NOTE: All lengthy Tamizh quotes notated with a series of * or ^ and translated at the end of the post.
I boarded the 6-30am flight from Cal on the morning of the 6th and reached homeland, Chennapatnam aka Madras, at around 9am. Much rejoicing happened, followed by the inevitable TamBram Get-together At Grandma’s Place.
For the uninitiated, this is the general schedule of a Sunday TamBram Get Together At Grandma’s Place:
9-00am: Breakfast- idli/dosai/ponga/sambar/coconut chutney/filter kaapi
9-15am: Gossip and saree/jewellery discussion; “Yaen ma, enga vaangineL, pudhusa? Saradha-kkum thedindrukkom… mooNu kallu vecchadha dhaan vEnum nu maaplai aathla sollittA.”* At this point,the men start looking bored with mooNu-kallu modhirams and head to the other bedroom, where kriket and kaapi is served hot.
10-ooam: Music Show on TV with unmusical children trying to sing Rara Venugopala, in a ragam hitherto undiscovered. Wise judges beaming and nodding at the camera, and yawning when the camera turns away. Maamis Incorporated (MI) at grandma’s place- all chitthis, periammas, atthais (various varieties of aunts, basically) and co- nodding and putting thappu thaaLam** with vigor. Compliments galore when the rakshas kids finally finish their attempts because their breath peters out at ‘raajitha sadguna jaya sheela’. Thank God for small mercies.
12:00am: Lunch preparation on its last legs. Applam kaaching. Discussions about immediately finished/immediately due weddings, expenditure, trips to Saravana Stores, and eligible Brahmin boys. Growing discomfort amongst unmarried TamBram men/women in the vicinity, including yours truly, especially when some helpful maami from distant clan says, “Ellam vekkam dhaan maami ivaLukku! Neenga paakka aaramichudungo!”*** Why this kolaveri??
1:00pm: Lunch, TamBrahm style. The best part of the day. Vettha kozhambu, pumpkin koottu, mor kozhambu (the real thing, not yellow muck kadi as served mess-style), payasam, pineapple rasam, paruppu sambar, thayir vada, puliyodharai (made famous by the kid in the MTR ad saying Pulge!), thayir saadham, oorga were among the dignitaries as far as I remember. There may have been significant others. I was too busy hogging like Kovai Sarala in the Vivek comedy track to notice.
3:00pm: Worshtu part, Maamis Inc starts to stir after nap and turns happy eyes on young girls. “Yaen ma? Why don’t you sing a song?” (Self: Cringe.) “So nice it will be. On a good day also. Mangalamaa irukkum^.” (Self:Yaarukku?) After a battle of wills (and mind you, I can ARGUE), MI wins. Defeated, I clear throat and start singing standard bhajan in Shuba Pantuvarali. MI in ecstasy, nodding head, more thappu thaaLam. Ayyo, andavaa. I close eyes. MI mistakes this for involvement. “Ch, ch”s ensue. “Kozhanda yenna azhagaa padardhu.”^^
As I stagger to a relieved close, one senior VP of MI, probably Rajam mami or something, suggests helpfully that I might want to wow the crowd with Maithreem Bajatha. Pochu da. I plunge into battle again and MI leans further back into sofa. As this number also concludes, all chorus of MI wants Kurai Ondrum Illai. I protest and my traitorous parents aid and abet the enemy. Thus cornered, I render requested song and gratefully pass the baton to cousin Abhi who is a disciple of Bombay Jayashree and as such in touch with music; unlike self languishing in the mega metropolis of Jamshedpur.
4:30pm: All thanks, curtains down, falling at feet, teasing newly married cousin Vinod dutifully, and taking leave. Grandma of the opinion that I have lost a lot of weight. I take offence and ask her from where. She is unable to point out any spot on self where weight might have previously been present. Discussion peters out. She brings kungumam. Keepings. Tatas and air kisses.
Thets aaal, folks.
Please do drop in at Grandma’s place in T Nagar, if you are in station, with a phone call. We will be happy to have you over. But! You have to sing for Maamis Inc. No escape routes for strategic retreat. (P.S. Food is usually worth it).
~~~~~ * ~~~~~
Translations for Tamizh non-knowers
* – Where did you buy this, is it new? We are also searching for one like this for Saradha… the groom’s side wants the three-stones ring only.
** – Very wrong taaL / beats for a classical song- not in rhythm with the actual singer, usually confusing the poor sod into singing terribly off beat
*** – “All shyness only, maami! You start looking for an eligible boy for her!”
^ – It will be auspicious.
^^ – How beautifully the child is singing!