Sunday, October 09, 2005

I got 85 marks what about karthik? The Tambram Cousin

why the why, its the tambram son.

Tambram sons are a species divine. No, really. When they are born, its not usually with a silver spoon but a vertical red line on forehead. Right from the birth, to the time they marry their “she works in the software field, same as him” wives, they possess something that is important to the tambram dictionary, kalai. More importantly “iyengar kalai”. I promise not to use fancy tamil lingo no more, but this is important. Kalai [patters correct me if i am wrong] is basically that oily shine on face that somehow is supposed to distinguish a kid as a tambram. Dont ask me how, tambrams are apparently born with the skill to identify the tambramness in the faces of the srinivasans. “The minute i saw him, i knew he was an iyengar”, many a srinivasans would’ve exclaimed triumphantly. Heck, you are in the middle of iyengarpet dude, who else do you find in the temple streets of mambalam?

They are not specially treated over girls, this much i will give them. As girls, the expecatations, i feel, arent too different from community-to-community. Now unless you count those in which eating platefuls of chicken as a sign of manliness, tambram males have this unique pressure on them for a number of things.

a) temple-shlokas-noodlethread-sandhyavandhanam kiddo

Promptly at the age of seven or so, the kid gets the kinda ceremony that gals can only dream of. The thread ceremony, the ultimate in-your-face proof of iyengarism. While smarter alecs have gotten rid of the cumbersome thread ages ago, the patter boy valiantly holds on to it, missing many a bowling sessions during cricket as the thread slides off to hamper that crucial ball. The tambram kid religiously goes to temples, knows the parts of a temple and can utter the names of each of those amazing prasads they dole out. He can say “their home had chakapradhaman and such” without remotely exercising his tongue. He would have 3-5 handy shlokas handy to belt out at community gatherings. Depending, of course, on mom’s interest during his childhood. “when he was smaller, he used to recite the sandhyavandhanam without a single mistake” his mom would claim. “NOT A SINGLE MISTAKE” dad would nod sagely. Tambram boy will typically not question god, rituals, what nots. He would glare incredulously at neighboring tambram boy who had the guts, the guts of it i say, to try cakes with eggs. Till the age of about 12-14, he would be the shining example for other tambram mothers to point to. Which is about the time he would’ve finally gotten admission into waitlisted padmaseshadri and enters tambram teenagerhood.

b) the teenage years

english is cool. A.R.Rehman is cool. Hindi isnt, even though he has passed those fancy hindi-proficiency tests out of school.He loses interest in shlokas for a brief period. He is now in a cool-school, where girls are fancy and not oil-plaited. Casting surreptious glances at the ‘northie’ types, he would not typically thinking of being chummy with gals, except to share notes or discuss tuition classes owing to mom’s wild tales “that boy roams with girls and look at his marks in mid-term one” kinda flippant remarks. School becomes the new temple, a place to share chemistry notes, cricket scores and CDS of rolling stones that someone’s brother’s uncle said was cool [tambram boy obviously].He is usually not much into sports, struggling with the stereotype of a tambram boy who is healthy but not sporty except for galli cricket but must be brilliant in math and science. report-cards with hardearned scores in math will earn a reward and a reference to a U.S settled uncle who was brilliant in math as well. The idea of engineering as the doomed future takes shape slowly in head.Not that boy thinks its a doomed future owing to wide array of uncles, cousins, neighbor’s brothers who chose the path to permanent glory. Around this time, tambram boy’s silly remarks of the “I want to become a movie-star or race-car driver” are not treated with mirth like they used to be. Dad regularly challenges these jestful remarks with questions on math-scores, and mom has a handy basket of loser-cases who can never make it in life, they werent engineers. Between this age and 22 or so, life becomes a never ending pursuit towards an engineering degree or worse. [till 22 that is]

c) “which project does she work on” wife search

There is usually nothing that seperates age 16 from age 25..except tambram kiddo earns a handsome salary now and invests conversations around mobile phones, stocks shares and excessive salary-comparison with peers. The highlight is the impending girl-seeing ceremony that mom will inevitably line up for “first class with distinction MNC project manager so is worth a project manager herself or less [not more though] wife in software” charade. Lineups are fairly easy. Religion, MNC capabilities, homeliness and the pre-referred iyengar kalai. Once mom has done a shortdown of indian-born->hindu->brahmin->iyengar->subsect->star->gothram, our guy has a well categorized list of prospective brides. The factors to decide with dont change so much, so he could effectively use a computer-coded program to arrive at the best selection even without meeting her. But meet her he will, being a broad-minded U.S settled engineer. Mom finally gets a say in his life and she attacks it with gusto. Her extensive temple-network comes handy to cross-refernce the nominees. Dude arrives for a marathon “five gals a day” session, back to back over weekend. He spends the rest of his india holiday meeting the uncles and aunts and grandpas who appreciate electric toothbrush gifts and rib him good-naturedly on impending marriage. smartypants kiddo is certain his marriage will be confirmed in next two days, so wisely does not plan for long indian holiday this time [2 weeks for the wedding later in the year].

