Assamese are the friendliest Indians by Khushwant Singh

WE got talking about the friendliest people in our country. We analysed Panjus (Punjabis), Bhaiyas (Uttar Pradeshis and Biharis), Bongs (Bengalis), Dakhanis (Telengas, Kannadas), Mallus (Malayalis), Madrasis (Tamilians), Mian Bhais (Muslims), Makapaons (Christians) and Bawajis (Parsis). We went down the list demolishing each group for one defect or the other. Panjus: very forthcoming but uncouth and loud-mouthed, who wants to make friends with them ? Bhaiyas: non-descript, neither as extrovert as Panjus nor as introspective as Bongs. Bongs: think they are number one Indians and very arty; when Bengal sneezes, the rest of India catches a cold etc. And clannish. No cuisine culture, only moshti doi and roshogulla. Maharashtrians, Dakhanees, Madrasis and Mallus, all lumped together as Madrasis, are full of caste prejudices and rarely invite people to their homes. Makapaons and Bawajis are half-baked firengis: you don’t feel relaxed in their company. General conclusion: people who prefer their own kind — language-wise or caste-wise — don’t qualify to compete for the “friendship championship”. Nor do people who keep their women in purdah or in the kitchen.

So who are we left with ? I go over my encounter with my country men and women. I have been just about everywhere in Bharat. I could not make up my mind when I got a letter from Bobbeeta. I had all but forgotten her but for her odd name Bobbeeta. I had met her briefly in Guwahati and Delhi. I went over the names of other Assamese I knew: Baruas, Bezbaruas, Hazarikas, Gogois, Bardolois Saikias, Phukans, Bor-Thakurs, Raj Khowas, Goswamis, Chaudhrys, Sarmas, Acharyas. It is surprising that even though I have not been to Assam more than four or five times and for that too three or four days each time, I keep in touch with more Assamese than with any other people. Why? For me the average Assamese woman is better-looking than the average-looking woman anywhere else. For another they are more forthcoming and more hospitable, with no hangups about caste or class. My vote for the friendliest of Indians goes to the Assamese.

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