The divide between North and South India

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What you can rightly say about India, its opposite is also equally true.

— A teacher of Amartya Sen
“South India has counted for too little in the Indian Republic. This is a waste for India as well as an unfairness to south India, because the south has a superiority in certain important things—its relative lack of violence, its lack of anti-Muslim intolerance, its lack of indiscipline and delinquency in the universities; in its better educational standards, its better government, and its cleanliness; in its far lesser practice of corruption and its little taste for Hindu revivalism. If the English language is to be saved to India as a living language it is the south that will save it”.
 –Walter Crocker, 1966. An Australian diplomat in his biography of Jawahar Lal

After a Harvard historian wrote a book on how North always developed first and faster than South, a new area of research was started. He based his thesis, as Harvard historian generally do, on the nations of Atlantic world. India, who has the history of showing middle finger to almost all of the social science thesis ever produced in West, deservedly contradicts it. I can’t think of any foreigner other than E. P. Thompson who ever came close to understand India. Neither I can think of any Westerner, who does not have an opinion about my motherland.

Even in pure statistical terms, south has wealth at least 55% higher than North, Literacy rate is 79% compared to 59% of north and 79% houses have electricity, compared to mere 49% of North. In my village, we got poles and wires in 2003. After that, we generally gets 5-6 hours electricity 6 days a weak.

I have spend 4 years of my life in Chennai. When we you meet new people or visit new places, similarity and difference always catches your imaginations. Well, in my case, since I was from a rural area, almost everything caught my eyes. Now, it’s been 8 years since I have started living in cities. I spent a year in Delhi, and currently living in Mumbai. I have never visited rural areas of Tamil or Marathi, neither I know these languages.

Well before I read Outlook Magazine’s “Deccan Rising” special issue, there were things I could easily notice in Chennai. There are very less chance that a woman will be manhandled in buses. In fact, one southern State of India, Kerala can put many well developed countries to shame when it comes to women. Public places are saner and sanguine. Chennai Central Railway station, where I used to reserve my railway ticket and board the train, is possibly the best railway station in India. Everything seems to be working. From public telephone (which you will never find working in Delhi) to automated coin changer machine, everything was in order. You don’t have to leave 2 hours early as you do in Kolkata just to get to the railway station. I have never witnessed the traffic jam, though I have heard of it. Even in that damn hot whether, people are calm and polite.

The college where I used to study(or suppose to study) is located in Maduravoyal – a suburban of Chennai. Just near to it, it had Banyan a institutes which cares about mentally challenged people. Now every state have some mental institutes. Remarkable fact about it that it was started by two student who were just out of their teens. This is the age when girls seem to worry and discuss about boys. Now how many states can boast of  Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jaykumar. North had its golden time when it came to compassion. Nanak was born on these lands – he started a sect known as Sikhs. Now as my Grandma claimed that she had never seen a Sikh beggar or a Sikh thief. Could you locate a parallel in world? It would be impossible to find one if you add their hilarious Santa Banta jokes. This is not the only case, I have personally visited Madras Medical Mission when my room mate was having trouble breathing in Chennai. Beck in Delhi, I have seen a ex-Army officer in tears in asking if he could be the first one to get the money out of the ATM since his mother is in emergency and hospital-staff not attending her till money is paid in advance.

I am very fond of public libraries even though they are as rare as public toilets in India. I do not go there everyday but I always take them as the sign of good public intellectual health. Public library in Chennai -which I visited was on mount-road was well kept. I used to visit it after vising British Council Library. Now, we have great libraries in North also. But consider how the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is being ruined or what they have done with Bhandarkar Research Library in Pune. If marathi destroys their institute in their own names, Hindi will not shy away doing the same out of mental corruption. On more subtle level, I have never witnessed such a combination of Modernity and Traditions in north India. Tamil people, on one hand are proud of their longest surviving culture and languages, on the other, there are also the one who have produced some of the best technocrats and few Nobel Laureates as well. In addition, most of the great civil servant have always come from South.

Lets get to their media. My morning starts with The Hindu. In Mumbai we get one day older edition, I still wait eagerly for it. Monday is best morning when I get to read its Sunday Magazine. It is only newspaper in India which understands science. Its has written extensively on Indian culture, history and science. Political views of a newspaper can not be free of accusations, we’ll leave it part. Compare it’s content with big newspapers of North. Cultural shows of Chennai have always been very lively and vibrant. December of Chennai is famous for its classical dance and music shows.