Wife-seeing ceremony moves swiftly along. Not much detail here, there seriously isnt any. As a broad-minded guy, he wishes to “talk” with gal, coffee-day nearby serves as the safe venue while parents wait the 10 break out in girl’s home, admiring cross-stitch and “best programmmer” awards [ensuring they share “award” stories as well]. End of day is for mom’s verdicts as well as dad’s [she is too modern and the likes] while tambram kid pretends he thinks deeply of all the offerings. He typically doesnt, its as eeny-meeny-minie-mo as the next guy experimenting in starbucks. Visa issues are evaluated and job opportunities are considered for her. The automatic assumption being she will move there [they DID know he was from U.S right?].

Guy reconnects to roots of iyengarism before wedding, assuming each ceremony of the 3 day saga is crucial. Fun comes in the form of searching for rings in pots and breaking papads on faces.

I guess a large part of this isnt different for non tambrams, but somehow I feel the factor of being an ‘iyengar’puts this unique pressure on these guys, and well, had to vent out some didnt i Sticking out tongue

Usual disclaimers apply. And please understand its gentle rigging of the tambram guy, i dont dislike the category. Hell, am married to one of the 26-letter guys arent i?

Guilty of back-stabbing,
me

9 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fieryblaster said...

just bcos u backstab urself, that does not mean that u have the right to do so. there is no fun in humiliating one's one self and one's own community. is there? :)

we residents of tn r fed up with nasty backstabbing of motto less politicians like karunanidhi and thought atleast the distance wud make u nri's feel better abt our culture and community.

ultimately, it is ur space and ur wish. ;) still, the very fact that u r from a particular community does not give u the right to speak something ill abt it. if at all some genuine concerns r to be shared, they can be done in constructive manner.:)

Peppy said...

lol@fieryblaster...well, i am criticizing aspects of my community, and the fact that i am from the community simply points to the fact that i know what i am talking about. I seriously doubt anyone from the community could honestly tell me none of this happens. And since it does, am criticizing it just as i would criticize crazy behavior anywhere.


What you do suggest, though, is that i should refuse to criticize or ridicule stuff just coz i am a part of the community. To which i roll my eyes and say "puhleeze", if that were politely possible. I would really wonder if you would feel so strongly if i were to point to crazy happenings in the community i presently stay in, just because I migrated to it, rather than be born in it.

And distance doesnt necessarily translate to blind belief and following, leave that to bollywood. If i knew any other community better, i would be curious of its shortcomings and strengths. [gently tossing the ball back]

fieryblaster said...

ya what ever u wrote do happen in the community to which u belong. there is a way u can narrate things. u can either love the happenings there or hate them. if u hate them, there should be some genuine reason. ur writing did not make clear what really makes u to grumble. that was my point.

Peppy said...

what makes me grumble? why,all of it of course. the cookie-cutter approach to existence, if that makes it easier for you.

and now narration is a problem? Let me see now, i pulled out a prototype from the community to prove a point, hey, it couldnt get clearer than that. I confess, i am leaving a lot of the comprehension to the intelligence of the reader, but that sometimes happens. If narration-style was defined by the reader instead of the writer, hell, then i would have to sit and defend my tamil origins whether i like it or not, all the time. Not possible now, is that?

fieryblaster said...

i don't think u r leaving it to the intelligence of the reader. u r making things choatic. well if that is what u r, what can be done. :)

Peppy said...

why absolutely nothing i suppose. Noticed that your issues with the blog have progressed from "dont backstab your community..NRI's should help with the image" to "i dont understand, bad writing style" to "you make things chaotic". hmm, wonder whoz the confused one here.

Of course, i guess one of the ways to go about this is to have disclaimers all over my blog about who should read it and who shouldnt [like some folks prefer to do] to save me and my blog from any criticism, but hey, not my style.

Anonymous said...

peppy,
the irritation and exasperation shows eloquently. have myself tried unsuccessfully to moderate my tone but it just seems to seethe and spill over like a sambar cauldron in a wedding kitchen. very hard.

fieryblaster may have some valid points but has to spell them out clearly instead hoping for general reprieve.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! So perfectly depicted. The funny part is that despite the fact that all of us are aware of the stereotypes we fit into, we do little to change it. I hope atleast the next generation of tambrams would not have to go through similar stuff.

As an aside, all this stuff holds true for iyers as well.