Years ago, I had a conversation with Yazad Jal
about who could call himself a Maharashtrian. A Maharashtrian, I said, is someone who speaks Marathi. A Maharashtrian is someone who knows how to pronounce पूरण पोळी properly. A Maharashtrian is someone who thinks Shrikhand is haute
cuisine. No doubt this rankled Yazad, who is presumably a Mumbaikar born and bred (we shall not discuss, for reasons of decency, the heretical notion that Mumbai should not be a part of Maharashtra).
Although I now realise I was wrong then, it seems many people share this misapprehension. Ajit Pawar, for one
ASSERTING that the next Lok Sabha MP from Pune would be a 'Maharashtrian', the district guardian minister Ajit Pawar on Saturday said that it is time for the present Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi to shift to Rajya Sabha
Now Suresh Kalmadi, being as he is a cad and a bounder, was born and brought up in Pune. His family owns half of the city. He even went to St. Vincent's School (proving, if any proof was needed that Vincentians are never under any circumstances to be trusted). He might be a shady bugger, but Suresh Kalmadi is as Maharashtrian as they come.
Raj Thackeray, that champion of the Marathi Manoos
, seems to think on similar lines
. In this interview, he speaks of Ratan Tata as a non-Maharashtrian who has contributed much to the state. Now this is highly irregular. Ratan Tata, as far as I know, was born and brought up in Mumbai. He has lived there most of his adult life. It could be said, without exaggerating, that Ratan Tata is more Maharashtrian than Raj Thackeray. Ratan Tata's family has been in Mumbai longer that Raj T's has. Ratan Tata's grandfather,
unlike Raj Thackeray's
, actually went to college in Maharashtra. If Ratan Tata is not Maharashtrian, I'd like to know who is.
The problem here, then, is that all these people are confusing "Maharashtrian" for "Marathi". The problem is, ever since the peasant/warrior caste in Maharashtra appropriated the word "Maratha" for themselves, Marathi-speakers have lacked an acceptable ethnonym
. We may call ourselves the Marathi people, but that just doesn't cut it, somehow. So people started using the word "Maharashtrian" as an ethnonym to describe Marathi speakers and followers of the Marathi way of life (in other words, the Chosen People). But this is imprecise. Some people are Marathi but not Maharashtrians. Some people are Maharashtrians but not Marathi. Shivajirao Gaekwad
and Madhavrao Scindia fall in the former category, while Ratan Tata, Yazad Jal and Suresh Kalmadi fall in the latter. The people living in the Occupied Territories
are Marathi, but are denied the status of Maharashtrians by the evil Kannadiga Occupation Government and their nefarious northern allies. In fact, everybody who lives between Attock and Cuttack can be considered Maharashtrians regardless of language and culture, living as they do in Greater Maharashtra.
The way is clear. "Maharashtrian" must never be used as an ethnonym. That word should only be Marathi, as in the Marathi people, or that Marathi person. Any and all residents of the Great State of Maharashtra in good standing may be called Maharashtrians. I encourage you to adopt this usage, and educate others about the difference.
Because together, we can, and we will.
Labels: Greater Maharashtra, Humour, Quibbles