The city is always at peace. Besides a small period of time when Hindi chauvinism was forced onto them. Why they have to use a young language called Hindi when they use one of the oldest one? Besides, they have been quite generous to the arrogant Hindi-wallahs. It was really the question of Hindi in 1900 which laid the idea of Pakistan in Muslim League after they went ruthlessly behind Urdu. They tried to did the same with others, but fortunately, we had balanced mind in cabinet.

Its not to say, we don’t see the dirty dance of inhumane nature over there. But the difference is huge. When I was in Delhi, I can tell you for sure that in a single day cases of road rages on the street of outer Delhi  simply surpasses all the cases in any southern state.

There are reasons for this difference. The main reason for their unbroken traditions is that they lived on the peaceful places. North India was always the one who faced the invaders and violence that ensued. So if there is a lot of mistrust among them, its just natural. South Indian have also seen foreigners, but no one can accuse them (say Moplas Muslim) of being invaders or conquerors. They have seen people form outside as traders and merchant.

Now the best chronicler of Modern India, Ram Guha has this to say “That the south of India is more advanced than the north is now part of the conventional wisdom. As it happens, I am just about old enough to recall a time when the terms ‘Madrasi’ and ‘South of the Vindhyas’ denoted derision and scorn. The typical North Indian regarded the typical South Indian as short, squat, black, effete—and vegetarian. But now, those once proud people are voting with their feet to move south. They come to write code in Bangalore’s software companies, to labour on construction sites in Hyderabad, to work in coffee plantations in Coorg, or to do odds and ends in Chennai’s film industry.” It was almost impossible to find a south Indian who is normal in pre-2000 north-Indian movies.

Now, the stereotype of the South Indian among Punjabis and Biharis is that he is intelligent, hardworking, entrepreneurial, and open-minded. And that he can very often be a she. And, most importantly, that if you study well and behave yourself, she or he can give you a job.

  
Multilingualism is a very thing of South. They seem to know at least two language. On the other hand, Hindi, Bangla, and Marathi people are notoriously offensive to any other language save English. They resisted Hindi when it was forced on them, but now learn it quite joyfully also. I have seen many children of these Bhashawallah who can not read and write their own mother tongue. Sathyam Cinemas, where I used to quench my thirst of Movies shows movies in five languages. I have heard that there is a movie theater in Bangalore which shows movies in six languages (This have got to be a world record!). In NCR, I could count only two. I have always believed, speaker of more than one language are inclusive within.

I will not claim that being better is in their genes. These people of four southern states are, on the whole, less bigoted and more forward-looking is a product of their environment. As Guha said, “Over hundreds of years, they have learnt to live with people speaking different tongues or professing a different faith. At the same time, they have also learnt to be less discriminatory among themselves. Women in the south are less likely to be manhandled in a bus or train; they are also more likely to practise law or medicine, or run a business. This too has something to do with history and geography. Women’s work is more crucial to (and hence more greatly valued in) rice as compared to wheat cultivation. Among some communities in south India, property was inherited through the female line. And, with no Rajputs or Mughals around as role models, there was little pressure to put women in purdah.”

But who knows which way one will evolve. If my grandmother have not seen any Sikh thief and beggar, I can safely claim that Akali Dal or Congress in Punjab has been as corrupt as governments are in U.P. or Maharashtra. If Guha finds that In this part of India, history and mythology do not demand of Hindu youths that they set off, trishul in hand, in search of Christian priests or Muslim rickshaw-pullers, we have seen rise of fascism in Karnataka. As a student of history I can say in the history of humanity there is no looser of winners. Greeks did not survive, neither did Harappa and Mayan despite of their colossal resources and capabilities. The successive government of Tamilnadu have been as corrupt as any, the violence in Andra practiced with various degree by Mining Mafia, Landlord and Keepers of Public Morality and Naxalites is as sever as we have seen in Mumbai, Gujrat or Orrissa. Who knows, may be one day, my grand-daughter will be blogging why Bihar is more prosperous and peaceful and Tamilnadu.


Dilawar

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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

3 thoughts on “The divide between North and South India”

  1. Mind blowing blog !!!

    I have been to various parts of India and, I do think what presented by the author is 90% right.

    Present:

    Half Indian metro cities are in south. 60% of gold deposits in India are in south. 80% of professional institutions are in south. 70% of NRI remittance are from south. Most of our scientific personalities are from south. Top 10 ranking in any Indian aspects comes the south states.

    History:

    Ashoka couldn’t over come south. Mugals couldn’t grab south. Kerala TN was joined to indian union later during british.
    Even today Hindi couldn’t over come South.

    North was always a place of foreign invadings and South a place of harmony. Foreigners came to South as merchants not as invaders.

    I love India as a whole, not as parts-lol

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