Konta gaav (which village?)

bombayTumhi kuthoon/ aap kahan se hain/ Where are you from?’ the question that often gets my goat while also acting as a yardstick to gauge my mood. If I am in a no-nonsense mood the answer is Gujrat, if I am feeling a bit religious, it could be Iran or if I am reining in an adventurous streak, I may go for Africa. My friends and I have often joked about how my native place varies with my mood. And no, it is not that I am lying. The word that comes closest to define me at such moments could be ignorance. To be honest, the answer to this question for the better part of my teenage years was ‘Bombay’. Till one day as a cub reporter, I went to meet a cop and he asked me – something I would realize grown-ups loved asking each other – ‘Tumhi kuthun?’ (where are you from?) I thought Bombay, I said Mumbai. He laughed in a way indicating that neither did I know anything about journalism (which was fine since I was new to the profession), nor did I know basic things about myself (which was not fine as I had been with myself for over twenty years). ‘Arey Mumbai ke sirf koli log hain. Baaki sabh bahar se aaye hain. Main bhi,” (Only the kolis hail from Mumbai. Rest all including me have come here from other parts) he teased me. I felt stupid and decided to figure that out first thing after reaching home. While my parents were born and raised in Bombay like me, my grandparents hail from Gujrat. Then there are gaps in the lineage and then my great grandfather, by some accounts, was been settled in, wait-for-it — Zanzibar. And lastly as a Shia, Iran is supposed to be the motherland. So well I found myself returning to the moot question, where I am from? To make things worse, in a case of sadhu bana shaitaan (sorry no English equivalent can match this) over the years, I started reprimanded others who told me they were from Bombay. I would rather cockily tell them, ‘Dude only kolis are from Bombay’. I think I am responsible for the identity crisis of at least few of my friends. But then I was halted in my hallowed path of native zeal during a conversation, when I used the identity effacing ‘only kolis are from Bombay’ to a friend. She told me something to the effect of, “Arey, but I have been born and brought up in Bombay and that is how I am.” I was simultaneously irritated that she was not getting the logic of the original inhabitants but a part of me saw it as a gateway to get out of the konta gaav (which village) conundrum. I thought about it. I have been born and brought up in a Mumbai suburb with a catholic majority. My attitude, my vocabulary and several other facets of my personality are informed by this sub culture. And again, no matter where I go, I think I will never be as comfortable as I was in this demographic, this ‘attitude’ to life. So well, I am thinking, I may not be so wrong if the next time someone asks me where I hail from, I answer Bombay. But then again, in order to avoid the long explanation and have some fun, I could simply use one word. A word like Lebanon maybe

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4 thoughts on “Konta gaav (which village?)

  1. Samod

    Well written. Could identify with your confusion as I too suffer the same fate. I too have multiple identities and am unsure as to which represents me. The Koli defence could well unsettle the apple carts of many people as to zeroing in on the real and original Bhoomiputra.

    Liked by 1 person

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