Ours is a country of vibrant cultures and diverse collectives of people. India is essentially a super nation where multiple ethnicities have coexisted and thrived for centuries. It is incredible to see how India continues to birth and sustain a myriad of identities while celebrating uniqueness and individuality. But let’s not fuss about the differences, and look at what are the similarities that unite us.
Where better to start than with examining the similarities between the cultures of Kerala and West Bengal. The two states are literally on two vertices of the country and yet have so much in common. Here are 14 similarities that I could think of.
Both Kerala and West Bengal are known for their political affinity towards communism. Both states had been subjected to similar socio-economic conditions in the past and so communism has a great appeal among the masses. Communist ideals still remain strong in the hearts of Malayalis and Bengalis.
Kerala and West Bengal are coastal states, so our love for fish should not surprise anyone. We love our meen/machi and the world loves our seafood recipes!
We Malayalis take a lot of pride in our capacity to drink gallons of alcohol and our ability to handle our drink. But have you sat down to drink with a Bengali? Once you do, it’ll feel like you’ve met a brother from another mother!
Who hasn’t heard of Mohun Bagan. West Bengal boasts some of the finest footballers and football fans in India. Guess who else has rights to make that claim? Malayalis!
Both cultures emerged in rice country and so it turned into our staple. The jugalbandi between rice and our delicious curries always leaves us craving us for more. No meal feels complete without rice.
And this might hint at another similarity that Malayalis and Bengalis have – both believe that hard work is the key to success. What does this have to do with loving rice, I hear you ask. In his book Outsiders, author Malcolm Gladwell talks of how people from rice cultures are more hardworking (than people from wheat cultures) as rice is grown throughout the year. So the more you work, the more rice you harvest, and therefore, the more money you make. I don’t know if this is true, but I know that both Malayalis and Bengalis love rice and put their heart and soul into the work they do.
Talking about our love of rice, what can be better than rice? A dessert made from rice! That’s right; Bengalis have payesh, something that’s akin to our payasam. So if you’re planning on making a trip to West Bengal and have a sudden craving for payasam, you know what to look for!
Still on the topic of food, like many other Indian subcultures, both Malayalis and Bengalis love pickles. It is kind of obvious when you think about how both cultures were primarily agrarian and had to preserve food before the invention of the refrigerator. Pickling food is an ‘oru vedikkyu randu pakkshi’ (two birds with one stone) scenario – you preserve food and you get a tasty side-dish too.
We Malayalis love gold, and consider it to be a great investment. Guess who else does? Bengalis! Kerala might top the list in gold consumption among Indian states, but West Bengal is fourth in the list.
You ask a non-Malayali to tell you things that they associate with Malayalis, and I’m sure the Kerala saree will be one of the things on their list. The same is the case for Bengalis and their traditional saree. Both cultures love their traditional sarees and ladies wear them during major festivals.
Both Kerala and Bengal have produced some brilliant writers, and a land that creates writers creates readers too. Malayalis and Bengalis are known to be avid readers and all-round intellectuals.
Music & Cinema
It is not just the art of writing and love of reading that Malayalis and Bengalis are known for. We have a great taste for music and cinema, and this has led to Kerala and West Bengal producing some of the best music and cinema in the country.
When the British botanist Robert Fortune stole tea from China, he changed the taste of people living in Kerala and West Bengal forever. Both states had areas which suited the growth and production of tea and since then, we’ve been in love with this leafy concoction.
What do you get when you have an educated, opinionated, freedom-loving people living in a region? You get them protesting any form of injustice done against humanity. Both Malayalis and Bengalis raise their voice against injustice and express their discontent in the form of hartals.
Malayalis and Bengalis put great value on knowledge and intellectual thinking, so conflicting streams of logic are bound to sprout and this leads to debates. Both cultures have evolved over time through their people questioning the status quo and their pursuit of knowledge. Thus, intellectual debates form one of the core identity of both cultures.
And that was our list. Are there other similarities that you can think of? Let us know in the comments section below.