Sunday, October 6, 2013

Telangana Ki Daaredi

Kartik Dayanand - Telangana Ki Daaredi - Mind u Read

If you know the language or follow Telugu films, you obviously know the inspiration behind the title of this post. For those who wonder what it means...this title is based on the recent blockbuster Telugu film Attarintiki Daaredi (which way to my in law’s house?) starring Pawan Kalyan. I have used the same format, replacing the word ’Attarintiki’ (in law’s house) with ’Telangana’ - the new state proposed to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh (AP).

But Telugu is a tricky language, the word Daaredi in the context of my blog could give the title two different meanings...

Which way to Telangana?
Is there a way out for Telangana?

Similarly, the questions surrounding and supporting the creation of Telangana are quite tricky. They sound logical when viewed from one side and extremely illogical from another angle. Most people I know are oscillating between both the angles or are plainly indifferent. To be honest, I was indifferent too, but the more I think about the reasons why Telangana is being created, the more bizarre they seem to me. Through this blog post I would like to highlight some of those points.

I was warned in advance that this is a sensitive topic and I should tread carefully, especially where it concerns Hyderabad. I see no reason why I shouldn't speak my mind, that too when I come from that region. If you want to counter my views you are most welcome to leave your comments below so that everyone can see your side of the story too. Here goes my version...

Why Telangana?

These are the most common reasons attributed to creation of Telangana by the media, politicians as well as the common man on the street.

1. Economics

Andhra people are looting Telangana

If the above statement is true, then I wonder what most students-engineers from AP are doing in USA. Are they looting USA or contributing to their economy? I wonder how one can loot a region by seeking employment there.

Let me paraphrase the same question:

Andhra politicians are looting Telangana

Sounds more like a case of sour grapes. Tell me which state has politicians that don't loot their people. Only difference here - the loot is being diverted to another region. It sounds more like a case of two robbers fighting over who gets the bigger share. Maybe this is a real issue, but not for the common man.

One more way to pose the same question:

Andhra entrepreneurs are looting Telangana

If that holds true, then blame Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin too for opening Microsoft, Facebook and Google offices in Hyderabad. Same question holds true for every MNC in operation today. How does one loot a region by creating employment there? I have no clue.

2. Culture

Andhra people have destroyed-suppressed Telangana culture

The key things that define the culture of a place are clothes, food, music, literature, architecture and above all cinema.

To be honest, it pains me a lot every time I see remnants of the bygone era vanish into thin air. Be it an Irani cafe being replaced by a Coffee Day or a single screen theatre that makes way for a mall cum multiplex, or the neighbourhood kirana shop being replaced by a Big Bazaar outlet. Even the roadside mirchi bandi guy near my place has been replaced by another roadside Chinese food stall.

Culture today as we know it is an assimilation of various influences, thanks to wide availability of choices right from choice of food to choice of TV channels, etc. It is unfair to say that one culture has suppressed another, if at all the blame has to be placed the guilty parties are many, why single out Andhra region, you would be better off blaming liberalisation. Also this isn't an issue that is unique to Telangana region alone.

I somehow can't avoid bringing in USA every time I talk about AP. Just consider who they crowned as Miss America recently. It is an Indian origin Telugu girl - Nina Davuluri. Her family migrated to USA in early 80's, hardly 30 years ago, yet she is considered American enough to be crowned Miss America. When America can be such an inclusive society I wonder why Telangana has an issue with Andhra settlers, most of whom moved there in the 50's, almost 60 years ago. They are now as much a part and parcel of the culture of Telangana as anyone else is.

There is also talk of Telangana people being ridiculed by the Telugu film industry. This reminds me of Sardars and black people being made fun of in Bollywood and Hollywood respectively. Yet, that does not stop those communities from producing achievers and world leaders. Mixing entertainment with politics is a concoction that wouldn't solve any real world problems.

With respect to other stories about Telangana culture being neglected. The age of the Internet and social networking especially makes that claim redundant. No one can stop anyone these days from saying or doing the things one wants to. We don't live in a zamindari feudal system anymore. That belongs to our grandfather’s and their grandfather’s generation. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Grandfather’s Dream

I asked a few youngsters why they are supporting the cause for a separate Telangana state and the most often heard reason is this - it was my grandfather’s dream.

Let me tell you something - my grandfather might have thought so too at one point of time. I recently read his autobiography which he wrote in 1993 a few years before he passed away in 1997. He grew up and studied in Vishakhapatnam under the Madras Presidency and then worked at Nalgonda, Warangal and then Hyderabad under the Nizams. He then went to the UK and came back as the first Neuro Surgeon of what then became the state of Andhra Pradesh. In his book ’No Ugly Scars - An Autobiography of a Surgeon’ he very clearly states that the best among the three administrations was that of the Hyderabad state under the Nizams. The state flourished under them and was open to new ideas.

