Friday, April 08, 2011

Chronicling Surviving the Great Indian Middle Class Childhood

and missing it!

I always envy those who were born in one city and lived their entire lives there. Case in point, Sunder the spousal unit. His entire life revolved around a few streets each was punctuated by a well-known or notorious panipuriwala. He has what is commonly referred to as langotiya yaars, which somewhat translates into 'underwear friends'. Its a common term to refer to teh fact that he knew his friends since they were running around in underpants. Now why this term is never used for the female population confounds me. Presumably females do not refer to anything underpantlike lest they be considered unladylike.

Anycase, I envy these purebreds. Let a chance stranger standing in line at Starbucks ask me 'where i am originally from' [possibly after I have complained the 100th time of the complexity to placing orders when all i had to say was 'coffee' where I came from]. My typical response is 'India..near Bombay to be precise'. Which worked wonderfully if the damn globalization of everything had'nt happened. Chances are 10 years back I would say Bombay and all I had to hear was how the listener's friends uncle was from Bombay and was inviting him often but said listener was worried about the heat. It made for a quick end to the conversation where I would nod head, move it sideways to indicate the foggy SF weather was no match for what mumbai heat would be like and would proceed to pick my 'coffee' and leave.

Not so now, the listener most likely has made a trip to 'Bayangalooor' twice as the head of whatever it may be in his company so wants more precision to my response. 'Pune' I would say, absolutely not expecting him to know of it [and he wouldnt]. But if he be an Indian, he would now say 'oh you must have seen how much Pune has changed now right?'. To which I politely respond that I only studied in college and worked a bit in Pune. 'So where do your parents live?'. The now famous 'Bangalore'. "oh you speak Kannada?". Well, no. See my parents are originally from Chennai and they wanted to settle there but eventually moved to Bangalore because they were wrong about re-liking Chennai and son was in Bangalore. "oh. so you are a Chennaiite?' the person now asks confused. "I was born there!" i say brightly. But I basically schooled in Ooty and another town near it [Coimbatore--which you will know of only if your dad was a cotton vendor]. See why I envy those who were born and dwelled in the same city for years?

However, wherever I am supposed to be from in India, what has not changed is the uniformity to being brought up in the Great Indian Middle Class. The languages change, the cuisines change but there is a startling sameness to this sandwiched group and what it meant to me as a child. So here is my attempt to chronicle being brought up both in diversity and uniformity in the 80s, 90s in India.

Reflexing my digits to get accustomed to writing more than bullet point lists