Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When I am stereotyped…

(Hi readers, the following stories are 100% true. Also, my view-points don’t apply to all…just a certain, but a substantial set of people!)

Having stayed in Mumbai for a long time, when I moved out, I was in for a big surprise. I never looked at Mumbai from any other perspective than a place that is a big city bustling with life, a place where I lived my school and college-life, a place I call my first home and where I can shop and eat to my heart's content.
If I try to describe what it is like to live in that city, I could end up writing a book. But that's out of scope for this entry. :)

The first place I shifted to was Pune, where I met people from a lot of places in the country – places I didn’t know existed in India! Initially, I was completely taken aback when I was stereotyped for the first time in my life…

The B-effect
People assume we are related to gangsters who stand with guns at every corner, selling cocaine out on the streets. They think all Maharashtrians in Mumbai sit at the feet of the Thackerays to elicit gyan from them. They believe everyone on the streets in Mumbai is out to deceive them. (I have been cheated by autowallas in other places a thousand times more than in Mumbai!) You need to be on your toes in every big city – be it New York or Mumbai. But this is what Bollywood movies have done to the city and I pity the people who actually believe them!

The languages
People tell me that Marathi is a very crude language (after listening to the autowallas or maids talk the unpolished, rural version) and that Mumbaiyya Hindi is rude. The Hindi is not exactly rude, it is quite informal. The origin of this version is probably on account of the convergence of South Indians, Maharashtrians, Goan Christians, Gujratis, Marwaris and many other sects. All of these people speak different languages at home and cannot really speak the original, grammatically correct, “uptight” version of Hindi. A slightly closer version of this language is what I hear in my second home – Bangalore, and I love it!

The “Embarrassment-to-Mumbai-family” (who are originally not even from Mumbai!)
Once I was asked that if someone calls Mumbai, Bombay, while they were in the city, would they be beaten up? To answer that, I’d say, you would not be beaten up, but you maaaay get queer glances, coz most of us are into the habit of calling the city Mumbai now. Somehow, people got used to the change in name of Chennai, Kolkata, and other cities rather quickly. But Mumbai stayed Bombay for a lot of us. Let’s just tell the Thackerays that people like the older English name better, so please keep your minions quiet. (Oh, and did you know that their own name is Anglicized?!)

Girls in Mumbai
I have a friend who happened to step out of her house in Mumbai for the first time for her corporate training. She, too, went through the initial shock and surprise. Someone asked her when they heard she was from Mumbai, "Oh, so u must have seen the red-light areas, no?" (!!!)

Another instance was when she went to ask a group of fellow (guy) trainees if they wanted to go to Smokin' Joes (a pizza chain). Their eyes grew wide, said no and giggled behind her back.
Later, she asked one of them why they reacted like that when she had asked them if they wanted to eat pizza. His jaw dropped at that and said, "Oh you were asking us for a pizza meal?? We misheard you. We thought you were asking us to come to the Smoking Zone! We assumed, since you are from Bombay, maybe your female friends there smoke often and you don’t have company here!" Really????

Most of my friends stay with their parents and we have been brought up the way most Indian girls are. Of course, there are differences in what we see around us having stayed in the city, but maybe we tend to pick up the good lessons from that! Come on! It really is hard for a girl, to go to discotheques at 12 in the night and come back home drunk while staying with her parents. I thought that was pretty obvious. People were quite taken aback when they knew I was from Bandra, yet I had never been to a discotheque in Mumbai in the 21 years I’d stayed there!



I have seen some people go pipe dreaming when they come to bigger cities. The freedom is great, but the values don't change much for the local people! We are, after all, pukka Indians, we simply stay in bigger “villages”. I know of a girl who comes from a place called Krishnapur. (When you hear the name, you'd first feel like its some quaint old village). Having stayed in another metro for a couple of years, she now smokes like a chimney and drinks like fish! That, in turn, changed my perception about some people who migrate to the metros and get disoriented. How does that pinch, huh?