Regional Rivalries

I’m from Yorkshire, so the phrase “wrong side of the Penines” trips of my tongue quicker than I can ask for a curd tart. A year of living in Preston did little to stop me believing that Lancashire, basically, is crap. Constant rain, run down towns, saying books so it rhymes with flukes. It’s just the almost-but-not-quite-like-Yorkshire-ness of the place.

Growing up with one of England’s basic regional animosities bred into me has made it surprisingly easy to pick up others. Five years ago I moved in with Lesh and her family. They’re Sri Lankan, and if there’s one thing that unites Sri Lankans, it’s this: a deep and abiding hatred of India.

The broad contours of this hatred will be familiar to any Brit who loathes Americans. Indians are loud, boorish and uncouth. Poorly educated, they know little beyond their own huge country. Their food is too greasy and they are prone to bouts of religious extremism.

The details are more subcontinental. Sri Lankans have the hottest food. Colombo’s beggars are fewer and less deformed than Delhi’s. Had the Indians lost the recent world cup final with Sri Lanka, enraged fans might have tried to burn the players’ houses down. That would never happen in Sri Lanka.

And as surely as I’ve learned to love rice, I’ve begun to pick up a little of this regional rivalry. I was eating dinner with an Indian friend in a Delhi restaurant. She ordered a plate of chillied prawns, ate a couple, and started fanning her mouth in desperation. We swapped plates.

“Not so bad,” I said. “Compared to our food.”

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