South India through the eyes of a typical northie.
Text : Sunil Gupta
Ever since I started my stint with touring on motorcycle, I’ve always been fascinated by the gift of beauty nature has given to the southern part of India. Though for me personally, only Himalaya would be the ultimate destination if I’d ever want to feel like riding to nirvana, but there is something down south that kept inviting me, those backwaters, tea estates, beaches; gosh!!! So much to see; but for a person like me, it was never easy to take the bike there and explore. I somehow knew that I’d go there at least once in my life, but never knew that it would be coming so soon. Few days ago, all I could dream was a ride in Kerala and now as I am writing this, we are sitting in Vizag, almost on the verge of hitting north again after riding through the heart of four Dravidian states.
I don’t know how and why the phrase “unity in diversity” originated, but one thing is for sure, it must have been written keeping only India in mind. Travel a few hundred kilometers in India and you’ll have a totally different perspective of life; different food, different clothes, different faces, different colors, everything different.
However contrasting these changes are, they never seem out of the place. The first change that you notice as you approach is the ‘lungi.” Its presence is overwhelming, it is everywhere, it is omnipresent. Generally made of cotton material, lungi is the garment of choice for men here. Even the style of wearing is same everywhere, barring Andhra where lungi is worn pretty much like north India. One thing that amuses me is the sight of half-risen lungi; 90% of the time you see a man wearing the lungi, you bet bottom of the lungi would be pulled up and tucked into the waist. Like the way Mallika Sehrawat dresses herself, it is hard to find out whether they are wearing it to cover or to show something. Jokes apart, I guess this is just because this way lungi is more convenient and easy to manage. I remember a joke about this half risen lungi saga and it goes something like this - Why is industrial productivity so low in Kerala?
- Because 86% of the shift time is spent on lifting, folding and re-tying
A Language Saga : :Lost in translation
Other side: Hello Sir.
Ashish: We want to book 2 rooms in your hotel. Do you have rooms available?
Other side: Yes sir.
Ashish: Do you have Parking?
Other Side: Yes sir, I am the manager.
It’s apparent from the above conversation between these two intellectuals that communication was a matter of problem for us. Though the rate of literacy is much higher in South India compared to North India and therefore a large part of the population has English-speaking capabilities; yet, when a Mallu guy mixes the Mallu accent in English and tries to speak like a yankie, that Khichdi is good enough to short-circuit your nervous system. The other day, Vinayak Ji was complaining that he was served sambar rice, though he asked for something else; and only we know the pain that we had to go through to make that receptionist at the Bangalore hotel that we want two double-occupancy rooms.
Apart from lungi, the other thing that is visible in each and every corner is Bananas; Banana shops have Bananas, grocery shops have Bananas, sweet shops have Banana, PCO booths have Bananas; and one day if you see Bananas hanging out of a computer shop for sale, don’t be surprised. From Karnataka to Andhra, coconut trees also occupy at least 50% of the land there, every square inch of land that is free has a coconut tree growing out of it.
.and do I need to say that I had to eat masala dosa 90% of the time I got out to eat because everything had a smell of coconut oil no matter if I ordered Kadhai paneer or chhole bhature. But, non-veggies have lots of option here as non-veg food is cooked in almost all the restaurants or food joints.
All the talks about down south would be useless if I don’t mention about the people here. First of all, for me it’s really amazing how the sense of aesthetics changes from north to south. See the superstars of South movies; most of them have few extra pounds of fat over them, they have big moustache; and both of these things are considered a big No-No if you are Bollywood aspirant. Oh yes!! Some of the guys here are amazingly intelligent especially that waiter at the hotel in Bangalore where were stayed. We had ordered 2 cold coffees, but that bugger bought 2 cups of hot coffee and when we complained, he said, “Keep it for 5 minutes and it will be cold.” Smart, isn’t it?
And before I conclude, the thing that influenced me most was “religion.” I don’t really want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I want to state something and ask you if they are correct.
Take Notice :
I went to Rameshwaram Temple. Here, God is with you ONLY IF YOU HAVE MONEY. Can you answer what wrong do you do if you are wearing a colored lungi while entering Rameshwaram Temple ? Can you answer if lord Shiv told the pujaris of Ramesharam temple to ask for 50 bucks from his devoteed if they want to see the lingam from a closer distance? Can you answer why do you have to pay something before you could get the prasad from the temple? And, can you answer why they don’t allow non-Hindus inside the temple? I don’t think anybody has satisfactory answer to these questions. There is a big business racket going in the name of faith there. These big temples get lakhs or rupees as donation everyday, and perhaps nobody knows where all this money goes. Its high time that government takes some decisive action and snatch back the management of these temples from these dacoits and hand it over to some non-profit committee, like Jagmohan (the then Governor of Jammu & Kashmir) did in Mata Vaishno Devi temple case. He established the ‘Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board” which takes care and manages all the funds and each and every activity related to the temple including the boarding and lodging of the tourists and the price list of all the edible items that are on sale on the shops/restaurants on the way to the temple. You won’t have to shell out even a single penny as ‘dakshina’ to the pujari in the holy cave. Place to stay, cloakrooms, blankets, toilets, drinking water everything is provided by the Shrine Board for free. This is the live example of perfect management.
Of course, this is not all, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I am short of words to describe what all we went through, how we adjusted to it, and how we made them adjusted for us. But despite all these contrasting colors, there was one thing common ' India!!!
Disclaimer: Its just the account of whatever was going through my mind at that particular point in time. I do not intent to hurt anybody’s feelings either directly or indirectly.
Fruits for the grabs in Kanyakumari
An adept climber scales the heights of a cococut tree
Its lunch time.
Thats not a real leaf, its printed paper, smart and progressive green thinking
Take a foto : lungi style
That’s an Indian Rambo for you