Since childhood till now, I have grown tired of hearing people use the phrase Odia Mentality in a variety of situations based on their personal experiences. However, it’s hard to deny that this phrase is anything but complimentary in almost every context it is used. Plus, it is also interesting to notice that rarely have we heard any non-Odia using this phrase as a derogatory remark. In other words, our very own Odia fellow men, whether they live in India or abroad, tend to use this term to conveniently denote their own race as a backward class.
Let’s not assume or dismiss this as an expression of the narrow minded Odia fellow men alone. Even the most educated people across many Internet communities tend to find comfort in using this phrase in an ostensibly desperate attempt to separate themselves from their so-called backward Odia fellow men and position them as a part of the utopian elite league.
The usage of this phrase is so rampant that even the mainstream Odia newspapers have taken resort to it so they could better express themselves or communicate with their audience effectively, laying credence to this self-defeating expression time and again.
As the admin of Discover Bhubaneswar, I have personally observed many of our community members using this phrase whenever they have tried to justify their points on the collective development of our state. In fact, this is exactly what led me to write this post so I could actually understand this phrase in a broader context, assuming that this phrase may have assumed different meanings to different people in different contexts, over the past couple of decades.
So what is this Odia Mentality all about? Is there anything such as Odia Mentality to start with or is it just one of those strong assumptions some of us hold against our very own community?
Technically, it’s an epic irony to hear Odias use this phrase in a derogatory fashion especially since the speakers themselves are Odia, and no matter what, they cannot change their identity. Hence, Odia Mentality is nothing but a mere generalisation.
There is a general perception that Odias lack unity. It is assumed that many people don’t appreciate others’ aspirations and therefore, try to bring them down instead of extending their cooperation. While such instances can occur in any society especially in a competitive atmosphere, it is absolutely absurd to promote such gross generalisations and disgrace your own community in the process.
Saswat Pattanayak, a NewYork based writer activist, has an entirely different take on this topic, “Yes, these generalisations still exist in our society. I do not differ from any such conclusions, but I would instead alter the guiding propositions. Firstly, I feel not all Oriyas do that. Secondly, jealousy and envy are general human traits, and not always bad, certainly they do not prove to be bad for those who wish to aspire higher. One could argue that “goda taniba ra chesta” can better motivate the targeted person. And this is true across nations, races and languages. If Odia Mentality motivates people to overcome obstacles, and if Odia Mentality compels us to imagine alternative success stories, then we probably need more Odia Mentality; not less.”
“Regarding the success rate, I tend to question what comprises success. For example, I think Manmohan Misra, the progressive poet was a great success, while raising consciousness of the masses. But our newspapers would rather highlight some scientist of orissa origin who slaves for NASA in America by pronouncing him/her as a success. So the aspirations/successes are not absolute constructs, and the yardstick to measure them is not a universal one”, he continues.
There are many situations that offer a context where people resort to this phrase in particular. Whether we talk about job scenarios or business environment in Odisha, there exists the assumption that Odiya Mentality hinders people from making prosperity in any field they enter, simply because your fellow men would go to any length to bring you down.
Ipsa Mishra quips, “We can be empathetic and laugh about it, once we lay out what it is about ourselves that we are turning our noses at and shaking our heads about.”
The so-called Odia Mentality is said to manifest itself in many forms. One of these forms is the use of mother tongue. There’s a growing perception that many educated Odia people don’t respect their language as much as they should. One of our posts in January this year, there was a debate on how some people in our city, for example, avoid speaking in their mother tongue at certain places they frequent. This leads us to a question: is this really true that Odia people prefer not to speak their language or is it just an assumption based on specific instances?
When interviewed about their experiences in the city work life, many Odia IT professionals feel there’s a huge difference between the way they feel at work outside Odisha and the way they see it over here in Bhubaneswar. According to them, starting from the low team spirit to the lack of professionalism, working in Odisha lacks the verve that one can experience outside the state, especially across metro cities. They strongly feel such scenarios can be attributed to the prevalence of many narrow-minded people around here.
So is the Odia Mentality Syndrome a reality or just a mere generalization? Do we always find generalizations a safer haven for drawing conclusions?
Do you observe any behavioural patterns amongst people in your day to day life that define Odia community in particular?