The Oriya Outsider
For the uninitiated…this is not a review of Camus novel by the same name. It is just an outsiders’ perspective on the ‘sons of the soil’, and here I mean the Oriyas. Having been born and brought up in the national capital I must confess I did not know much about Oriya species till my college when I discovered them. I must admit, not as spectacular as the discovery of America by Columbus, but nonetheless significant. It was more like alien life which I knew existed somewhere, out there, but had never encountered. Here, I would like to share my encounters with the Oriya kind and experiences I have had with them.
For me it was just one of the many Indian states whose capital was Bhubaneswar, situated in the south of West Bengal where people experienced extreme summers- the typical third standard general knowledge stuff. Being a true blue cricket freak I remember a decade back a bowler Debashish Mohanty had come to the Indian cricket team from Orissa and had left without making a mark (I consider myself lucky to have witnessed it, a once in a lifetime thing- as Oriyas are rarely into sports. Now a few are coming up though).
Orissa gets mentioned in the national news very rarely, more for accidents than for accomplishments. Like for the natural calamities cyclones, etc. which hit its coasts from time to time. Or for the famous mango kernels, which thanks to Orissa highlighted poverty in India worldwide (and got money for the impoverished Indian NGOs!) Recently Hindutva brigade has taken it upon themselves to make it famous all the way up to the Vatican. Orissa also suffers from lack of a news-making personality, for example- No Shah Rukh/ Rakhi Sawant/ Mallika Sherawat/ Lalu Yadav/ Raj Thackeray to boast of.
Now I know why it is so because these are generally seen as non-serious fields (sports/ show biz, etc.), and Oriyas are Serious people. The famous Joker line from the film “A Dark Knight”, “Why so Serious son??” seems to have been written with Oriyas in mind!! They just do not believe in wasting their time in ‘Pursuit of Lazyness’. The first impression about most, is that they are intelligent beings (mostly nerds!), very hard working souls and always very serious about studies. They have no time for fun as mostly all Oriyas are usually very busy trying to become Civil Servants, and they very seriously attempt it.
Not exactly known for their sartorial sense - Oriyas always wear formals (indicative of the Seriousness). Mostly full sleeved shirts buttoned till their throats in all seasons- summers/winters/spring/autumn. Even in present times, when most Delhi girls' seem to run ‘save clothes’ and ‘less is more’ campaigns, and Delhi guys move around in their low-waist (see how deep my crack is!) jeans, its nice to see Oriya men not showing any skin. They mostly wear serious, dark and sober colors showing partiality towards colors like yellows, greys, browns and blacks (on not exactly fair and lovely complexions).
Oriyas stand out not just because of their heights but for their pronunciations too. Always getting stuck with their ‘kaf’ and ‘qafs’, “ja” “za” and ‘khes’. (Murdering urdu based Bollywood songs). Not exactly known for their poetic or literary skills either. (No Amitav Ghosh/ Tagore). Many are serious movie and music buffs and insist on singing the Hindi film songs with wrong lyrics and pronunciations spoiling many songs in the process.
Most Oriyas are just simple and sweet people. Many simple hearted souls new to the city narrate the stories of how fast paced life of the city baffles them. Some boys fall in love with the girls of Delhi (Seriously, of course!). Some love stories are successful and some just end in serious heartbreaks for the poor souls. While the affairs are on, some brave ones flaunt their girlfriends around, and splurge on them, making their other state mates jealous who have not yet got the taste of the Real city life (i.e. girls). Oriyas are usually not seen as flirts or very good with girls as most are very shy. Most silent love stories start with an Oriya boy staring at a girl and usually end there too. With them still staring till she gets married to someone else. Oriyas are usually not known to be big splurgers of money; they spend sensibly so usually just avoid having the extra ‘kharcha’ of a girlfriend.
Oriyas are very kind hearted people, helping anyone in need. And, if it happens to be someone from the fair sex then kindness seriously flows. A trait not limited only to Oriyas but to men of all nationalities.
Oriyas have a strong sense of community. Those who are successful try to help other like minded serious state mates too in the city. A lot of them are in academics, having been serious students all their lives. Most are very good with technology too, and make good techies. They like living low-key lives. Going on with their daily routines and trying to preserve their culture in the changing world around them. They are seen as traditional people with values. Trying to be civil in a city not known for its civility.
As they stay away from homes most guys learn to cook and are great cooks. The impression has stuck, having enjoyed many meals cooked by the Oriyas.
I would like to apologize for the gender disparity here. Very few Oriya girls come to Delhi, though my interactions with them have been limited but few that I have come across, share the typical Oriya trait of seriousness. They are simple, shy and properly/fully clothed as well.
This account is based purely on personal experiences I have had with Oriyas. If I have hurt the feelings of friends or countrymen (i.e. Oriyas) it was not intended. I was not trying to offend the Oriya sensibilities, it was all written in good Humor (Another thing that Oriyas seriously lack. But, it is a very nice place with simple people one of whom I married, surprise surprise for his sense of humor!!