One of the common questions asked when people are meeting for the first time or in a formal interview is, “Which is your hometown?” In a personal conversation, this question may be asked to place you geographically so that the other person can relate to you. If both share a hometown, that might bring them closer. If they share hometowns across adversary states, then each can form a private, non-charitable opinion about the other. “From Andhra, must love spicy food,” “From Tamilnadu, will be a shrewd person,” “From Bihar, must be careful with him.” These judgments in form or the other are a lightning-fast process and are done automatically.
For some people, the hometown question is easy to answer. Because they have a hometown. They have a place where most of their relatives reside, where they go for vacation, most of their extended family members also stay there. They perhaps grew up there and studied there.
For some like me, it is a difficult question to answer. Is my hometown Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya or Hyderabad? I was born in Bangalore, but I studied all my academic life in Hyderabad (KG to PG), I stayed in Bangalore for more than two decades in connection with my work, my siblings have made Mysore their home. My dad’s family, at least for the last few generations, came from Mandya, the town between Bangalore and Mysore That’s how I get my second name as Mandyam (both the ‘a’ in the name are short syllables, not long ones as some people mispronounce it.)
Today there is nothing in Mandya as far as my family is concerned. The ancestral house where we went for our summer vacation to meet our paternal grandfather, has been sold, demolished and rebuilt completely. There are no immediate relatives there and a handful of the people belonging to the community still live there but we are not in touch with them
If you say, the hometown is where you are comfortable with, then I am comfortable in all the three places, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mysore. So there is no proper or correct answer to the question of hometown. I am sure this is true for many people who have the name of their hometown as their second name but have not even visited that place in their lifetime. I am wondering, is this question about hometown a peculiarly Indian question and has it lost its relevance in today’s world?