Saturday, May 1, 2010

Non Resident Maharashtrian!

Last year I had to attend a world conference in Austin, Texas on Animation. I was finding it hard to locate my client in the sea of people. There were people of all assortment and sizes from almost every part of the world.I was surprised to see that I couldn’t see a single Indian.

Suddenly I saw them. An Indian couple! I smiled warmly. As I introduced myself, I was taken aback as the lady asked me , “ You Ghaati?”. For the uninitiated, Ghaati is a derogatory term used by the non- maharashtrians to describe maharashtrians.

“ Well Mam, when I am in India I am part Ghaati, part MP ka Bhaiya and part Andhra Anna and I am proud to be all of them. But when I am abroad I am just a proud Indian. Plain and simple.” I said it in my most saccharine coated voice.

Either she was a great actress or pretty dumb. I couldn’t see any change in her expression. “ I am from Lucknow”. She replied. My mind raced back to the last time I visited Lucknow. It was at least a twenty five years back. but the memory is still etched. Its my favorite story.

As I came out of the station, I saw a lot of Tongas, the horse carts which are now extinct. I suddenly had a child like impulse to try this new transport. I enquired with the owner of one of the tongas, a frail old man in a checkered lungi, kurta and skull cap, if he was going towards my destination ( I forget the name).His reply simply floored me. I may not be able to do justice in the translation.
“ huzoor tonga aapka hi intezaar kar raha hai. Tashreef rakhie.”
( a crude translation sir, the tonga is only waiting for you. please step on).

Raj Thakeray is a lucky man. He never had to haul his lazy ass to work. If he did, he would know what is an occupational hazard. That there are as many maharashtrians working outside maharashtra as there are non maharashtrians working in maharashtra.

I have seen a sizeable maharashtrian population in Hyderabad as well as Gwalior. I am proud to say that although they have retained their cultural identity, they also have made an extra effort to join the mainstream. Their children speak fluent telugu, enjoy the telugu movies and are an intrinsic part of the social fabric. The locals have reciprocated well by accepting them whole heartedly. Hyderabad is perhaps one of the friendliest of cities. Gwalior was a state of the then Scindia kingdom so its easy for the maharashtrians there.

I spent almost a decade in Nagpur, Pune and Mumbai. My business partner was a north Indian. It was pleasant to see our neighbors almost ignore me when he accompanied me. They always made that extra effort to see that he was comfortable. But their attempts at speaking hindi was hilarious. One lady had even confessed that whenever Mr. Sharma phoned, her hands became all sweaty!

We later moved; He to Hyderabad and I to USA. But even today he swears by the hospitality of Maharashtrians. His partner jumps at any opportunity to do a project in Maharshtra. One of the proudest moment was when a CEO confessed that he hired me because he had a high regard for maharashtrians. Coming from a hyderabadi, this was the greatest tribute.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in Pune. In my opinion , it is one of the most sophisticated cities in the world. ( I doesn’t hurt that it has the tastiest vada paavs does it?).

By a strange coincidence, the last time I was returning from Miami, my co-passengers were both maharashtrians. We ended up talking about our feeling of rootlessness.

I sometimes get confused. Today am I a maharashtrian or just a marathi speaking manoos. what about my tamil friend born and brought up in Mumbai who when mentioned 'home' knows of only one place.

Isn’t being an Indian or a good human being no longer enough?

A food for thought for the narrow, parochial school of thought.

My best wishes to every on Maharashtra Day!


  1. We are human beings and should try our best to be good ones.

    Interesting way of writing! :)

  2. Thanks Chandrika. grateful for your comment.

  3. I am a non resident Bihari. Earlier I used to think myself as a Indian, but that was not good enough. So now I am a non resident Bihari living in another part of the country. Am sure glad I didn't join the army like my dad. He is retired now and gets confused when he hears about Raj Thackeray and all the support he gets in Mumbai and Maharashtra. I guess we should all avoid traveling to other states. Funny before Raj Thackrey, there was no concept of a "resident Bihari" most Bihari people would laugh if I said I was a non resident Bihari. But they don't laugh so hard anymore. I should thank Raj a lot, it really is forcing a Bihari identity on the state.

  4. Hey Anon,
    Thanks for your comments.You know what, I know a lot of Biharis and trust me they are on top of my list. They are not only brilliant, they are pretty warm hearted people. My favorites.
    I guess you just have to ignore these uncouth and ill informed people and get on with your life.
    Thanks once again. I only wish you had given your real name.