mood demanded it or merely smiled and said nothing.
So what is my point? That most of the people asking these questions were supposedly ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘culturally aware’ south Indians. Why is our collective ignorance about the north east somehow less offensive than the Delhiite’s uninformed view of Madras?
We snigger at Americans who don’t know that you can’t drive a Hummer to Eye-rack, but how many of us know the capital of Tripura? Who among us can name all the north eastern states? Hell, do you even know how many there are?
But it doesn’t matter, does it, because all those places and people are really Chinese.