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Identity Crisis

A couple of years ago, me and my wife were at the InOrbit mall in Malad, Mumbai. An hour’s worth of walking had got my wife tired and me hungry, so we made our way to the food court. As my wife went scouting for a table to sit, I went up to the SubWay counter to get us Subs. While waiting for my turn, I overheard the people behind the counter speak among themselves in Marathi – my mothertongue. Naturally, when it was my turn to order, I started speaking in Marathi as well – detailing what I wanted and what I didn’t want.

To my side was a group of young people – out of college, but younger than me. From the looks of them, they were most probably Software people; yet their accented English and forced gestures made me doubt “BPO”.

The moment they heard me speaking in Marathi, their expressions changed – they were apalled, and they couldn’t hide it. Something to the tune of “how can this person NOT speak in English? Doesn’t he know how to speak English?” I could see the smirks on their faces, and sense the condenscending attitude. I just smiled to myself, paid the money and walked back to join my wife. Between bites of bread & veggies, we spoke of this incident.

It seems that the youth in India looks up to the West for everything. In my opinion, it’s not bad if you like some other culture and imbibe some if its elements in appreciation. What I dislike though, is if you feel that your own culture, your own roots are below-par. Yes, in today’s globalized world, it is extremely important to speak at least one foreign language; it is equally important to know how to mingle and deal with foreigners – but it should not be at the cost of ridiculing your identity.

My father worked in a bank, and whenever I would visit his office, I would see plaques saying

आप हिन्दी में बात करें, हमें प्रसन्नता होगी।
I am proud to speak in Marathi, Hindi or Gujarati, and converse in English only when I absolutely have to. Are you proud of your heritage too? I sincerely hope so…
Categories: Everything Else Tags: ,
  1. MBAlmighty
    December 11, 2008 at 4:50 PM

    Let me add my thoughts here. Having stayed down south for sometime now, I have seen this happen pretty much only in Mumbai. People in Hyderabad / Bangalore / Chennai proudly speak with waiters (at the best of restaurants), amongst themselves, even with non-local folks in Telugu / Kannada / Tamil. But in aamchi Mumbai, Marathi is frowned upon. Maybe thats the price you pay for being a “cosmopolitan” city! 😦 These days when I visit Mumbai, I probably never speak marathi outside home. Its sad.

  2. Prashant
    December 15, 2008 at 1:32 PM

    Come to think of it, I feel so too – that this issue presents itself only in Mumbai. I relish the time I spend in Pune, even if it is just a couple of hours – speaking to shopkeepers and ricshaw drivers in Marathi is a treat – for me at least..

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