My mother gave birth in the last week of December at her brother’s house in Durgapur (east coast, Bengal province surrounded by the Bay of Bengal). Within two weeks baby was bundled off to snow ridden Northern highlands of Kathmandu, as the father was posted there then. They had to feed it milk laced with brandy to cope with the extreme weather. After a whole year in the lap of the Himalayas, baby was moved to the tropical Eastern rain-fed NEFA, (presently the state of Arunachal Pradesh) and spent the formative years in Assam, Tripura, Manipur etc where it is as humid as it is wet. It either drips constantly or it swelters.
When I sprouted wings I flew down South, spent time in the west coast skirting Goa, and in the hills in the Kodaikanal region in the state of Tamil Nadu. Later moved North to Delhi, lived and worked there till the tectonics in life drew me due West. From Pune in Maharashtra I reached Rajkot in Saurashtra and moved on up to Ahemdabad, the deemed mega city of Gujarat state.
By age thirty eight I had traversed the entire trajectory described in the national anthem of my country: Gujarata-Maratha-Dravida-Utkala-Banga-Vindhya-Himachala-Yamuna-Ganga. Well almost, Punjab and Sindh being the only two regions left out of the list.
Yet I still can’t get over it – the fact that we are so diverse! I speak five languages including Hindi and English, yet I feel lost! I still don’t know what to expect a lot of times and get lots of pleasant and unpleasant surprises everytime I change course. And sometimes within my own country I have uneasy feelings of being in alien terrirtory. Of not knowing the place at all.
East (West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand,Assam etc)- West(Maharashtra Gujarat) Differences
FOOD – VEG/NON VEG
**In the West, in Gujarat, with a sizeable Jain population, especially in Rajkot, you can’t buy eggs in any supermarket or grocery store within city limits!! Eggs are sold by gypsies near the city limits or odd places besides highways, in ladis, a little wooden cart on two wheels.
It is like other Indians are not expected to shop or live here.
** For fish or meat you have to go to the saddar bazar which is twelve kilometers from Indira Chowk, which is like main city.
THE MAIN COURSE
**The West, (Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra) and the North (Punjab etc) combine roti-chawal in the same meal for the main course.
**In the East and the South, rice and rotli it is either/or. Roti or paratha is never a major meal.Rice is the staple food.
**In the West, in Maharashtra, they rarely combine potato with other vegetables. Batata is a stand alone dish.
**In the East potato is an essential ingredient in nearly all vegetable dishes except for pulses and seeds.
**In the West in Pune you have to travel kilometers to get a decent sweet shop (like from Vishrantwadi or Yerwada to MG Road). In Gujarat the situation is better. 🙂
** In the East Sweet shops are abundant in every nukkad, street corner.
**Only Bengalis seem to eat sweetened dahi/yoghurt (Mishti Doi). In the West, in Gujarat it is Srikhand, kind of similar but not the same.
** In the West Laddoo is the most common sweet! Puran Pulis next. While people know of rashogollas, kalakands, sandesh, kancha golla, lady kenny, kalojaam, chitrakoot, nikhuti, amriti, chhanar payesh, rashomalai, khirkadamb some of the everyday stuff in the East, is unheard of here. Like they haven’t heard of Puran Pulis or Bakharwadi in the east. 🙂
**In the East a typical meal in average hosehold would include a green leafy vegetables (saag) as starter, never a major dish. It would be followed by pulses(daal), other vegetable/sprouts curried (Lady’s finger, radish, eggplant, cauliflower or cabbage etc), and end with fish, meat or eggs. In summer and winter most homes would also serve chutney. No achhar or pickle!!
**In the East people generally never serve or eat leafy vegetables after sundown.
LANGUAGE – PUBLIC SIGNS/BUS NUMBERS
**In the East public signs are in English. In the North (Punjab, Himachal, Delhi) it is in Hindi. In the South the routes are in state language (Tamil, Malayalam, Kannad, Telugu) but numbers would be in English.
**In the West bus numbers, street signs, sign boards are in local language (Gujarati/Marathi). You may end up standing there at the bus stop, while your bus passes you by, because you could not read the route or the number!
**In the West bus conductors would actually insult you if you ask for fare or directions in Hindi and spit out at you, “E Marathi ma bolo, yeh Delhi nako” (Hey speak in Marathi, this isn’t Delhi).
** In Chennai (Tamil Nadu), down South of India, auto drivers refuse to reply politely or answer properly if you speak to them in Hindi. English is fine!
CLOTHES – COTTON
**Although the West is the cotton hub of the country, they produce the finest, and despite the hot climate here, the masses are seen to wear synthetic.
** In the East cotton is commonly worn by the masses.