I remember the first day I had come to New Delhi for admissions. I had prepared myself and was ready to face the full punjabiness of the city.
But fate had different plans for me that day.
The college that I got admitted into was Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Sri Venkateswara College.
Being from a convent school, I had no issues about anything South Indian, but the same cannot be said for the hapless North Indian students. Adding the idea of spending three years in a South Indian College to the humongous level of ignorance North Indians possess about South Indians, it altogether made a very interesting situation. Personally, I found the opportunity of coming face to face with the numerous prejudices North Indians possess about South Indians very entertaining indeed, because, to be honest, most of these prejudices ARE quite hilarious.
First of all, nobody is a South Indian in the north, or for that matter, Malyali, Telugu or Tamil. There is only Madrasi. You might be from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or even Orissa, but for the geographically limited brains of the north, you are a Madrasi.
After you have been quite proudly pronounced to be a Madrasi, you have to admit to loving coffee, even if you hate it. After all, you are a Madrasi, and Madras is famous for coffee (it doesn’t matter that there is no “Madras” anymore. For the woefully ignorant North Indians, anything remotely related to the south is from “Madras”.).
Now, every North Indian is an expert (or they think they are) on the South Indian cuisine. It consists of only idli sambhar, dosa sambhar, and uttapam. Oh, and there is also the white chutney which none of them knows the contents of. Before you get all offended and start naming all the South Indian dishes, let me try to clear my fellow North Indians’ case. It’s not their fault, the fault lies entirely with all the “famous” South Indian joints here, which serve various combinations of the above-mentioned dishes only. What are the poor fellows to do in such a case?
Next, if you are the “Madrasi” of the class, you have to know everything. You will have to face the painful situation of solving everybody’s doubts and lending out all your practical files, because you are the Madrasi, and you have to be the brainiest in the class (after all, God gave all the brains to the South, and the booze to the North, right?). And you are not to refuse, because “Madrasis” are polite and civilized, as opposed to the loud-mouthed, brash Punjabis.
You are the epitome of intellect, if you are a “Madrasi”. And yes, you are so much in love with your textbooks, you would rather stay home on a weekend and study the theory of relativity than go out, because, let’s face it, “Madrasis” don’t party. They only study. (Yes yes, I know that is not the case, but you will have a hard time proving it.)
And also a North Indian can speak Madrasi (yes, it is a language too). It doesn’t matter if all he knows is yanna rascala, the point is he knows the language (don’t point out that there is no such term, because, of course, they know better than you. Or so they like to think).
The list goes on. If I wanted to write down every one of them, it would take me a long time and a lot of pages to finish. Now, many of you might accuse my fellow North Indians of being racist, but the truth is, they are more ignorant than racist. The numerous notions that North Indians hold against the South are, in the essence, offsprings of stereotypes. Books like Two States, and movies like Chennai Express haven’t exactly helped.
For now, I do not think much can be done to remove these prejudices from the minds of the North Indians. All a South Indian can do is either sit back and smirk over the ignorance of the north or point at them and laugh openly, because, trust me, they will never know the difference. The North Indians will only be surprised that a “cultured Madrasi” DOES laugh out loud at times. I guess it is the effect of being bestowed with booze instead of brains.