Dear Mathrubootham Sir,
I am deeply hurt. Let me not go around asking you how is Singapore, and how much kaya have you eaten so far. Whether you have taken the metro to the Botanical garden and bird park or whether you are only visiting in the Little India area and seeing more and more Indians and wondering why you ever thought of going to Singapore and not to Mars. I believe we still do not have Unnikrishnan Chai Kada there. Not yet.
Ok, so here I am, writing to you feeling very hurt. After waiting every Sunday, when I make alu paratha or appam for breakfast, listening to Rangoli, and waiting to read your section, first thing, every sunday. It is not very good anymore, this Rangoli, but we are all creatures of habit. And we live with hope that it will get better, like our country, someday.
How could you, dear Sir, call my land, my mathrubhoomi a rumour (though in Odia we do not have that ‘h’ and the ‘oo’, we say and write matrubhumi)? But I never made fun of your spelling or pronunciation. Pronunciation again, is another raw spot. For us Odias and our fellow neighbour Bengalis. As if all other states speak English as spoken by God. I mean if God spoke English. That topic has not come up yet in #SayItLikeRevolution).
You said once earlier as well. On January 18, in the New Year, you wrote about Sambalpur. And you mentioned Vicks Action 500. That was not nice. But I ignored it. I was overjoyed that you know there is a place called Sambalpur. And you had the spelling right. Not Sambhalpur.
But this time, I am very offended. And sad. That you would think of Orissa as a rumour on the map? (by the way, changing names, when there is so much more that needs to be changing, is what our politicians and political parties spend a lot of time on. Orissa is now Odisha. Does it make any difference? To anyone? No, but we the naïve and the gullible can argue for your entire train journey from Alleppey to Bokaro about how relevant the change from ‘r’ to‘d’ is! The country may go to hell, there may or may not be a school or hospital or toilet or rice from PDS, but we must say Odisha and not Orissa. You please make sense of all this during your holiday. You may get some bright bulb come out from inside your brain).
Rumour on map, Sir? What kind of an expression is that? Maps are maps and rumours are rumours. So and so’s daughter is dating so and so’s son, so and so is already married or divorced, are rumour worthy subjects Sir. Not a map. Why only last week, a big company selling everything online got a map incorrect. How is that possible? And anyway, the upper part of our matrubhumi and its lines are always inviting some controversy or other. May be you can write on that and put a stop to all rumours.
Sir, we are humble, Sir, we may not have a lot to show off. We are affectionate, simple and soft spoken. By and large. Our food does not have twenty two ingredients and spices, Sir. But you will like our chenna poda pitha, chakuli, guguni, pakhala, badi churra and alu-chatka. Since you have never written about any non-vegetarian food, I would not give you that list. I do not want you to have to take Vicks Action 500.
We are often told that we are laid-back. That we do not have aspiration for growth. Tell me Sir; is it a crime to be content with less? Is it a crime to nap in the afternoon? You must have heard that story of a man sleeping under a tree when a gentleman, Mr. Shatrubootham, comes and asks him why he is not working? He says he has finished work for the day. Mr. Shatrubootham advises, if he worked some more, earned some more, bought some more things, would he not be happier? To which, our sleepy man replies “what do you think I am now?”
You live in Madras, no Sir? Sorry, Chennai. When next time you are having dinner invitation from Dr. Shankaramenon and Masterchef Gummidipoondi, please ask if you can meet the cook. You will realise, that many of the cooks in Chennai are fellow Odias, Sir. They may not have studied a lot, but they will put a stop to all rumours of where Orissa is on the map Sir. And if you are travelling to Bangalore Sir, and you are at Majestic bus stop, you will recognise our language. You will wonder whether you are in Bangalore or Sambalpur or Bhubaneswar. And if you are staying with a relative in Bangalore, ask the security guards of the housing complex. You will find Odias there as well.
We don’t have many jobs. So the young people leave reluctantly. If only we are recognised for our love for the forests, for the woven wonders, for the crafts, for being the caretakers of a land that changed the violent king Ashoka, we would not be a rumour, Sir.
I still wish you good time in Singapore.
A humble Odia, living away from Odisha.