Why South Indians are different from ‘Punjabis’

The differences in the mindset of South Indians and North Indians has been the object of much fascination and in no small measure, pride and envy. The stereotype of the rough, rugged, aggressive, foul-mouthed, back-stabbing, money-minded, itching-for-a-fight “Punjabi/Bhaiyya/Bihari” stands in stark contrast to the soft, docile, introverted, passive, friendly “Madrasi”.

The reasons usually trotted out for this obvious gap are the rougher terrain in the north, the inhospitable climate with extremes of summer and winter, and the number of wars and invasions at the hands of the Mughals and the British, not to mention the bloody Partition at the middle of the last century.

These factors, it is assumed, has made the North Indian tougher, hardier, and in their absence, South Indians have become somewhat soft and namby-pamby.

But could it also be that we are what we eat?

New research by American and Chinese scientists shows that there are psychological differences between people in rice-growing and wheat-growing regions, which, according to The Telegraph, Calcutta, “could also explain certain cultural differences between similar populations in India.”

“The study suggests that people in rice-growing provinces [in southern China] show higher levels of holistic thinking and loyalty to friends or relatives and appear less prone to conflict than people in northern wheat provinces.”

The study, which will appear in the US journal Science, shows that farmers who cultivate rice need to cooperate with neighbours to cordinate flooding and dredging of paddy fields. Cultivating wheat takes only about half as much effort as rice—and the lighter burden of wheat allows farmers to look on their own plots without relying on neighbours.

“Rice agriculture provides a disincentive for conflict,” Thomas Talhelm, a psychologist and research scholar at the University of Virginia says. This makes people in rice cultures avoid conflict, while people in wheat cultures can afford to be individualistic and less resistant to conflict.

The study shows that rice-growing and rice-eating people were more interdependent and holistic in their thinking and display higher levels of loyalty. The scientists also found differences in divorce rates—the rice-growing south had lower divorce rates than the wheat-growing north.

So, next time you chuck a rice baath and order a roti, guess what you are doing to yourself?!

Or guess what the growing appeal of idli and dosa is doing to them?

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Are north Indians lawless?

5 reasons why South India is better than the North

Ram Guha: Would war have made South Indians different?

Why aren’t more South Indian firms on the Sensex?

Anna-sambaar to the American on the Blackberry

When the heart pines for panneer butter masala

Zen and the art of eating the Mysore masala dosa

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12 Responses to “Why South Indians are different from ‘Punjabis’”

  1. Deepak Says:

    The previous such article created a huge controversy on this site and churumuri seems to have posted this hoping to create an equally big controversy and generate eyeballs for the site. And you know what, churumuri will succeed in its dastardly plan :)

  2. Amith Pallavoor Says:

    A silly post. What about people who eat millets? As far as I know the Vokkaligas of Mandya and Hassan are as aggressive as the Northies just as some of the populace of Southern Tamil Nadu are. Probably you have not read about the instances of violence where Dalit Villages were burnt down by Vanniyars in Dharmapuri district. No better than any village in UP, which is India’s version of the Wild West.

  3. Maaysa Says:

    I think, it is the education and diversity in the south that makes south Indians tolerant and well-mannered.

    South India does not have a dominating language. And South India hardly had any war after 1799 ( the last Anglo-Mysore war) .

    So south India is like Scandinavia of India. :D

  4. Poli Says:

    Guess what, we eat Ragi. Epic FAIL!

  5. Vasuki Says:

    Alternately, could someone argue that south Indians should start eating wheat to fight the right fights! Avoiding all conflicts might not be such a good idea.

  6. Puja Says:

    Hey! I love your blog.. but this post is unfair and illogical at many levels.. Not all north-indians are rugged and not all south-indians are soft! And the ‘reasoning’ given is still beyond my comprehension – Just saying!

  7. Kris Says:

    Who wrote this crap?

  8. M.P.V. Shenoi Says:

    I am not sure whether this conclusion recovers further research
    But if one has lived in Punjab or Delhi one does come across the expression Dal chaval Khanewala said when referring to a south Indian who is not willing to fight

  9. surendra Says:

    have you gone AWOL after the drubbing of your favorite party.come back.all forgiven.Why the Outlook and Churumuri failed to see such obvious wave.Another pathetic case anglophonic bias against cultural subalterns of BJP.

