10 Jul

This is the simplest and most basic question that everyone asks everyone when they meet the first time. Per se there is nothing wrong with the question but still; I cringe when someone asks me this dreaded question. The reason is once you answer this question, automatically a few assumptions are made about you. Like saying Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kerala, Amritsar, Shillong, Haridwar, Benaras, Delhi, Kolkata, Nagaland, Srinagar, Jaipur and (god forbid) Patna or Ranchi…each one of them creates a unique image in my mind. And it is sort of true. People from a certain place have certain specific characteristics. Food they like, the way they speak, the way they live and even the way they think.

Now. I was born in Haridwar when my father was posted at Dehradoon. So technically only my birth was in Haridwar (The holy city) but growing up, the first birthday and all was in Dehradoon. Then I have faint memories of staying at Mhow and Pathankot respectively. At Mhow it was a total of 6months divided into 3months twice. In between somewhere Dad was in Poonch (where we would go in vacations) and we at Haridwar. At Pathankot it was about 3-4months. Though we dint stay at these places for long but I attended primary schools everywhere. Followed by Dholpur where we stayed for almost 4years up till half 4th standard. After that papa went to Dras and we went to Haridwar for about a year. Half 4th class and half 5th class. Then our most favorite place Jaipur. A tenure of 5 long years(3+2). Half 5th class and a little bit 11th class. We then shifted to Kanchrapara where I stayed for about 2years completing 12th standard and then moved onto Bombay. Now I am staying here since about 3 years, finished college while my family has come to Deolali and are awaiting the next movement order. I have stayed in more places than you have visited. And most of these places people don’t know exist.

So when someone asks me Where are you from? What should I say?

‘Please take a seat. Sit back and relax. This may take a while.’

I prefer sticking to the answer my parents have taught me since I learnt to speak. ‘I am from Haridwar’. Because –

  1. This is simpler
  2. This is where I was born and this is where my dada-dadi stay. So technically correct.

Now to be honest, when I was small (about the age when we get embarrassed by a lot of things easily) I did not like the image that Haridwar creates in the mind. (a spell check for haridwar offers suggestion hardware and hardwire) I longed for something more hep…sorta…Yo Cool man. But after all these years I have become quite at ease with it and really like the city. The thing that still bothers me is – though I was born there but I don’t belong there. How can I ‘be from’ a place I go once a year for half a month. Moreover my grandparents or father weren’t born or brought up there. For convenience sakes they settled there. Moms side is somewhat stable. She has stayed all her life in Meerut but the offspring’s are supposed to belong to the place their father belongs to. And anyways Meerut doesn’t sound cool either (but it is recognized by the MS Office dictionary!!)

Another thing is, racism. Not the i-got-beaten-with-sticks sorta racism but the subtle one. Since I have come to Bombay, I am particularly apprehensive about saying ‘I belong to UP’. Not because the MNS workers or Shiv Saniks (are they same or different??) would come and beat me up. But the normal people, the general people shoot up an eyebrow and go ‘uhhh…UP. Like UP-Bihar Bhiaya’. 3years ago “bhaiya” for me, was a completely normal endearing term used for elder brothers, shopkeepers, servants, helpers or other miscellaneous males. Simple and sweet. Respectful. Here in Bombay it is almost offensive. I was instructed by Mausi – Mausa (who I stay with here) to be careful not to call someone Bhaiya. Ok. So what do I say? Uncle? Excuse me? Boss? Hero? Eyy..? or make various sounds with my tongue and teeth to call someone? Thankfully I have never fallen into trouble (Yet) But I feel so irritated when people consider UP-Bihar the same. HOW?? I mean how can they be the same? They are neighboring states so maybe the eastern part of UP could be a lot similar to Bihar. But I am talking about Haridwar. That’s the northern part. Infact its not even a part of UP now. We have our separate state Uttarakhand (created in 2000 and known as Uttaranchal till 2007 which by the way sounds a lot better than Uttarakhand).

If you tell me you are from Bombay, how will you feel if I say “oh Bombay??like south india..Chhennayi madras…illaa?” But NO. I wouldn’t do that. I have studied political boundaries in geography. And for all those people who haven’t, here is a map of India.


