So the menu at the marriage, for example, included “pachi pulusu”, along with the biryani. “Pachi pulusu” is a gravy made with tamarind pulp extract, typically made in Telangana.
I ask the groom, originally from Mahbubnagar district, where his bride hails from. Here only, madam, he replied shyly.
My colleagues from both sides of the divide in Andhra Pradesh thought the question need not be asked at all. In the sense that they opined, and strongly, that no longer can new marital relationships be forged between people from “here” and “there”. Arranged marriages are out of the question and love across this `divide’ or `border’ will not be easily accepted, one wise one proferred.
My driver tells us about a family in his neighbourhood. Two brothers married to girls from the two different regions of the state. What used to be light-hearted banter about how different and how similar they are in customs, habits and traditions has now become an everyday battle of one-upmanship on what should be cooked in the home and how. What should be celebrated and what should not be.
Particularly sensitive is the language issue. Renowned Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi may have called it `Sundara Telugu’ or Beautiful Telugu. I recall a friend’s father has for years boasted to me about Telugu being the Italian of the East. And yet today, there is as no unanamity among the people who speak the language on which version should be considered `authentic’ . It has in fact become one of the most contentious points of debate. About whose Telugu is better.
Those from Telangana quite tired of their Telugu being dubbed inferior to that spoken in, say coastal region, are almost with a vengeance rightfully reclaiming and showing pride in the language that belongs to them. Who can deny the soul that the language can put into the music that springs from here, they ask.
In this era of heightened sensibilities and sensitivities, the first few words you speak are enough to label you. So it becomes tricky for people like us in the media. You will invariably be dubbed as being from one region or the other. Which happens very often. And if you deny, that is allowed to pass with a smile as though to mean that you must be from the “other side”. It is okay madam, they tell you, almost as though despite being from somewhere else, I am being given a concession of acceptance.
It was in the midst of this debate that I asked one of my colleagues who had been looking quite desperately for a tenant why he had refused many potential candidates. The otherwise mild-manner young man said firmly with a smile: “For the same reason. Because I cannot let out a portion of my home to someone from coastal Andhra when in the other portion, someone from Telangana is staying,” he explained.
“Every little quarrel has the potential of escalating into a full-fledged war. And it all begins with something as innocuous as getting water from the common tap outside to what you cook, what you celebrate and what you don’t, what language you speak and ultimately where you come from. That is how it has become,” he confessed.
Another colleague mentioned that in his apartments, some residents had recently wanted to do a `vanta varpu’ or a community cooking in the common area, responding to a call given by pro-Telangana groups asking people to come on to the roads and show that while they light the fire on the roads of Hyderabad to cook their meal, the heat should be felt in Delhi. They even invited others to join in the meal.
What could have been a fun activity to bring the community together however became a reason for even more sharp divisions. Those from non-Telangana regions raised strong and very vocal objections. Matters came to such a head that it was decided that those incharge of managing the association of house-owners should no longer be from either Telangana or the coastal-rayalaseema regions. So the mantle fell on someone from the region north of the Vindhyas !