  10. anandkumarrs Says:

    Hi, Interesting piece !!! Coincidentally I just wrote a post on the “Punjabification” of Tamil Weddings – http://wp.me/p1dZc2-kA
    Pls do read and feel free to give your feedback

  11. Ureantananthamurthy Says:

    LOL!! Did u guys leave India after Modi became PM? Or just went into deep freeze until 2030 waiting for Modi’s farewell speech?

  12. Shemej Says:

    There are already 111 shares in facebook and 25 down votes. This is going to be a heated debate.

    See this — http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/03/16/chemical-changes-in-brain-linked-to-antisocial-behavior/12155.html

    Let me quote: “The researchers speculate that a heightened response to an anticipated reward could make such individuals less fearful about the consequences of their behavior, which, combined with a reduced sensitivity to others’ emotions and resistance to learning from mistakes, could lead to the manipulative and aggressive style of behaviors that is common in psychopaths. ”

    also —

    “Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a combination of , superficial charm, manipulative and antisocial behavior, sensation-seeking and impulsivity, blunted empathy and punishment sensitivity, and shallow emotional experiences. ” (Nobody is talking about Narendra Modi here.)

    I typed similar content in churumuri earlier and each time, they were removed.

    Most south Indians are from Dravidian race(s) (not forgetting central and north Dravidians) and North Indians are predominantly Aryan language speaking races. Most aryan language speaking races were nomads and they never did organized agriculture (some agriculture activity, yes.)

    What do the group of people who keep going to other areas, other countries, and other continents? (compared to those who settle down in one place and do agriculture) . Obviously they have to face resistance from the local people and most of these group members are involved in one or other, small or large scale wars with other people.

    I am related to a particular North Indian race family (though I am of south indian orgin). Some times, I feel, aggressive behaviour is in their blood. Not that they are particularly malevolent. (they are mostly “innocent”). I dont see much difference between North Indians and South Indians on that aspect. Good and bad people are there every where. But it is true that, section of (not all) north Indians show a kind of hollow aggression. If you deal with them, you soon realize that, this hollow aggressive behaviour is arising out of their apparently, inherent weakness. (no generalization possible.)

    Why do wild elephants try to charge if you invade into their territory? Why does the same wild elephant, when domesticated behave like a rabbit? Aggression arises out of insecurity, more than hostility.

    What I have quoted above shows that, chemical changes/imbalance / presence/absence etc cause people to behave in certain way.

    I believe, (I may be wrong), that people who had been indulging in /practising “fight or flight response” for generations, have these chemical imbalance/ differences in their brain.

    Dont we see a person who lives under severe stress for prolonged period, finally gets depressed in life? And the same depression is treated using some chemicals by psychiatrists. Similarly, when people participate in wars for generations, they have presence or absence of certain chemicals in their brain, which stimulate them to act aggressively.

    Compared to these nomad tribes, Dravidian tribes settled down on river banks or next to “keres” and other water bodies and they did agriculture. For generations, they didnt know much about wars, however, their local kings, tribal chieftains, et al indulged in skirmishes with neighbouring kings.

    Though, I have quoted from an article about “psychopathy”, I dont even remotely mean, North Indians, in general are psychopaths. In fact most sane people of our Nation are from North India.

    Though I am not an expert, I guess, this aggressive behaviour has some remote connection with “psychopathy” and both are triggered by chemicals in our brain.

    I think Rice cultivation has nothing to do with this. In any land, where the “survival of the fittest theory” reigns, large number of its members show aggressive behaviour patterns. If parents bring up children without compassion and if this same theory is prevalent in the domestic environment, no wonder, children show similar traits.

    Many primary school teachers can easily guess how the parents of a particular student behave at home (without ever meeting them in person), or which student is coming from a troubled family etc.

    I dont want to subscribe to the “akki – godhi” theory. May be akki, godhi can cause different effect on the brain.

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