The myth of Indian Regional Identity

Rama Bijapurkar gets two things wrong, big time, in her article, 'Celebrating diversity is unity'. One, the assumption that she makes about the SEC A1+s and, as she puts it, 'their feverish search for a single, pure, pan-Indian identity, ‘cleansed’ of ethnic/ linguistic/community or region origins and characteristics'.

The exact opposite is what is true. It these SEC As that are desperately trying to keep their regional identities alive. Desperate, 'cos their desired way of life seems to sinking under the sweeping hand of what we term, the 'Americanisation' of our lives. Else, why do they flock to movies that seem to, in a sugary way, recreate on screen whatever it is that is supposed to be Indian; the joint family, the song and dance, the antaksharis, whatever.... ? Why are they the ones, who despite the fact that they take their weddings to Macau, still fly in the cacophonic bhangra brigade? Why the Gulab Jamoons and the biryanis? Why the loud display of garish wealth that they are used to flaunting, back home?

As for the rest of country, I mean the ones not blessed with the moolah, they are the ones who don't care about this 'peacock feather' concept. Of course, they still are at their Kolam rice and sambar, and that's 'cause they haven't had the 'opportunity' to sample caviar. Not that again, they would en-masse shift to Fish n Chips, given a choice. But then, who says Sambar is sought? Its simple to figure out; that's the way of life they know. Who's to say they won't sample alien fare, if they had access to it and could afford it?

The second mess up in the article is the glorification of regionalised products and services. Sure, the Malayalee would prefer to watch an 'Omanathinkal Pakshi' (that's a hit TV series in Kerala) rather than 'Seinfeld' as staple fare, on TV. But does that mean, the denim trouser sold in swanky stores in Cochin must sport a label, 'Kochu Ousep'? Levi Strauss don't carry much weight?

The concept of regionalised products and services matters in certain product categories and is completely irrelevant in certain others. And again, it also depends on the target consumer segment. I scarcely see the gum chewing, Nike sporting, burger chomping kid who whistles down Brigade Road in Bangalore, lining up in the front of a Lassi bar. Plus, just so you know, Seinfeld's my staple fare as much as Fish Curry and Steamed Rice!


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