I have had the somewhat peculiar priviledge of having lived long enough in all four corners of the country to be acquainted with, at least superficially, all manner of regional quirks. While I don't claim to be an authority on the subject, it is not unusual to find me vociferously defending the docile ways of a Kannadiga to an aggressive Bihari or explaining the working of trade unions in Kerala to a born and bred Mumbaikar. I've always prided myself on having the ability to appreciate both sides of the story, quietly listening and patiently responding to the sometimes bigotted viewpoints of the other party. But (yes, of course, there is a but), there had to come a day when zealously protecting the jovial ways of Delhi-ites would initially attract severely disapproving glances and finally result in complete dismissal by the friends of the boy I am dating.
We are two hours into a lovely garden party last Sunday evening in namma Bengaluroo. This is, as it were, my official introduction to the inner circle of R's friends. Naturally, I was prepared to be an object of curiosity and I met eager eyes looking my way with a radiant smile and a 'Hi, I'm Snake Anthony, nice to meet you'. (I had been told categorically that my socially inept ways would be frowned upon, especially given R's permanent role as the life of the party.) The evening is progressing well, punctuated by an even number of Mojitos and walks down memory lane (I stayed behind, not knowing the way). It would be a fair assessment to say that R's friends had found me suitably charming and worthy of him by this time.
The DJ, at this point, a restless North Indian youth, unhappy at gazing an empty dance floor, abandons Boney M numbers and turns on Himesh Reshammiya. Conversation stops abruptly and there is a collective look of horror around me. 'Oh god, I hate this Punjabi music', someone remarks.
'Really? I kind of like it' I say immediately, doing my characteristic seated jig. 'I don't know what it is about Punjabi music that really strikes a chord in me...'
R shoots me a look I can't decipher. Oblivious, I continue, 'You know, ever since I studied in Delhi, there is part of me that is Delhi-ite. I resisted it for so long and finally after two years it the culture had seeped into me insidiously. Now when I go back, I feel strangely at home.'
'How long were you there?'
'Not long. About three years.'
'I think North Indians can be so uncivilised... even their music can be...'
'Really? I see what you mean but as community I must say they're the only ones know how to be truly bindaas, you know...'
'Chilled out. Relaxed. Letting your hair down!' I do some clumsy gestures indicating unselfconsciousness unselfconsciously. 'The North Indians really know how to do it! That's why their music is like this. They really know how live life. Don't you think?'
Only now I begin to notice a distinct level of discomfort around me. Someone gets up to go tell the DJ 'to turn of this rubbish and play some English music' to which Nidhi says with a sideways glance at me, 'Yeah sure but we have a Delhi-ite among us.' I smile confusedly at this comment.
In the car I ask R, 'So, did I make an impression? Did they like me?'
'Yeah, I'm sure they found you nice.'
'Just nice? But I was lovely!'
'Of course you were, baby.' I sense tentativeness in his tone.
'What, is it something I said?'
He sighs. 'Maybe you can keep your North Indianness a little quiet, that's all. Afterall, you actually aren't North India, if you remember.'
'Huh? What, what's wrong with it? So what if I feel North Indian?!'
'Don't worry, baby, we'll work on that...' he says and pats me on the head.