I was born in Delhi where my mum grew up.
Every certificate of education I possess, bears the stamp of Mumbai University.
I speak a weird concoction of pure English corrupted by MS Word and slathered with that strange tongue called Bambaiyya.
I also understand most versions of the tongues spoken from Punjab to Maharashtra….I even manage a bit of Bengali (Gujrati stumps me though, I admit!)
My favorite breakfast is boiled-egg sandwiches and watermelon.
I like all the blends of tea that I’ve tasted.
And I am a techno-phobe ( I can’t even program my cellphone to ring the way I want it to!!)
But I’m a Tamilian.
When I made it past the 20-year mark, my family started to murmur about marriage (like the family of every Indian girl at that time). I found a slew of excuses to ward them off….”Let me complete my studies!”, “I have to get a job, that’s priority”. At some point, all those excuses started to fall on deaf ears. In desperation, I played my final card. I said “NO SOFTWARE PROFESSIONALS”. Since that rules out 99% of the eligible bachelors in the community (and the remaining don’t possess the ‘proper’ degrees, by virtue of which they aren’t ‘eligible’ any more) I’ve been on safe ground for a good while now.
Last year I was at a cousin’s wedding in Chennai (where else?). Alongside kaapi and kanjeevarams, I got a earful of the latest ‘grand experience’. The topic on everyone’s lips was the wedding the previous month, of the son of Mrs.Copper-Sulphate-Blue-with-mango-border-saree (visible in the distance) to his colleague. And why? Because ‘the girl’ was from Orissa.
“But you know, they are very nice people!”
Mrs.Jamoon Pink was assured by Mrs.Neckpiece of Cleopatra-with-coins-dangling-on-it.
“Yes, they were just like us. Imagine that!”
gushed Mr.2mm-grey-stripes-on-white to Mr.Something-between-coffee-and-cocoa solids.
They were interrupted by Mr.Podgy-in-navy blue-with-logo (with the company tagline stretched across that 70mm back)
“But I’m telling you, you can’t rely on them. Last month when I was in Michigan, I was telling that friend of mine…..”
Ah, I thought to myself…the wonderful Tamilian sense of geography. Chennai is the cornerstone of civilization, ‘Bambaii’ is the other end of the world, Orissa is another planet and Michigan is back home.”
Sometime, try talking to a Chennai-ite about Paris, the centre of western art, romance and culinary expertise. Chances are they’ll look at you puzzled and say
“But I was there yesterday!”
Your turn to gape….till you realise they’re talking about Parrys (in Chennai). It doesn’t seem to matter than I’m Tamilian then.
I’ve taken to complimenting people on their sarees and their musical talent and such things. Anything to avoid the marriage question and being asked what I’ve studied. ‘MBA’ is a few letters short of what’s required apparantly. The look on their faces seems to say “Huh? MCA…B.Tech…MS…BE…Computer Science…..these are degrees to have, don’t you know?” My workplace isn’t even worth talking about after that, so I take the easy way out and ask them the classic multiple-choice-question.
“Where does your son/daughter/son-in-law/daughter-in-law/niece/nephew work?”
The answers are:
G…Do I need to go on?
Ever heard of the Great American Dream? I call this the Great South-Indian Software Dream.
On one rare outing out with my cousins, one of them asked me surreptiously…
“Do you have boyfriends?”
I sputtered and said,
“Boyfriends? You mean, in the plural…and simultaneously?”
It was a long minute before I realised she was asking if any of my friends were male. So I explained as patiently as I could that since I had studied in a co-ed school and college, since there were boys in my building and neighborhood, it was inevitable that I’d be friends with some of them. Moreover, I added, since the world was not seggregated into Women’s section and Men’s section, it seemed slightly unnatural to divide schools that way. The converstaion ended abruptly with her younger brother (just back from a project in Amay-ree-kaa) cutting in to say,
“No, that is all rubbish. This is how it has to be.”
I can’t fathom how parents who don’t permit their daughters to talk to boys, to go out to meet a friend or have them over can throw them out into the big bad world…another country, another culture, another continent….and leave them to fend for themselves.
I can’t understand how a race of people so prone to clinging tightly, can so enthusiastically urge their kids to go and live abroad, knowing fully well they may see them once in a couple of years, if they’re lucky.
And there are things about Tamilians…that are the sacred laws to believe in.
- Every person who steps into the house needs fattening. URGENTLY. “no, NO, NOOOOO” are totally ineffective in keeping off yet another shovelful of kootu off your plate. Will you have kaapi? No? Payasam perhaps? Oh how about some Bournvita? ARGGGGGH!
- Women have long hair in plaits with flowers in it. Banshees have long hair that is left loose. Boys have short hair. Real men have mustaches. Anyone else does not belong to the human race. And when I think of the trouble my aunt had explaining the cropped haircut, pyjama-clad being that inhabited her house each summer…and getting her neighbors to believe that….not only is that ‘thing’ from Planet Earth…its my niece!
- People from Bombay don’t speak. (How do manage around Bombay? You speak Hindi? WOW!!You speak Tamil too??WOW!)
- Outside Tamil Nadu, no one has heard of good manners, etiquette or respect. (She is so nice and polite…even though she’s a Bombay girl!)
And now having ranted…
- I think a capuccino/mocha/espresso could never match up to my amma’s filter kaapi.
- Degrees over dollars (or pounds or rupees) any day!
- No ‘apna own bijnezzz’ for me…give me the security of a paycheck anyday!
- I like mathematics.
- Kanjeevarams over banarasi, kota and raw silk always.
- I actually like being seen as a woman with a voice (that girl who filed a complaint against her would-be in-laws and had them arrested for dowry demands, all those female bus conductors….they come from the same state I do!)
- Indian classical music for me is Carnatic, not Hindustani.
Yes, I am a Tamilian inherently. Sometimes I hate it, sometimes it makes me proud. Sometimes I wonder if having a lineage tracing back to a place can make you a part of it. Or it a part of you.
I still have a problem with the great South-Indian software dream though.