10 Responses to “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”

  1. Aditya V July 13, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    good work! :)and nice article…quite silmilar to konkana’s in wke up sid

    • chilicheesetoast July 13, 2010 at 5:27 am #

      thank you so much for comparing our work to that of konkana’s work in the movie “WAKE UP SID” . but i regret to say that even though the movie in parts was shot in my college, i haven’t seen it yet. Since i haven’t seen the movie could you also specify what looked similar to konkan’s work as i could not relate, will really feel proud of that part.

  2. Adi July 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    yeah its kind f difficult for ppl wid a transferable job to answer this particluar que.. i basically break dwn the que nd reply that my roots are frm ABC place but i hv stayed in these particular places for more years than i hv stayed at my dadaji’s place.
    ppl really feel amazed to hear that i hv stayed in more places than they hv ever visited.

    coming to the point of bihar and UP..surely they are different states, but they are bonded by the same(almost) kind of people on both sides.. be it the festivals they celebrate and the way they celebrate a particular festival, or the way the women folk (of the village) dress up.. surely corruption is another point that unites them…its the cultural closeness that ppl of these two states hv, thus their names are taken… y isnt the name of GUJ-Maharastra …or karnataka- tamil nadu taken together?? may be UP Bihar sounds better…bifurcating a state does not remove the original identity of the new state…its like ur family roots will always remain at ur ancestral village/town/ city even if ur settled in a foreign country.

    toking abt bihar alone.. how many ppl knw it gives the most number of IAS IPS officers and IIT’ians… y are ppl still stuck to ..lalu ..when der is nitish doing such a great job…recently i read an article ..stating the percentage growth was the most in bihar more than that of Gujarat.. but if still the people want to stick to the old image Bihar had…i dnt mind…its der mind set..

    • Aditya V July 13, 2010 at 6:38 am #

      NOOOOOOOO! :O UP Bihar are not the same !

  3. Devil's Advocate July 12, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    At least there is universal recognition of Haridwar (or Hardwar,
    depending on who you side with). There is usually no preconceived
    notion about people from Haridwar as much as I know (good or bad).
    I usually say that my parents/grandparents stay in XXX and our roots
    are in the YYY general area. If it doesn’t satisfy the other person,
    they are welcome to ask more insightful questions but my answers will
    be based on the “need to know” basis only.

  4. udi July 12, 2010 at 3:05 am #

    Now one has to belong to some place as you can’t be orphan for your native place. When you(or anyone) say HARIDWAR it means that your roots are there and in future(if you are a nomad today becoz of any reason)you will also go and settle down at that particular place unless you choose some other place during journey of your life.
    Not liking image or place is a perception which vary from individual to individual and commenting on perception is not worth. I have hardly come across a bihari who is ashmed of his state. Even as per your qwn statement, you have changed your thoughts about haridwar. Read about so many people who have travelled throughout world to find out their roots. Do not get bogged down by such small things in life.

  5. Vishal July 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Tell u are from India or, from most parts of it. Haridwar sounds cool to me. And many places is even more cool. Agree it might have been difficult of sorts but not many people live that way. That’s different. By the way, Bihar is improving. At a much faster rate than any other state, moreso than UP or Maharashtra. All salute to Shri Nitishkumar!

    • chilicheesetoast July 12, 2010 at 12:24 am #

      Haridwar IS cool.and i want to apologise to anyone who got offended with Bihar thing. the image people have in mind wont go soon but its an awesome place. extremely important for my religion – jainism. nitish or lalu who ever is taking care is doing a good job. even i read in paper sometime back how its coming up faster than maharashtra gujrat.

  6. sidaudi July 11, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    amazing!!!!……specially misundrerstandin UP and Bihar people as similar people when only common thing between two places is CRIME, its like AMERICANS where they dont see any difference between taliban and sardars where only common thing is turbans and long beard

    But as far as living in different places goes i think it is sort of exciting but i know every excitment comes with a price but hope that PRICE was not too much to handle. And it is becoz of this “Constant Moving” to different places u met good people who affected ur life in a positive way.


    • chilicheesetoast July 12, 2010 at 12:29 am #

      that southern UP and Bihar might be a lot same ya…but nt the uttaranchal side…infact thats more like himachal because so many ppl come down there frm himachal. and yes it is exciting to go to new places. infact now i feel bored staying at a place for too long though sometimes i long for stability but then i wouldnt have met all the people i met and made all the good friends :)

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