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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Us Kanna Diggaz…

I am a non-resident Kannadiga, and I didn’t know I was one till I was in the eight standard. No existentialist stuff here, I knew I hailed from Karnataka, but I didn’t know I was called a Kannadiga. I first read that word in the Times Of India, which had a section on communities and stuff, and immediately found it a mouthful. Somehow seems a bit clunky to say. Also, with that name and surname combination of mine, I ALWAYS get asked where I’m from. One senior back in those ragging days helpfully asked me whether I was from Switzerland to which I blushingly replied to in the negative.

The safest answers are
“Ghar pe Kannada baat karta hai”
Or
“I hail from Karnataka…”

Only southies (bless you brothers…) understand the word ‘Kannadiga’. Most others just goggle back at you like you’ve called them something real nasty. “Kya bola?!”

Once, to the “I hail…” answer… I got this back
“Oh… so that means you are (struggle struggle…think think…finally shrug) Kanadian…?”
I said yes, and that was the end of that. I really did not want to take it any further.

That one line really summarizes how little people know about us. Each community has its own ‘brand recall’.
Some examples (caution - these are merely indicative, to be taken with a regular salt pan)

Tams – Mathematics. Rice. Deadly Combo.
Mallus – ‘Gulf’. Coconut. Banana Chips.
Gultis – Dowry. Food so spicy, it chars your alimentary canal (don’t ask me which end…).
Gujjus – Obscene amounts of money. Baap ka business. The Stock Market.
Sindhis – Papads (somebody please explain this to me…).
Bongs – Intellect. The 'firebrand' tag. Passion.
Punjus – Some connection somewhere with a transport company. Makke di roti and sarson da saag (gritting my teeth as I write this – MOTHER of all clichés).
Madus – Ah well…let’s just say… thrift. And leave it at that…

Now try and think about something for a Kannadiga. I for one am hard pressed. What exactly can you throw up? (No pun intended)

IT? Too nouveau to compete with the rich traditionalism and sense of history which goes with the other examples above.

Sandalwood? The association throws up another image altogether of certain erstwhile mustachioed jungle denizens.

Raagi mudde and soppina saaru? Somehow they haven’t really caught on to the national consciousness like the makke ki roti deal.

One word answer? Not much (that’s two words…so there).

There’s probably no single defining signature that defines us as a people, or a community. Kannadigas as a rule are brilliant at cultural camouflage, or so I’d like to believe. Take the ‘North Karnataka’ people for example. Before Karnataka came about, it was part of the Bombay Province which included present-day Maharashtra. For all facts and purposes, their culture, customs and dressing sense is the same as that of Maharashtrians. Add surnames to that too. It is famously said that if you hurl a stone in Dharwad, it will knock down a Patil, a Deshpande and at least 2 Kulkarnis. The type of Kannada spoken here is much more robust, earthy and has a healthy dose of Marathi word usage than the version spoken in Bangalore. So when people from these regions come down to Mumbai, it’s not too difficult to pass off as a Maharashtrian…some go on to lose touch with Kannada altogether, depending on how Marathi-influenced their neighbourhood is.

Kannadigas also have certain favourite professions, beyond which they will not venture out. When was the last time you heard of a Kannadiga diamond merchant or a steel king or an oil tycoon? But you would have had at least a couple of Kannadiga teachers/profs back at school/college. Teaching, banking, and government services are where the majority of the earlier generation were, now just add ‘Computeru’ for the current one. That said, it’s a matter of pride to see a Narayan Murthy and a Nandan Nilekani go on and break this non risk-taking mould. Probably the only really ‘business’ community that we can boast of is the Shetty community. These guys know how to run food joints, and boy do they run a tight ship. The chances of you finding a non-Shetty run mid-price-level restaurant or a bar are (a very confident) nil (at least in Mumbai).

It is this lack of a sweeping cliché which works out very nicely in our case, especially since we can take fantastic pot-shots at our 'other-community-belonging' friends, and laugh even harder as they stutter, gasp and fumble to come up with a retaliatory pejorative, usually “Abbe aye madrasi”, or “Abbe aye anna”, which slides smoothly off our curd-rice nourished skins. Because A, they are not a 100% true fit (Madrasi? Anna? Heh Heh), and B, they don’t have the venomous bite of a “Chup saala Gujju/Kutcchi/Marwadi…” or a “Chal bhag…Papad saala”.

Blessed be.
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8:32 PM, May 08, 2006
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmm...    



2:36 AM, May 09, 2006
Blogger Lakshmi said...

Very good.    



3:27 PM, May 12, 2006
Blogger Bishu said...

Two years stay in Bangalore showed me that Kannadigas have all the Baaths in their cuisine. Be it Bisibele Baath or ChowChow Baath they seem to have all the varieties of baaths.And speaking of entrepreneurs isn't Vijay Kingfisher Maliya a Kannadiga ?    



9:00 PM, May 14, 2006
Anonymous Sudharshan said...

Exactly how I feel about us Kannadigas.I feel the madrasi tag won't go however for the next 5-10 years.    



3:28 PM, May 16, 2006
Blogger arpz said...

i read this piece , wanted to come up with some witty statement to comment , but all I could say it ... well **shrugs** well said ! cos thats how we kannadigas are ..    



1:25 AM, May 21, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

anon,
eeek!!!

lakshmi,
Thank you...

Bishu,
yep... we are a very clean people basically. Love ba(a)ths. And yes, you're right...Mallya is a Kannadiga. Somehow missed him out there...

Sudharshan,
The madrasi tag will never go. Never.

Arpz,
Exactly. And thank you...    



4:25 AM, May 28, 2006
Anonymous sahana said...

Howdu Hodgu(Yes boy!!)chenage helidya..(Well said)    



9:31 AM, May 28, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

ayyo sahana-avare,
tumba tanks ree... tumba tanks.    



4:19 PM, June 10, 2006
Blogger GuNs said...

'Swalpa adjust maadi'
Heard that for Kannadigas a million times. Me from NK too but lived mostly in Gujrat and now in Maharashtra. No one's ever recognized me to be a soud-yindiyan though I routinely boast of that fact to everyone.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs    



11:54 AM, June 17, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

Guns,
Haudu saar. Swalpa adjust maadi is as Kannadiga as it gets.    



10:45 AM, August 11, 2006
Anonymous Anonymous said...

u write so well
compulsive reading its called ,but pl pl do something about about the glaring black background.its a major pain in the......eyes.    



2:42 AM, September 30, 2006
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hehe...a very true and observant article. The situation worsens for me, since I belong to a tulu speaking brahmin "community" from the south ok karnataka...

So am I a kannadiga as in can I speak kannada properly? No
Oh so you must be a shetty? Err..no
So, what do you speak? Tulu
Oh! ok, I heard even Aishwarya Rai and Sunil shetty speak tulu?.Errr..I speak a different tulu...

Hmm....

---->Shashank Mayya (R.A.I.T)    



9:28 PM, October 13, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

anon,
thanx...

Shashank,
I can only imagine. Tulu :) Scary.    



3:13 PM, March 31, 2007
Blogger willkommen said...

awsome
but was expecting a lot more written by u on dis as compared 2 other topics    



7:08 PM, June 22, 2007
Blogger Tapan said...

willkommen,
Point noted...    



9:50 PM, September 03, 2010
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vijay mallya is konkani.    



8:21 PM, September 04, 2010
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Shashank Mayya
I think you are a kota brahmin from kundapur. you speak kota kannada which i think is a mixture of kannada and tulu.    



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