Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What it takes to be a Telugu girl in Chennai?

I come from a Telugu speaking background with ancestors who settled in the Tamil Nadu more than two generations ago. I could speak both the languages - Telugu* and Tamil* fluently any day. 

*Tamil - Native Language of the South Indian State Tamil Nadu
*Telugu - Native Language of the South Indian States - Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

During my school days I was only proud to have known an additional language [Telugu] and was surprised that a couple of my friends knew the language too ! I wasn’t sure why the rest didn’t know the language and was curious to know. When I enquired mom she explained that the two states [now three] were once together and during the separation we were the ones who chose to settle down here for various reasons like occupation and convenience. 

One random day at school, I was ‘bullied’ with a new word ‘Golti’ and I was clueless about what they even meant by that. A friend came to my rescue and handled the guys who bullied me ! I asked her what did ‘Golti’ mean and why do they call me that? She explained that that was the term they used to address Telugu speaking people here in Chennai. Initially as a young school going girl, I couldn't take it when my class mates differentiated me because of my mother tongue. They weren't very serious and most of us were innocent then. I had to understand that the word only sounded funny to them and made them laugh. I heard it so often that I got used it and learned to ignore it. This didn't stop me from revealing my mother tongue. For I was still proud, only to have known an additional language. 

It was only during my college days I saw the actual rivals. It was a Telugu Minority College with 50% Tamils and 50% Telugus (if I can call it that way) roughly and I was stuck in-between. The two groups stayed separate mostly and even in the way they were seated ! The ‘in-between’ candidates like me were the minority, just one or two in a class room and we had to choose between one of these groups !! Trying to balance both was my biggest challenge. I think I did it fairly well. 

When my bus mates were Tamils, they though how high-headed and dumb were these Telugus and my bench mates enquired why these Tamil’s dressing sense was so pathetic and why they hardly took money out of their pockets ! It was annoying answering such stereotypical questions from both the sides. I only saw them being self-forcefully blind !! 

The stereotypes were only growing and my explanations only convinced myself ! These two groups were nothing but ‘like’ poles of a magnet. They looked like they would fit in but beyond a point they repelled. The differentiation continued even at work but by then I got used to it and knew how to deal with it. I just laugh away.

I have to mention that I had a good amount of open minded friends too. The friendship was more selflessly social than linguistic - how it is supposed to be. I am always fortunate and glad to have earned them. 

As much as I am a proud Telugu girl, I am a proud Chennaite too ! We celebrate both Ugadi and Tamil New Year with the same amount of enthusiasm. [Jan 1 isn’t an exception too ;) ] Pongal and Sankranthi mean the same to us. Our weddings are a mix of customs, from both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh ! We have evolved this way and we are happy living it this way. 

You call me a ‘Golti’ .. You call me a ‘Madarasi’ .. You will only see me smiling. Yes, I am a proud blend of both. 

Happy Ugadi & Happy Tamil New Year