“Oh you are a Maharashtrian, but you speak good English.” The worst ever pick-up line I encountered (Which sounded more like a ‘throw-down’ line to me). This was after I immigrated to Bombay for educational purposes. Clearly, I would not feel great about the ‘You speak good English’ part; rather, this would evoke empathetic (I’m against the word sympathy) and rebellious instincts in me. My rebellious nature led me to agree and defend Maharashtrians, whereas my empathetic approach allowed me to dig into its whereabouts.
Mumbai as it is called “The City of Dreams”, has made a welcoming space for her immigrants in her womb. It is to no wonder that an outsider soon considers oneself a ‘Mumbaikar’ in a couple of months. Nonetheless, this Maharashtrian city has as many Marathis as the Punjabis, the Bengalis, the Tamils, the Mallus, and so on and so forth. Now the argument is not about them occupying the limited space in the city or about curtailing the employment opportunities in Mumbai; it’s about exerting their superiority by discarding the significance of the Marathis. Very conveniently, the non-Marathi residents of Mumbai boast “Amchi Mumbai” but ask about them embracing the Marathi tradition wholeheartedly and they will shrink!
The other day I was commuting in a Borivali train when I overheard two teenagers mutter, “Oh God, these Ghati Marathis; don’t know anything but to push and be pokey. And don’t ask how loud and irritating they are. Uff!” I was enraged and little did the boys know that they had intimidated me for an anger fallout. However, I chose to be a mute spectator and put my headphones on. For some reason, I recalled my parents say, “Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden.” In this case though, it was definitely not working. The Gold had lost its shine and Silence meant degrading your own standards.
Coming on to movies and ‘APNA Bollywood’. Arguably, movies represent the masses the most effectively. Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions, Rajshree productions and their subsequent others are in the business of “endorsing” their ethnicity, time and again. We like watching Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham for the big mansion, the rich lifestyle, timeless prosperity and the “Raichand” factor. But has it ever struck your mind that such ‘enviable’ lifestyles are never portrayed to be of the Marathis’? Everybody is so equipped in dancing to the tunes of Nagada and Lungi dance but nobody seems to like Navrai Majhi.
Ofcourse one’s likes and dislikes are personal choices, however people (sadly even the Marathis themselves) tend to take the Marathi art for granted. The ‘Marathi Manoos’ is picturized as the simple, helpless, poor character lacking any say in anything. Simplicity is desirable but not when the person at its receiving end is being taken advantage of. Bollywood celebrated 100 years of Indian Cinema last year. Four renowned filmmakers (Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap) emerged with a four-fold art film titled “” as a tribute. The very second story by Dibakar Banerjee shows a lower-middle class Marathi family living in a chawl, surviving a meager income. It is certainly offensive that only in this story the protagonist is shown wiping the floors whereas the other three stories convey well-to-do social and economic characteristics of the protagonists. Rich, fair, polished, good-looking, English-speaking… nyah, cannot be the Marathis! This has become an unwritten norm of the film industry and otherwise (Sarcasm intended).
We owe much to the mastermind behind ‘Mi Shivaji Raje Bhosle Boltoy’ for regenerating in us the faded spirit of “Marathihood.” That movie truly touched the sentiments of many Maharashtrians who are constantly looked down upon by the society at large. If Sachin Tendulkar, Madhuri Dixit, Dnyaneshwar Mule, Medha Patkar, Lata Mangeshkar (and the list goes on) can be such living legends, why is the Marathi talent and persona still underestimated? Are we not doing enough good to set the bars of our standards high or are the “Non-Marathis” just too adamant and snobbish in their approach? Evidently, I reckon the possibility of the latter more grave.
Talking about ShivSena and the” Bhagava” rang, I have faced “Tum log kya, Thackeray ke chamche!” whenever I have tried to defend the Marathi voice. Living in our territory, using our resources, how can we take this mockery? People say Maharashtrians are too lazy to expand and develop. I say, they are steady and ethical. Check the crime rate all over India and it has been recorded the least in the southern parts, Maharashtra included. Here, no individual dies of hunger strike. A non-Marathi acquaintance of mine very candidly said, “Our Kaamwali Bai is of your ethnicity.” If you go up North, the servants will be Punjabis and not Marathis, isn’t it? So that statement made no sense perhaps. Everybody is just ‘socially conditioned’ to criticize the Marathis be it socially, economically, politically, academically or psychologically. Think for yourself and you’ll somewhere connect with my sentiments. I hope you do. Be a Proud Marathi! Don’t fancy North-Indian surnames for their “coolness” or the South-Indians’ nepotism. Unleash the Marathi potential. Pradhans, Dharmadhikaris, Chavans, Desais can be equally “cool” and royal if you believe so. Jai Maharashtra!
– Vedika Sanjay Ghotane
(Privileged to read, write, and think critically all because of the” Marathi” duo Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule- the pioneers of women’s education in India).