By Apoorv Shandilya:
“Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.”
I grew up in a very small town in Bihar, unaware of most of the presumptions people had about my state. The town I lived in didn’t have an airport and nor was the train station something to admire. I left the town when I was 12-years-old and started living in Patna, one of the bigger cities in the state. Amidst the hefty crowd and people swearing a lot, I grew up to be just fine, contrary to what many may believe.
Six months ago, I moved to Bangalore to study English Literature at Christ University. I do not have a weird accent when I speak, neither do my other friends who come from the same town. The new friends I made here have never discriminated against me, neither have I found myself being looked down upon. However, I feel many in our generation, much like the past ones, refuse to readily accept anyone they deemed to be inferior and didn’t act like it. The fundamental right of being treated as equals is no privilege for a certain class, which is why I don’t believe someone does a favour by being nice to another person.
I certainly don’t claim that modern cosmopolitan cities ruin one’s life nor do I have any anger against those who had the benefits I didn’t. My frustration comes from people who choose to focus on all our differences and not accept them. Everyone is born the same way, so how does accepting stereotypes make any sense?
Rabindranath Tagore in his essay ‘East and West’, presents us with the idea of him carrying the stereotypical identity of an Indian everywhere he goes. This is not to be confused with Tagore disrespecting our national identity but how he believed that it was he himself who builds his character, and not even the place where he belongs to. This not only helps people to identify with the city without being unnecessarily embarrassed due to certain negative tags that a city unduly holds, but also opens up rather introverted people to socialise without being disregarded.
I have come to accept Bangalore just as another city with its own perks and drawbacks. Here in Bangalore, I found the public transport oddly comfortable and a wider interaction with people from all over the world really enriching. Unlike Bihar, Bangalore doesn’t have an alcohol ban but that certainly doesn’t make me run towards it.
I have never found myself stuck in the past and refuse to be identified as a Bihari, not because I hate the state but because it was never just about a single state, but about my belief that our actions determine our associations. Not our hometowns or anybody else for that matter. Contrary to what I read in an article recently, I refuse to act a certain way, talk a certain way or behave a certain way just because my birthplace asks me to.
Almost all the instances that speak in a negative light of a state like Bihar are exceptions that can’t be taken as examples, nor can they justify the generalisation of people belonging to a particular community. I wonder how many of us actually know about Sharad Sagar. He is a young entrepreneur who launched a campaign to educate the underprivileged children and made a name for himself on his own and now holds a position in the Forbes top 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30. Why doesn’t he get half the attention as the Bollywood celebrity kids?
Stereotypes aren’t right. No matter what the reason is. Generalising one’s identity is just as stupid as throwing away all the apples when you find a single one which is rotting. They exist because we continue to remain in our past, reliving moments that are long gone. Even the moments do not justify generalising an entire set of people. Thus, restricting not just one’s thoughts but the sheer will of accepting people with difference. Cosmopolitanism has always been one of humankind’s greatest strength. Why don’t we embrace it? Let’s take a step forward for the future generations to come. So, no matter where you live, don’t let it restrict you or bound you. The next time someone asks you “Where are you from?” speak about it proudly, without ever compromising on your self-respect.