vive la différence?

The Seal of Karnataka State

The Seal of Karnataka State


Chiranjeevi Singh, a much respected and now-retired IAS officer, writes in Vijayakarnataka of persisting divisions in Karnataka, and in its capital Bangalore, which stem from regional and linguistic differences. Though situated at the edge of Karnataka, Bangalore was made its capital on account of the vanity of one man, and as a consequence north and south Karnataka never integrated, and the northerners distrust the southerners, and, among other things, the southerners see the manner of speaking of the northerners as too comic for serious use. In the meantime, in Bangalore City itself, the Kannadigas and Tamils and the North Indians and the Easterners and Tibetans live each in their linguistic and regional silo, each grudging the other community its greater prosperity. Each community cloaks the rest in long established stereotypes.

Like the gandabherunda, rues Singh. Like that raptor in the seal of the state of Karnataka, which has two heads that do not see eye to eye.

Do people ever integrate in cities? How about far off New York, to take an example? I read an essay by Jesus Colon: How to Know the Puerto Ricans. He means the 600,000 of them who lived in NYC when he wrote the piece. He reminds the reader first of past pains suffered by Puerto Ricans at the hands of those who came knocking on their doors, those who came to colonise their island. Colon's countrymen have brought that heavy baggage into New York City. And who have greater past sorrows to bear than the Jews? So much sorrow which they bear among themselves in their homes and in arty memorials? The African American people, maybe? "Almost as much suffering we have seen too," the Irish might say. E.B. White wrote—to humour them—that for the Irish, NYPD is virtually family. Ah, in what tatters the Italians came, and also their Sicilian cousins! And stayed Italian, stayed Sicilian. How much have these peoples integrated in that acclaimed melting pot?

I can't say. But there's good writing by each of them on themselves; and terrific movies, too. And how they ever toss jibes at each other! In everyday life, and in every form of literature! And yet their city holds, and most handsomely.

Folks are pouring everyday into Bangalore and joining those who have already arrived. Today, in the unisex saloon Bounce on Vittal Mallya Road, a Sri Lankan cut my hair and a Black lady collected the charge. The North Indian lady who runs the place bade me wait five minutes when I came in. In the same establishment, in greater numbers than the Sri Lankans were young women and men from Manipur and thereabouts who did other beauticians' tasks, and ran errands. These folks will grow deep roots in Bangalore, and perhaps they will each be their own tree, and the writers among them will set in prose and song their angst and aloneness and rootlessness and their endless quest for identity—they'll supply the pathos which is marrow in the bones of the city.

But, hopefuly, our divided people will always find space in the city to labor and to achieve. Through their labours would they be united. Through their traditions they would ever be separate. It is not a bad thing.