On the account of generalizing a bit I can say that for a typical north Indian, the four southern Indian states existed only in the geography books. Outside of books it was all “South India” or “Madras” to be more specific. And I was no exception.
This changed when I went to Pune for my MBA. That’s where I realized how different a Malayali is from a Kannadiga. How the food eaten by an Andhraite was very different from Tamilian.
And yes there was more to the rich cuisine than just Idli, Dosa and Sambhar.
I had 2 roommates. One was a Tam Bram (Iyer) and other a Kannadiga from Dharwad. My closest fried was a Reddy from Andhra Pradesh. The girl in the next room was a Manglorean. The guy I use to borrow notes from was a Tamilian. This really cool girl who sang like a dream was from Kerala. And then there were many more.
And living with them for 2 years in the residential environment of B School, I was made aware of how varied each of the culture was.
From sharing the spicy pickle from one to having the curd rice with another, to having fried fish with one to sharing the bissibele bath with another, I savored the variation and the variety of each of these regions.
And then as destiny had it, I got my first job in Bangalore. The small window that had opened up in Pune became like this big passage to discovery. Every since, I have been on a mode to learn and imbibe more and more. From “the on your face diversity” to “the finer nuances”, the journey has been extraordinary till now.