(referring to Odisha, the state where Devdutt Pattanaik, Sona Mohapatra and Biswa Kalyan Rath are from, and Odia/ Odia are the people and the language, no other epithet needed, thank you)
You have brought me so much joy. I am an Odia, loud and proud. I have lived through
- the age of being an Oriya, with an R, not a D
- being often mistook as an “Oorian”, the indigenous species found in Oooria, wherever that planet is
- asked if the per capita income of Odisha is one elaichi banana or less (so, no Snapchat or Snapdeal)
- mutual awkwardness precipitated by Odias unexpectedly breaking into Odia in a non-designated area (anywhere outside Odisha)
I have taken that all in my stride, not raging on Twitter and having a good laugh on the side. At this point, my mitochondria could not be more Odia-loving.
The food, the banter, the idioms, the match-making industry, the card games. The not-addressing the elephant-in-the-room family socials. The constant chatter where no is listening to anyone, yet every story is being liberally embellished with superhero exploits (I bought a Merc at the nearby petrol bunk for a song; every leaf of this spinach is fused with extra Vitamin-K; I told him to go and he went away).
We have a word for pointlessly hanging around near a paan-shop, making time-wastage an art form so highly ordained, it had to be christened. Its called “Khatti.” Or if you have reached the highest level of time annihilation, then “Gulli Khatti”. People in Odisha do not lose their way or wander, they just show up at the town square for “Gulli Khatti.” Whatsapp cousin-groups and office sutta breaks aspire to be “Gulli Khatti” in their quest for the next completely useless nugget of information.
Odia cuisine is basically an anthology of love-poems for onions and potatoes. “The onion must be fried just so, sizzling when water droplets are sprinkled over it, maybe once maybe twice, to become an indescribable brown, which, whilst only fleetingly sticking with the bottom of the pan, must doubly discharge its duties of olfactory and chemistry, by respectively giving off the signal of the right level of caramelization and separating oil on the side, to finally submit that they are ready for holy matrimony or canonization tomatoes or dry spices.” No, no, not matrimony or priesthood.
Yup, it’s a tantalizing dance. And here is how an Odia lunch might be described, “and potatoes to go with it.”. Every stir fry, every fish curry, every egg masala must be accompanied with the trusted potato, or as the status indicates, the father of the bride.
But the accent. Or is it, Ah! the accent. I have a story to tell the veracity of which could not be determined. In a large gathering of 200 people, one very senior Odia leader (not me, am just peasantry and anyway this is made up) introduced another very senior American overlord in a by-the-numbers corporate town-hall meeting, saying, “I would like to introduce to you this very impotent person, with who we have discussed many impotent items.” There is a fine line between impotent and important, and boy did we come all guns blazing on it that day.
It would have been an ordinary story till the senior American overlord’s expression gave it away. He looked like “now everyone knows, dagnabbit!”
They said it was just a mid-eastern twang, and that he needed more meat in his meat and potatoes.
A glorious country is ours