I am a Kannadiga – i.e I come from the state of Karnataka which, as a state, apparently only exists in geography text books. When I was young and clueless, my conversations with people from the states north of the Vindhyas would go like this –
“Where are you from?”
“I am a Kannadiga.”
“Ohhh Bangalore!!! I have a friend there”
While other states take pride in their hospitality, wealth and their contribution to Indian cinema in the form of shavas and mahives, or their rich culture and heritage as in old Tamil Nadu, their coconut oil and Ayurveda or their searingly hot chillies, or even their contribution to general raping, pillaging and garden variety mayhem as certain unnamed states, we are people from a state that dares not speak its name –or just could not be bothered to. So ask most people which part of India they are from and you will get a “Punjabi,” “Bengali” and so on. Ask a Kannadiga where he’s from and the response is always – “Mangalore , Bangalore , Coorg, North Kanara or South Kanara.” You see my point, we definitely skirt around the issue of our statehood.
Here then as a public service are my tips on how to spot a Kannadiga at 10 paces
1. We are mild mannered – for the most part. Irritate a Kannadiga and the response is a mildly outraged “How dare…?” It’s almost as if he does not want to stick his neck out by actually articulating the “you”. Why, you might be offended! I’m reminded of a story. Many years ago some friends of mine moved to Bangalore from Calcutta. One of them opened his automobile door in crowded Commercial Street without realizing there was a pedestrian right in front of the door. The door slammed the poor man who – get this – apologized to my friend for getting in the way of the car door. “In Calcutta,” he says to this day. “I’d have been beaten to a pulp by passers by”
2. This courtesy does not extend to auto-drivers. The moment a Kannadiga gets into an auto – he turns from butter dosa -won’t -melt –in- my -mouth Srinivas Rao to Hulk Rao. To be fair, there is a very complex chicken and and egg issue here – does the driver enrage the passenger or is the passenger the enrager? In any event, the atmosphere in the auto is that of a lion-tamer and a particularly frisky lion.
3. Beer (bir) is always “chill-ed” (as in op-ed or co-ed), vegetarian food is always “pyooor”. All randomly constructed questions are punctuated with the words I say (As in – where you were I say? Why you are doing this I say?)
4. A touching and endearing faith in the Deccan Herald – a newspaper which to my knowledge has an ungodly fascination with millets and runs stories generally involving housewives having their “gold chains snatched in Yeshwanthpur while rowdy elements roam hither and thither spreading (a uniquely Kannadiga) mayhem”.
5. Our lives revolve around food. We may not care about designer clothing but will talk in hushed whispers about the new Darshini that offers – extra sambhar! (Thank you Jayant Kaikini for that insight)
6. Speaking of… If Smith and Wollensky in NYC is the cathedral of steaks, our Darshini is the small improv temple at every street corner. To the uninitiated, this is the place to be if your little heart desires to immerse itself in sambhars and chutneys. Just as London has its 5 pm pub rush, the Darshinis have their 7 am, 8 am, 9 am anytime idli rush. When office workers are not idly drinking the stuff that passes for tea or coffee at work they are down by the Darshini inhaling idlis and bribing the waiter shamelessly for extra chutney.
7. Another manifestation of this obsession with food is our ability to have deep conversations about weddings – mainly focused around meals. See two middle-aged men having a conversation and and expect something like this
“Your son, where he is now?”
“Aha… you have been there?”
“Yes, myself and my wife were there for 6 months. Very nice. Two Indian restaurants are there. Outstanding dosas. And unlimited buffet”
“I think I met you at Kitti’s wedding”
“Yes… ( long reflective pause).. very nice chirotis they made”
“Yes, excellent and the saaru (rasam) was wonderful”
“Actually the chirotis when my aunt’s son got married were the best – so much ghee…”
8. Another amazing ability we have is to completely lose our identity the moment we leave the state and merge it into the larger collective identity. Ask Deepika Padukone (whose surname now apparently rhymes with stone) or Aishwarya Rai. To the extent possible we try to assume a new identity – “I am originally from Bangalore but since I lived in Bombay for a year I consider myself a Bombayite” (I personally refuse to say Mumbai unless it’s made a cognizable offence to say Bombay) “I am from a remote part of Belgaum… more Maharashtra really”
So while the IT revolution may have put Bangalore on the map, quiet, mild-mannered Karnataka is still in the shadows. Will more Kannadigas step up to the plate please?