Agony of a South In­dian ‘Sharma’

Things change and mod­ify con­tin­u­ously. But what is not chang­ing is our mind­set.

Alive - - Contents - by by Ra­mananad Sharma

Shar­maji, by the by you are from which state in the North?”, the mo­ment I en­tered the bank in Ban­ga­lore, on trans­fer from New Delhi, the Man­ager asked me in chaste Hindi, for­get­ting other for­mal­i­ties of wel­com­ing a new staff on trans­fer. I said, I am from the South and born and brought up in Mal­nadu in Kar­nataka, some­where near the world fa­mous Jog Falls”.

“Then how come you are a ‘Sharma’, he grilled me in dis­be­lief and en­quired and quizzed fur­ther. He was of the firm opin­ion that Shar­mas can­not be from the South and I was bluffing or hid­ing some­thing.

Af­ter­wards, through­out the day, the en­tire staff, num­ber­ing around 40, made the same en­quiry and ended up and con­fused with some cu­rios­ity. They were of­ten seen dis­cussing be­hind my back, the un­told mys­tery be­hind my name.

One staff was heard telling his col­leagues “Look his com­plex­ion, dress, body lan­guage and pro­nun­ci­a­tion…he is ly­ing… he is cent per­cent Pun­jabi…, I bet, he is con­ceal­ing the fact for some rea­sons… I will find out the truth and the cat would be out soon.”

My land­lord and his fam­ily would al­ways speak to me in English or Hindi and even when I of­fered to speak in Kan­nada, they would say, “Shar­maji, no prob­lem you can speak in English or Hindi.” Not a sin­gle soul in the street or lo­cal­ity would speak to me in Kan­nada.

In the lo­cal­ity, ev­ery­one would call me a North In­dian ten­ant and treat me ac­cord­ingly. When­ever they called me to their house, they would of­fer me Dal, Roti in­stead of cus­tom­ary South In­dian dishes and del­i­ca­cies like rice, rasam, samb­hara etc. In so­cial gath­er­ings too they would in­tro­duce me as our ten­ant and he is from Delhi (since I had come from Delhi).

On see­ing my name plate on the door, the news­pa­per boy of the street had de­liv­ered me a Hindi news­pa­per and a Hindi mag­a­zine even with­out ask­ing me. When I asked him about these Hindi news­pa­pers,

to my sur­prise he po­litely told, “Aap Shar­maji, Hindi­wale hai na?”

One day, a neigh­bour had come to my house. On see­ing a Kan­nada daily and a weekly ly­ing on my teapoy, she asked me, Shar­maji, how come you are read­ing Kan­nada news­pa­pers?”

Fed up of ex­plain­ing “Sharma” sur­name, North In­dian, South In­dian and Kan­nada etc since the day we landed in Ban­ga­lore, my wife cut short the pos­si­ble long con­ver­sa­tion and told the neigh­bour…”we are learn­ing Kan­nada and have picked up lit­tle to read thee mag­a­zine.”

One day, my son, who is study­ing in a med­i­cal col­lege, came run­ning to me and told,”Daddy, let us go to a lawyer.” Wor­ried and shocked a lit­tle bit, I asked my son…”any gang­war in the col­lege… did you beat any­body or any­body beat you?” He said, ”No Dad. I want to change my name… ev­ery­body in the col­lege speaks to me in Hindi or English… groups me with North In­dian boys…call me a Nor­thie….no­body ei­ther con­sid­ers me a Kan­nadiga or speaks to me in Kan­nada.”

As a free­lancer, re­cently, I had sent a cou­ple of ar­ti­cles to a Kan­nada news­pa­per. The edit desk lady was re­luc­tant to pub­lish. She was of the firm opin­ion that I had got these ar­ti­cles writ­ten by some ghost writer and taken credit for the same.

“How could a Pun­jabi Sharma write such a beau­ti­ful ar­ti­cle in Kan­nada,” she asked me over phone.

I re­ferred to some north-based IAS of­fi­cers like Shalini Ra­jneesh and Chi­ran­jiv Singh, who con­verse and write in Kan­nada and con­vinced her that there is no hard and fast rule that a North In­dian should not write in Kan­nada. She fi­nally pub­lished and she is do­ing so even now.

Af­ter com­plet­ing a decade of ser­vice in Delhi, I asked for a trans­fer to South. The Gen­eral Man­ager in per­son­nel depart­ment, made an en­quiry with his deputy as to why this SHARMA wants a trans­fer to the South. Any Khas Baath?

He grilled fur­ther.

For fifty years, I have ex­pe­ri­enced this sit­u­a­tion al­most ev­ery day and there were oc­ca­sions I would ask my fa­ther to change our sur­name SHARMA or else let us shift to Delhi.

Dur­ing my col­lege days, my Con­sti­tu­tional Law pro­fes­sor would of­ten say that, it is pos­si­ble to break writ­ten code and ethics but not the un­writ­ten ones. In In­dia, names, sur­names, food habits, dress codes, mu­sic and news­pa­pers are not patented, but they look like.

A North In­dian can­not have names like ‘Ra­maswami’, ‘Kr­ish­naswami’, ‘Ra­man’, ‘Iyengar’ or ‘Iyer’ etc. and so a South In­dian can­not have names like ‘Sharma’, ‘Varma’, ‘Singh’ etc. The South In­dian rasam, samb­har, rice is taboo to North In­di­ans. The roti, cha­p­atti and tan­doori are un­of­fi­cially patented to North In­di­ans.

North In­dian hardly reads THE

HINDU the English news­pa­per from the South and a man from Chen­nai hardly see be­yond THE HINDU. These are un­writ­ten codes but prac­ticed faith­fully. I re­mem­ber my law col­lege pro­fes­sor ev­ery day.

While leav­ing the lo­cal­ity and the of­fice in Ban­ga­lore on trans­fer to some other city across the coun­try, I told my col­leagues and neigh­bours to see the world be­yond these un­writ­ten codes and ethics and the world be­yond this.

The world has shrunk due to mo­bil­ity and ne­ces­sity and things get changed and mod­i­fied con­tin­u­ously. Keep chang­ing to times and shun rigid­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.