Author – Harika Bantupalli
Exactly a year ago, I remember the city of Hyderabad all adorned in Pink. It was the Telangana Formation Day and the ruling party wanted no stones unturned in making it the most spectacular event the city, or for that matter, the state had ever seen. Ever since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh took place, things have changed drastically for both the states.
Being born in Coastal Andhra and brought up in Telangana region, I am now latched to both the states in equally important ways. After a year of separation, I still feel uncomfortable answering to people who ask me if I was an Andhrite or Telanganite, because I can’t choose between the two of them. When I visit my native place in Andhra, I am considered a Telanganite because of my habits, while back home in Hyderabad, they consider me a blood-sucking parasite from Andhra. Does it really matter where I belong? Is state culture and division way beyond humanity?
It is a fact one can’t ignore that Telangana and Andhra, or for that matter, even Rayalaseema are diverse regions with one common thing binding them – Telugu. This language is said to be a derivative of the word ‘Trilinga’ as in ‘Trilinga Desham’, a place of three lingas, one in each region. But the language spoken has its own style, slang and dialect in each of these places, which turned into a major point for segregation even when it was the similarity that united them earlier.
The differences in Telugu language added to the cultural contrast of these regions like fuel to the fire. Especially, the peculiar culture of Telangana influenced by the Nizam’s rule in Hyderabad distinguished it from the other two. What actually started off as a peasant revolt turned into a clash of cultures, resulting in the separation of the state from Andhra Pradesh after a lengthy struggle.
In many ways, Telangana is not anything like Andhra Pradesh. The Telangana dialect is often considered too brash and primitive. Further, some words in the dialect are considered offensive by Andhrites. It happened with me a number of times when I was refrained from using certain words in my village. My mom used to give me a list of words I commonly use that must be replaced with something else, or better yet, don’t even speak those words at all!
The festivals and traditions of Telangana are also unlike the others. The state is well known for Bathukamma, a spring floral festival celebrated during Durga Navratri where women dance around decorated flowers, which represent Maha Gauri. Telangana is also famous for Bonalu, a festival dedicated to Goddess Kali and her local incarnations. The devotees offer meals to the deity while few men dressed up as Pothuraju hit themselves dancing to the beats of drums. The patterns of the festivals celebrated here show the region’s devotion to Shakti – the ultimate power, whereas the festivals in Andhra Pradesh mostly focus on natural occurrences like harvest or new eras.
In addition to the linguistic differences, varied traditions and cultures, food habits and the festivals, even the cinematic world divide the regions. The Telugu movie industry is dominated by Andhra Pradesh and people of Telangana are often belittled and ridiculed in most of the films. The bifurcation of the state also changed these derogatory practices to an extent.
The reasons for these drastic differences are the cultural, social and economic backgrounds as well as the historical influences on the places over the years. In short, one may say these two states are like brothers brought up in different conditions, who grew up to resent each other gradually due to the differences imbibed by those circumstances. However, at the end of the day, they are tied up with a bond called family, whether they accept it or not.
I am Andhrite by birth and Telanganite by life. Growing up as latter taught me to be tough, while the former showed me the virtue of patience. I speak my Telugu in a Telangana accent and I am not ashamed of it and at the same time, I write in the other kind of Telugu. My family might not celebrate Bathukamma or Bonalu, but I remember making those floral arrangements and dancing around them with a happy face. We had Telangana neighbours for 18 years and I have never had a tiff with them, because we didn’t see any difference among us.
When the Telangana agitation heated up and the bifurcation happened, gradually hostility developed between the people. They wanted us to identify ourselves as one among them. It didn’t matter before but suddenly it did. I couldn’t barely understand why. I wished they were together and work out somehow. But I never made a choice between Telangana and Andhra.
Image Courtasy – deccanchronicle.com