That was ages ago. I wonder what he would say if he were still alive today. In his book he also gives out in great detail some episodes from the Telangana agitation in 1969 when he was the Principal of Osmania Medical College. People back then had a good reason to fight for a separate state. Why go so far, just rewind back to 1993, the year I got into Architecture college at JNTU in Hyderabad.

Rewind to 1993

Back then, there were only two colleges in the whole of AP where one could study Architecture. There were 60 seats at School of Planning and Architecture-JNTU in Hyderabad and another 20 at Andhra University in Vizag. Out of the 60 at JNTU the seats were further divided into quotas for people from Telangana, Andhra and Rayalseema regions. If I recollect correctly, there were more seats reserved for Andhra region compared to Telangana. Add to that the regular quotas for caste based reservations. So if one was a regular candidate from Hyderabad appearing for the Architecture entrance exam, he or she had to be in the top 25 ranks out of the thousands that applied for the course.

I secured 26th rank. Had to wait painfully till the third round of counselling and return empty handed. I got the admission few months after the course started, only because someone had quit the course after joining it initially. There were other candidates from places like Vijayawada, Guntur, Ananthapur who secured ranks above 100 but still got admission in the first round because the Andhra and Rayalaseema quotas were not filled yet. If you would have asked me back then if I was at a disadvantage because I came from Telangana region, I would have definitely said yes. Would I want a separate state, I would have said yes again.

Would I say the same thing today? 


Here is why...

By the time I finished college in 1998, there were a few private Architecture colleges that cropped up. A few years after that I even heard that there were so many seats available that even JNTU was begging students to join their course. How quickly things changed. Reminded me of how landline phones which were once a status symbol suddenly became obsolete in the face of the mobile phone revolution. Times changed, people changed, perceptions changed, fortunes changed, our landscapes changed, nothing remained the same anymore.

We are now in 2013. Most of us don't dream of government jobs as our only means of employment anymore and it is the private sector that is driving the economy. Things weren't the same in the 60s during my grandfather’s time. All they had to depend on were government jobs and it was justified that people were struggling for a separate state. It now seems irrelevant and outdated as a concept, because the playground is much bigger now and the goal posts have moved since our grandfather’s times.

Giving due respect to our grandfather’s dreams, it would serve us best if we had new dreams instead, to fix issues that are more in tune with current times.

Now consider this:

Assume everything I say above is flawed. There is absolutely no logic in anything that I say. Assume all the issues stated above are real and endanger the well being of people from Telangana region.

What is solution being suggested as a way out? Separation!

What baffles my mind is, what one could not achieve by living together for decades, how does one plan to achieve by separating.

Telangana movement is a case of expecting a wrong to be fixed by another wrong.
As the saying goes...Two wrongs don't make a right.

Be it the sharing of natural resources or manpower distribution, all I can foresee is anarchy. For Telangana and Andhra are not two separate entities anymore, they have become one over a long period of time.

When an Attarintiki Daaredi released, it is the eyeballs of people from both regions that made it such a huge success. How can one eye be better than the other? Drawing lines between them according to me is a great crime. That is why I use the line ’Telangana Ki Daaredi’ as the title for my post, for I really don't know the way to Telangana today, I don't recognise it anymore and neither do I see a way out of this mess for Telangana.

Ideally I could end my post here but I will add a wee bit more info for you to dwell upon. This might probably explain why passions run so high today and how this whole situation got created in the first place. This has got something to do with eyeballs again...

Blue eyes and Brown eyes!

In 1968 an American school teacher Jane Elliot conducted a racism exercise on her class of 3rd graders. She separated her class of cheerful kids into two categories - those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. On the first day she announced that blue eyed kids were superior in intelligence compared to brown eyed kids. Hence they were given special privileges over the brown eyed kids. Within minutes the blue eyed kids started acting superior and aggressive while the brown eyed kids started feeling inferior and went into a shell. On the third day she reversed the tables and announced that she made a mistake and said brown eyed kids were better than blue eyed kids. The brown eyed kids who were low until then started feeling superior and the blue eyed kids were down. She finally revealed the truth that none was superior over the other much to the cheers and relief of all the kids. You can watch the entire video here....

What this documentary shows us is the startling nature of humans. Once someone points out that one is superior or inferior to others, our behaviour changes. 

Something similar is happening right now in AP. Instead of a class teacher we have politicians manipulating public perceptions and leading them to believe that they are the oppressed ones. Left alone, this Telangana agitation would have died a silent death if not for the vested interests of a few political parties and individuals.

The people, what can they do, they are as gullible as the kids in that classroom from 1968. Sadly, this isn't an experiment inside a classroom but an agitation that only seems to get worse with time. Hope good sense prevails and an amicable solution is arrived at soon. Least I could do on my part was to write this post. Rest, I will leave to you and your good senses.

Cheers and prayers!!!

Kartik Dayanand Boddapati

This post also appeared on 'The Times Of India' website - Click here

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