Most people have a definite answer when asked the question where you are “originally” from. However, I always find myself confused when I’m asked that question. Should I say Mumbai because the place I call home is here? Or Kerala because it’s my “native place”, Or should I say Delhi because I was born there?
I always prided myself in having 3 places to trace back my origin to. However, recently, I truly discovered to my utter disappointment the meaning of the phrase-“dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghat ka”. I cannot say I belong to a place in Maharashtra, because let’s face it, my Marathi speaking abilities is not really that good. Someone once, shocked on finding out that I’m a malayalee exclaimed-“You cannot be a south Indian. I always thought you were from North!” Happens, I thought, after all I was born in Delhi. But when I tried telling this to someone from Delhi, the immediate response was-You do not talk, look or behave like a North Indian one bit! Chal koi nahi, I thought-at least I still have my malayalee roots with me. But a trip to Kerala was enough to break my little bubble completely. I felt I don’t, I can’t fit into a malayalee tag either. I stood out as an outsider who doesn’t know about the nitty-gritties of the malayalee lifestyle, and my Malayalam has been the butt of our family jokes quite a few times.
I was just beginning to settle into the shocking and unpleasant realization of being a “dhobi ka kutta”, and it suddenly struck me, Although not originally a Mumbaikar, I still love and know this city as much as anyone, I take pride in narrating any stories about Mumbai is, Mumbai spirit. (Although I must say I’m still bad at giving directions in Mumbai. But I guess that will be true no matter where I live, being directionally challenged) Having said that, I still prefer to not take sides whenever the Great Mumbai-Delhi debate arises. And although I myself love making jokes on the malayalee accent while I am among other malayalis, any ridicule about malayalee culture, language or cinema made by a non-malayali always annoys me. I enjoy Holi, Diwali, and I love Ganesh Chaturthi as much as I love Onam and Vishu!
So finally I decided, however imperfect my regional languages are, at least I know enough to manage wherever I go. I may not stand out as a regional representative, but at least I mix well in all. However imperfect, I would like to believe that I am an interesting blend of south, west and north!!!
Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan!
Yeh Delhi hai mere yaar!
Ende Keralam, Ethra Sundaram!