People have a lot of opinions. And those are, often, on topics that they have little or no expertise on.
There is even a website that makes a living out of sharing views of amateur opinion makers. Ever heard of Quora? It is a question-and-answer website where you can post preposterous questions (some that have no answers) - and receive deserving answers.
It is not until I started reading Quora that it struck me how often people sneak in opinions as questions.
It appeared the person had already made up his mind about "naxalite-infested" Odisha.
Someone gave a fitting response which went something like this:
This was posted in 2016, in the "achche din" of Narendra Modi.
You can imagine, then, back in the "bure din" of twenty five years ago, how skewed the opinions of people would have been about Rourkela and Odisha. Especially, if you were from a family of adorable bigots, like I was!
During a subsequent trip, our neighbor in Mylapore, the delightfully funny Mr Varadachari, stopped me by the roadside to inquire about my whereabouts.
"No, no, uncle! There is abundant rice available" I defended in vain.
"Whatever you say, rice eaters have more brains than chapati eaters. All they have is speed. Look at Kapil Dev. Gave the last over to Chetan Sharma!" he concluded.
"But uncle...Orissa is not in the North" I clarified.
"Dei dei...keep quiet. Don't dupe me. I have seen you since you were running around naked" he said and walked away. In another country, he would have been booked for pedophilia for saying such a thing.
"Chechu! Come here! He lives in Rourkela in Orissa and studies in Sambalpur university" Ramana mama introduced me and started laughing in anticipation of a joke.
"...kela" someone completed.
"Sounds like doodh peda. Must be a very sweet place!" he winked. The crowd roared.
"Sambalpur? Phoolan Devi is the vice-chancellor, eh?" he added. My cousin, Raghu, rolled on the floor laughing uncontrollably (even before ROFL as a style of laughter was invented).
"Look...Phoolan Devi is not from Sambalpur...it's not correct? I protested, but was outvoiced in the din.
Another relative even corrected the name of the town that I had been living in, then, for a year.
"No...no. You mean Roorkee, right? Not 'Roor-kela'" he said, waving off any counterarguments.
After some time, I stopped offering defense. There was no point. I let my native people bask in their bigotry and liberally offer opinions about Odisha, "North Indians", and chapatis and their degenerative effects on the brain.
I didn't clarify that Odisha wasn't in the North. Or chapatis were not staple for Odias. Or that Rourkela was a beautiful, well-planned, cosmopolis, very rarely seen in India. My mom continued to tie amulets around my wrist for my safety, with mantras on her lips.
So, what were the questions that you were asked by relatives and friends about Odisha, Rourkela, or wherever you went to college? How did you manage?