Sunday, 22 December 2013

Yenna Rascala From A UP Waala Bhaiya--What We Really Need To Know About Stereotypes!

Choti Mata’s Note: Stereotypes suck donkey balls. But the whole idea of sucking donkey balls—so long as it is someone or something else that is doing it—is funny. In a disgusting, disturbing sort of a way. But it is. Which is kind of the point of this post. And there is a moral too…if you last long enough!

Yenna Rascala!

SRK is a genius. He does nothing in half measures. Including acting. Lesser enlightened mortals mistake it for over-acting. Alas, poor souls! What do they know?

SRK’s pervading awesomeness is, however, not the point of this post. He is here because, well, he is SRK. And because a stroke of his genius offers the most apt starting point to this post.

SRK is a genius. He does nothing is half measures. And so, when he resorted to a stereotype, it inevitably turned out to be the most perfect stereotype in the history of stereotypes. Which means that it summarized every single thing that is wrong with every single stereotype in the World. Factually wrong. Mostly a lie—or a truth exaggerated beyond recognition and fit to qualify as a blatant lie. Excuse for lame humor, lamer judgments. Recognizably wrong. Still resorted to by everyone who can afford to—meaning everyone minus the section that is being stereotyped. In this case South Indians (not just Madrassis mind you!) who obviously did not see the joke.

See, I told you, SRK is a genius.

For anyone looking for an in-depth understanding of the Yenna Rascala phenomena, I direct you to this absolutely brilliant piece on Heartranjan’s blog that summarizes all that is wrong with every single South Indian stereotype.

But South Indians are hardly the only ones in the league of extraordinary stereotypes. They are of course most vocal in their protests. Protests that do not shy away from employing the exact same stereotype fuelled bigotry that they are purportedly protesting against, only in reverse. Case in point is this now iconic open letter by Madrassan to a Delhi Boy which had multiple knickers in proverbial twist. After all, the stereotype of a cleavage baring, man-boob flaunting, SUV wielding, forever lecherous, loud mouthed, abusive Delhi boy with questionable educational background (Alternatively, direct your attention to Yo Yo Honey Singh’s latest ‘musical’ outing. Although I am very sure that this exercise is counterproductive to the point I am trying to make here) is about as true as noodle with curd eating Madrassi immortalized by SRK.

Well, slightly more true. But not entirely true. And that is the whole point. There is a reason why kettle does not have the locus to call the teapot black. That they continue to do so is a different story…and is the reason why this post has to exist in the wilderness of the blogosphere.

Stereotypes are all pervading. Everyone, I repeat, everyone at some point of time or other resorts to them. By extension, everyone is subjected to them. Being a Bengali, for instance, has to entail that you are a fish eating maniac whose life revolves around the letter ‘O’. Being a Sardar means Bhangra is the only thing you care for in life. That and butter chicken. Being a Gujarati means you will tie your purse strings tighter than your underwear strings—which in turn implies that you wear an underwear with strings. And of course, you would break into Garba everytime something remotely remarkable happens in vicinity.

My personal favorite, however, is the one about us UPites. We all are Bhaiyas, completely discounting the fact that over one third of the population of this state is female. Actually, the range for us is pretty extensive—talking in a sing-song, being generously lecherous, paan chewing, angocha (desi towel cloth, if you don’t know) wielding pre-dominantly Bhojpuri dude. That Bhojpuri is a language shared between UP and Bihar does not seem to matter. That less than one fourth of the population of UP actually has anything to do with Bhojpuri is irrelevant. That UP and Bihar are two different states with significant cultural difference, however subtle, and not conjoint twins that they are made out to be, is obviously pointless.

Forget UP and Bihar, East UP and West UP have such a vast difference in terms of cultural calibrations; they can as well be two completely different states. But then, it would be over-expectation and a tad bit nit picky. Especially for a general understanding that refuses to recognize the massive distinction that mark various territories down South. They are all Madrassis. Period.

Illustrations are countless and stereotypes based on regions, are the tip of the tip of the iceberg. And that was not a typo.

Stereotypes exist because we are different. And since this is a fact that is not going to change, stereotypes too are here to stay. Not just because majority of us are petty, judgmental, knuckleheads—but also because that is how we cope—with the mind boggling variety that characterizes human species. Stereotypes are our attempt to rationalize the differences. Not in a completely healthy way. But it is. Which is the reason why it is not a phenomenon that is going to die anytime soon.

Protesting against stereotypes is fine. Losing sleep…or self esteem over it, not so much. Recognizing that we all do it helps. The enormity of how wrong it is seems to strike us only when we are at the receiving end of it. Recognizing this helps too.

But what helps the most is to be able to laugh. At your own expense, not just others. The first part needs conscious effort, the latter already pretty good at. And all those looking for a lesson in laughing at themselves, should turn to the inimitable Sidin Vadukut  who teaches us how it is done, in style.

Like everything in life that cannot be cured—stereotypes too need to be endured, with humor of course. In any case, if you can’t win them, laugh with them. Or at them. Whatever works. It is a masterstroke that changes the dynamics. And it is essential. In riotous times that we live in, there is enough intolerance around to wipe a couple of generations off the face of this earth. The least we can do is not add to it. And the least here is pretty simple—not take stereotypes seriously, irrespective of which end of it you are situated.

The conclusive moral of this post however lies in a true story of my neighborhood back in Lucknow. A Bengali neighbor once jabbed a finger in general vicinity and proclaimed—tum UP waala, sab saala chor—uttered with adorable guts considering that this guy had spent his entire life in Lucknow and had visited his beloved Kolkata about one and half times in his entire life time. The neighborhood laughed, clucked and laughed some more. Two days later, his vintage scooter went missing from his courtyard.

Stereotypes, sometimes, are self fulfilling prophecies. I hope you will remember that.

Yenna Rascala! Mind It!

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