Thursday, September 27, 2012

How I became an Indian..again

When the British left India, they left behind something far more potent than the 'Sorry s' and 'Thank you s'. They left behind a culture and a life style to which Indians had become habituated. I was born in a small hamlet of a remote North Eastern corner of India called Digboi. A small township, dominated by Oil drilling and refining. It had been a hub of the British were they built huge Bungalows, with tennis courts, the Sahib clubs & the Indian clubs, Golf courses, etc. Even so many years after they left, as a child I was exposed to a culture where going to a club meant formal dressing, where dances were dictated by decorum more than fun, where a boy had to ASK a girl for a dance, where a drink meant Burmese Teak wood bar with crystal glasses of the finest quality, where winters were spent in the cozy aftermath of the fire from one's fireplace with the Grand Piano playing faintly...

Like anyone else, all this had its undeniable impression on me. Traces of which I carry till date I have been told. In Digboi even 20 years before one did not just drop down to some one's place, one telephoned to tell them that they would have company. However by the time we were growing up, a lot of outsiders( those outside the North East) began working and subsequently staying in Digboi. This led to a whiff of change being felt in different homes. This was more so probably because of the fact that the entire N. east in many ways has an anglicized culture, since a very long time now. Be it in their songs or in their dress or their lifestyles, etc. The first impact of this change was felt by me on one such visit to the home of a family outside the North East. The gentleman in this home, was from the North while the lady of the house hailed from the Carnatic. 


I was the last one in my family to step into their house, and just before I did so, I saw a small pattern on the floor, a Rangoli just before one entered the threshold. For a moment I was mesmerized..something popped up in the heart..the riot of colors, the warmth, the festive look...I was about 14 and if there was a moment when the Indian in me was born, it was this moment! I stooped down to look at the design in wonder. The lady of the house came by to check what was delaying me. When she saw me bent over the Rangoli, she smiled, sat down with me, picked a pinch of the magenta colored powder and drew a streak on my cheeks..her christening was perhaps the most undeniable print on my mind for a very long time..for some people, a passport does not make citizens out of them..maybe Rangoli does.

- Image courtesy Google

7 comments:

SJ said...

wow that is so touching.

Mithil said...

even i got truly humbled after a visit to my friends place who is not from my state. we are unique because of our diversity

Enigmatic Soul said...

A beautiful post. It isn't wrong to be predominantly British in our taste but not at the cost of our own cultural identity. But that is my personal opinion. I have struggled through phases of utter ignorance about my own 'indian-ness' and a lengthy process of discovering it.

Sabyasachi Patra | Tales from Wild India said...

Very nicely written. The british have got some nice mannerisms which anyone can pick up. That doesn't mean we frown upon our own culture. Unlike India where most often we have domestic help, the British call up before hand to inform so that the other person can prepare themselves.

It is said that when Sir Nirad C Choudhury invited L. K. Advani to his residence in London for tea, Advani landed up with an 18 member troupe. It was quiet a task to host such a big delegation, as Sir N C Choudhury had to prepare tea and everything himself. Unfortunately, our politicians don't openly tell their cronies not to accompany them in such purely personal visits. In such matters, we can learn a little bit of courtesy from the british.

Shashiprakash Saini said...

very nice post

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury said...

Thank you so much all of you for reading..I am touched by your responses. Regards

Sudha Balaji said...

Happened to read your post today. Thank you for such a nice article emphasising that rangoli is an important facet of Indian culture