Monday, February 13, 2006

A diversified portfolio

It was really amusing to find out that a friend here thought that I was a Bengali. The fact that I've been brought up in Kolkata and that I speak Bengali added to the deception. :D

Like I explained to her, she wasn't the first one, and definitely doesn't seem to be the last one, to make that erroneous judgement. And I explained to her why...

I am a Gujarati. My Mom n Dad are pure Gujjus at heart. By that, I mean to say my Mom still prefers reading her Gujarati magazine 'Chitralekha' to, say, a 'Femina' or a 'Filmfare'. Dad still loves to treat us to 'gaathiya' and 'jalebi' rather than to pastries. Gujju dishes are a regular preparation in the kitchen, although the rest of India also finds an able cook and representative in Mommy dearest. I looooove going to 'watch' a raas-garba and dandiya competition, although, I myself am no good at it. However, one particularly beautiful female back in Kolkata has promised me that she'll teach it to me, and I am certainly looking forward to meeting her again...err, the lessons. ;)

I was brought up in Kolkata. One word to sum up that city is 'magic'. It has perhaps the most crowded streets, the narrowest of lanes, the saddest water sewerage system, the Left government... The list is endless. Yet, that place is home. It is in the most crowded of these streets that you bump into old pals and decide to hit the nearest tea stall for a quick cup of steaming hot tea to catch up on old times. It is in the narrowest of lanes that you find your old homes, the places you shifted out from and the memories of your childhood dancing in front of your eyes. Only when the rains come down heavily and there is heavy water-logging do you realise that some things have still not changed, that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation is going to take the blame for yet another year and repeat the mistake the next. Only when you wade through those dirty waters do you remember the time when as a carefree child, you, alongwith your gang of friends, decided to check out how much water has accumulated in the neighbourhood. And when you came back home after being knee-deep in filthy water, it was Mom who used to command (for the loss of a stricter word) you to go have a bath. That, is Kolkata. The city of books, the city of the Coffee House at College street....the City of Joy.

And then again, my schooling was done in La-Martiniere for Boys. A school which started in 1836 with the generosity of a French army general, it taught us the best of Christianity and the best of disciplines. Till date, I repeat the Gayatri Mantra with as much devotion as I repeat the 'Our Father'. I am very much prone to exclaiming 'Oh Jesus !!' or '...for Christ's sake!!'. Some teachers leave a mark on an individual's life. Ms. GH, an Anglo-Indian class teacher in classes 2 and 5, was one such beautiful lady. On a particular occassion, when a few classmates had mocked me because of my dark skin (oh how cruel children can be) and I was really depressed, she came over, and like a doting mother, wiped away my tears to say "You are the son of God. Don't let anything or anyone make you forget that."

My most beloved aunt is a Christian too, and her influence has been tremendous as well. It is from her that I learnt that one must always give willingly to the poor and the needy; the Lord shall ensure that your wallet doesn't remain empty. All this has again led some people to believe that I'm a Christian.

Some of my best friends are Punjabis. A particular langotiya-yaar from school days who has just returned from Warwick after doing his MBA, is a Panju too. And that makes me love the Punjabi life to the hilt. When in Kolkata, I was a regular visitor with some of my friends to the Gurudwara at Elgin Road. Of course, Balwant Singh's Dhaba located right below the Gurudwara obviously helped. *Grin* What could be more enjoyable than cold glasses of thick lassis and hot aloo ka parathas with butter on top!! Yum !! (I've just returned from the mess after a heavy lunch, but I can still hear my stomach leap with joy at the mention of the aloo paratha.) And obviously, the achaar to accompany the parathas.. Aaye haaaye yaar...I can almost smell the garama-garam parathas!! :D And to add to the fun, have you ever realised how 'hot' Punjabi females are? Wow !! No wonder words like "changa", "sat sri akal", and phrases like "Oye ki hoya ?" are part of my active vocabulary.

Gujju, Bengali, Christian, Punjabi ?? Who am I? You decide. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just happy to be labelled an ordinary Indian.


mini said...

its more important to be labelled as gud human being;)

Himanshu Jain said...

the true indian spirit..
but i think we should go beyond..

Read my complete thoughts at

arpz said...

I looooooooooooovvvvvvveeeeeeee ghatiyas ! munh main paani aa gaya !

Shekhar said...

mini: I sincerely hope I'm turning out to be one.. :D

Himanshu: Hmm..interesting thought. Although I agree, but only partially. I feel that though it is important to be international in your outlook, one must be thoroughly grounded in one's own culture so that you are not "blown off your feet" as Gandhiji had put it.

Arpz: Abe, tune mujhe "ghatiya" kaha... teri to.. Oho, oops, you meant "gaathiya"...kya yaar, vernacular languages in Angrezi, too good!! :)

Raam Pyari said...

tussi indian , gujarati , punjabi etc etc baad mein ho.
sab se pahle you are a Martian.
Never forget that!
May the light of planet mars guide you.

Shekhar said...

Arre moonwalker mata, aap jo kahe woh ekdum sahi hai..

Major General Claude Martin amar rahe..
La-Martiniere amar rahe..

And above all,
Martin house amar rahe !! ;)

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