Butter Chicken from a Small Town

I’m from a small town in India. But most people I know are city kids. One thing that bugs me about city kids is how they react when someone tells them they are from a small town. The conversation isn’t really friendly. And the worst part is they don’t do it purposely. That means it’s unconscious (or subconscious or tetra-conscious. Or whatever the word is these psychology majors prefer)!

So if two city kids meet the conversation is usually like this:

Bro: Dude, where are you from?

Dude: Bro, I am from Dilli. I’m like from totaaly Dil Walo ki Daally! Where are you from, Bro?

Bro: I am from Bombay. Basically South Bombay! But that’s the only Bombay any one cares about.

Dude: That’s so cool. I’ve been to Blue Frog bro. It’s best.

Bro: Dude, I’ve been to Delhi. It’s the best man. It has lots of civilized men playing catch-catch with tables and chairs and bullets, respectfully referring to mothers and sisters, general sense of security. What a place!

Dude: I also know Suraj Sharma bro. His best friend’s girlfriend’s third cousin slept with a classmate’s friend from Ramjas! He and I are like totally best friends!

So that’s how the conversation goes most of the times. I swear I am not stereotyping!

And if someone says they are from the tier two cities like Hyderabad or Bangalore they mention inane things like biryani and weather respectively. Because those cities are the permanent younger brothers of these places!

But the drama unfolds differently once I mention I am from a small town in India. At first these city kids will squint and make sure I didn’t say Mars. Then they ask something polite like “Are you sure Matt Damon didn’t find you and bring you back?”

Then they will repeat the name of the place I come from for a few times till it sounds like a sound effect from Naruto. Then they’ll produce a map out of nowhere and start looking for the place in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. When I say it is in the mainland then they realize I have been speaking English all along and I am not malnourished or differently-abled.

Bro Dude: So you have like Education and shit out there? Like were you adopted by some firang? Is that why you can speak English?

Me: No. I live with my biological parents (this conversation is more or less normal).

Bro Dude: So have any of your siblings died because they couldn’t afford medicine? Or do your uncles participate in riots for fun?

Me: Dude, are you crazy? (At which point I clarify I am not from Uttar Pradesh)

That might have been an exaggeration but you get the drift. Small towns have their own problems and in many cases the social set up is patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic and everything else that would make a “liberal” ( I have used quotes only because as any academic will tell you there hasn’t been a more elegant cop out for saying “I don’t know what exactly I mean but you are allowed to interpret it in any way possible”) cringe. But at some level that kind of stereotyping is just as bad as some of the stereotypes that small town people have of city youth: all city girls are in an open relationship with every boy in the city or that every city boy is just an aggressive insensitive, bike riding, alcohol chugging maniac who snorts coke for breakfast and drinks vodka for water and sleeps with prostitutes (unless of course you are from Delhi. Then it has been scientifically proven to not be a stereotype!)

Any way I hope I haven’t offended any one. What do I know? When my Christian missionary parents paid for me in malaria medicine to my biological parents for my dying sister, while running away from my uncle who was the Chief Sword Supplier for Riot Equipment in 1991, they didn’t teach me how not to make stereotypes.

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