Are You a Bhaiya from U.P.? Stereotyping and Stories of My Life
I am from Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh. I am narrow-minded or a wannabe. I curse all the time. I wear garish clothes. I am clueless about the ‘modern world’. I am a driver or a watchman or a laborer. I speak some weird dialect. I listen to bhojpuri songs. I can’t speak English. I am either a criminal or crimes happen around me all the time. Even the richest person in my city has a very old-fashioned house. There is a good chance that I am poor.
Did you believe all that or did it seem funny to you? Either way, you are living in a world created by TV shows like Krishna Chali London, films like Dabangg and You Tube. Remember Marlin, the clownfish in Finding Nemo? He wasn’t actually funny but a victim of cliches which are rarely true. Same is the case with the people of UP and Bihar.
If someone has to make a movie about crime, more often than not, it will be set in UP or Bihar. These two states are synonymous with crime and backwardness. If you want to show an autowallah or a watchman, that person has to speak in Bihari accent. Being called ‘Bhaiya’ is a gaali even though the word means brother just like Anna or Bhau.
The Not So Wonderful Stories of UP/Bihar People-
When everyone speaks in different accents, lives different kinds of lifestyles then why stereotype? When my sister-in-law came to study in Jaipur from a small town in UP, her classmates asked her to sing bhojpuri songs. Initially, a lot of them were skeptical of that petite girl. After a few days, they said, “Oh, you are just like us.” Well, no she was a hardcore criminal out to kill.
Many people say to me- “You are quite polished and don’t seem to be from UP.” Similarly, my husband is mild-natured so people say to him- “Are you really from UP?” I have heard people say, “ UP/Bihar waale chaalak hote hain.” or “UP waale are very orthodox.”
Stereotyping in Media
A couple of months back, I saw a stand-up on You Tube. It was by a Christian girl who started by telling her name and mentioned that she was not from Kerala. In fact, she was from Lucknow and I thought that she was going to break some stereotypes with humour. What followed was a storm of all kinds of stereotypes about UP ke bhaiyas. The audience was laughing because they had already heard such things and her words acted like affirmations. She probably did that to get laughs even though she knew that it wasn’t true or even if some of it was, why insult everything? The act was disgusting to say the least.
You might remember the recent Kingfisher Radler ad where a ‘modern’ girl and her friends are counting ‘likes’ on her picture while an ‘old-fashioned’ looking, bespectacled, clueless guy asks in Bihari accent- “Kaun Mara Hundred?”
These are just a few examples of how many of us not only stereotype people who are different from us but also put them down. All of us do it consciously or subconsciously. It’s not just the media but also the people around us. We all have grown up seeing such things and hence we believe them to be true.
My Not So Stereotypical Life in Kanpur
Now, let me tell you a little about my life in Kanpur- I was born in a middle-class family and my father works for Reserve Bank of India. My mother is a well-educated woman from Jaipur. I studied in a Hindi medium school not because there weren’t any English Medium schools (Kanpur in fact is a hub of some top convents) but because my parents couldn’t afford them then (we weren’t poor) and more importantly there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on medium of education back then. My schools were good and I had some really amazing teachers.
Kanpur might not be Delhi or Mumbai but it’s not the city you see in Dabangg either. We don’t carry guns and shoot people as we please. We don’t use gaaliyan whole day and to be honest, I have seen people all over India cursing as and when they please.
Say No to Stereotyping
There are good and bad people everywhere you go. There is crowd and crime everywhere you go. There are modern and old-fashioned people everywhere you go. So, stop making assumptions about the things you don’t know.
If you really want to see and show reality, go to those places, meet all kinds of people and not just the ones who fit your notions. Live in a place to understand the true side rather than just perpetuating the assumptions you have always seen.
Now I live in Jaipur and it has become my favourite place. I shared the reasons in this Instagram post and none of them are there to denigrate Kanpur. When I tell someone about my birthplace, I still get to here some hackneyed remark about UP. Here, I have addressed one very small issue of stereotyping and it’s like a drop in the sea. There are way too many to be addressed in a single article.
Tell me the worst stereotype you have heard about your region or your belief system.