Growing up in the most TamBrahm part of Mumbai by Sweta

Blog post written by Sweta Ramdas, admin of We Are TamBrahm

Except for speaking Hindi without a Tamilian accent, any TamBrahm from Mumbai is as Tamilian as their Chennai counterpart if they grew up in Matunga, Chembur-Chedda Nagar and Goregaon-Bangur Nagar!

And if by any chance you went to Vivek Vidyalaya in Goregaon or SIES in Matunga, then you will know how to read and write Tamil or Malayalam (depends on whether you are Tamil Nadu TamBrahm or Kerala Iyer, I am the latter) En kooda konjam neram peshinaale MMKR Kameshwaran odu ormai vandhudum.

These second generation TamBrahm Mumbaikars while taking a walk in their neighbourhood will have to reluctantly say hello to their parents’ friends (we’ve all been there and done that) by saying “Namaste Jain uncle” and some 100 yards further will say “Krishnan Maama, eppidi irukkel?” The only difference being Jain uncle will say hello back and leave but Krishnan Mama will ask about Appa, Amma, 10 std marks, IIT coaching and also about your cousin Ammu’s wedding next month. Vambu you see, too much vambu!

Mama’ve ippidi na Mami kekkave vendaam. Maami will look at the boy or girl walking with you. Screen them from top to bottom to see if anything is going on between the two of you. Mamis have special powers. With one look they can determine if a boy and girl are just friends of if there is any hanky panky going on. And if they detect something, before you reach home, the news of “oru Gujrati paiyyan kooda chuttindu irundaal ponnu” will reach your Amma via landline! Ippo laam WhatsApp pannaraal na theiryalai but naan college la padikarthe laam landline la thaan phone varum.

Millenials in Chennai might think we have it easy because we won’t have to go attend poojas or archanais but when one is from the places I mentioned in the opening sentence, there will be Bhagawati Sevai, Shasta Preeti, Kumbhabhishekam, Laksharchanai almost every month in some temple, some where. And it will of course be on a weekend and Amma will say vandhutu chaaptutu poidu, onakku vendi matram chamakya mudiyaadhu. Not that the thought of having sadhya chaapadu doesn’t excite us but the sheer thought of getting dressed in salwar suit or sari and meeting so many of our parents friends and answering their questions is so taxing that one might just settle with eating Maggi noodles at home while watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for the 20th time!

And if somehow your parents do convince you to come, there will be one Mami with one story about how Indian Bank Mani Mama’odu ponnu met a Sindhi fellow in college and ran away (not eloped, ran away because odi poita) with him because Mani Mama did not agree to the match. After that your parents will tell you “love laam pannadhe. Pannanum naalum nammalavala irukkanum” And when you say that you know very few nammalava boys to be friends with they will convince you to attend more functions at the nearby temple. I was told one boy is very religious, goes to temple every Saturday and is apparently going to IIM Ahmedabad. Mind voice – adhukku naan enna pannardhu?!

These Mumbaikars are a good mix of TamBrahm-ness and Bombaiyya because they will pottu ittufy and poo vechufy for weddings and poonals but also do the Ganpati Visarjan dance like a Ghati with no inhibitions! They will burst crackers at 4am on Diwali day with Appa and cousins and also burst crackers at night with their Northie friends. (I know we should say no to crackers but chumma oru perspective’ku chonnen)

Besides the lack of a Saravana Bhavan every three kilometres, these parts of Mumbai are very much like Chennai. Infact Matunga is called Mini Madras and Bangur Nagar is called Mini Matunga. You will see malli poo vendors, vegetable vendors with velirikkai, chenai, drumstick, Giri Trading Agency with the latest CD of Unnikrishnan (but still only MSS’s Suprabhaatam will play in the morning, enna Bombaai aanalum TamBrahm engeyum MSS fan dhaan), XYZ Sweets and Snacks (which will have sambar podi, paruppu podi, molaga podi, Mysore Concerns kaapi podi, Diwali palahaaram for poor souls like me who can’t make them), Dosa batter and chutney for sale to pick up after work every evening (Grinder laam vechukka aathula edam illai)

Oh and not to forget if one is a Kerala Iyer like myself there will most definitely be a sticker of “Sree Guruvayoorappan Ee Vidinde Aishwaryam” on the door 😀

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56 thoughts on “Growing up in the most TamBrahm part of Mumbai by Sweta

  1. My name is Anand Aiyer, I am looking for a Tamil Vadhyar (Priest) who can perform Sri Rudrabhishekam , followed by Rudra Homam on October 11th morning in Mumbai. Please kindly get in touch with me on this email andyaiyer@gmail.com Any help or phone number is appreciated.

    Thanks
    Anand

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  2. Indeed very well said and written on tambrams. You probably wanted to touch base on how our parents and yester year youngsters sit the whole of Sunday for ambhathi aar (56 cards play). The amazing calculations and fights while playing. The in between murukku, Chicago and other chakras as they call.
    The local trains with groups playing cards on both western side and central side.

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  3. I am a sixty plus Tambram.My view is slightly different.Today youngsters have mind of their own .Clearly two. Teams have evolved.one set of youngsters clearly like morkuzhambu and bagavati sevai and the other are clear cut they want none of these.the parents carefully watch their children and if these children want to be totally different allow them to be.the old mama mami stories are gone once for all and I think this species is extinct

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  4. Stupid casteist south indians.Does your caste really matter in a modern city like mumbai in 2016.Im a tamilian myself (half tambrahm aa u guys call it) and a proud tamilian and a proud mumbaiwalla.But dont divide people on the basis of caste u fucking chutiyas.

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  5. Hahaha just bumped into this!! Experience of every tambram in Bangur nagar! Especially roaming with the gujju/ punjabi boy :p and bhagwati sevai at ram mandir.. awesome article! Hilarious

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  6. Goodness Shweta, you have a way of writing! I am still laughing. Being an ex-alumni of SRWS Andheri is another whole story. It was a “Madrasi” school (forget the fact that the medium of education was English). As to the native tongue I was put in the Tamil section which was not appreciated by by my Malayalam loving Pakkad parents! So, I did not have to learn a language – which as a student was great , however today, I feel that I should have maybe , just maybe made some attempts. Fast forward to college I was even asked if my parents had a love marriage. 😀 after which I stopped explaining !!
    As far the jaddakam sessions in SIES and Vivek Vidhyalaya were concerned let me tell you, we would dread Sundays. If my father would get some horoscopes all would be well, else….. there would be well meaning mamas who would always say ‘poonu ta idda chaiya cholu, adda chaiya cholu!!!’ Now they are the ‘proud’ (their words absolutely not mine) parents of two daughters who had arranged marriages!! Joy to the world!

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  7. So beautifully written… Being an Iyengar who was born in Matunga and raised in Mulund, I can so relate to this. The landline calls to my mother before I can reach home as to who I have been out with is so spot on!!! 🙂

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  8. This is magnificently written. As a Kerala based Tam Brahm Iyer living in Bombay, so relatable and written with a wonderful sense of humor. For people like us, my family uses the term KBTBI(Kerala based Tamil brahmin Iyer).

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  9. Ire-u pasanga of Chennai!

    Although TamBrahm is the cool definition and iyer(ire-u) pasanga is the local name for us, it is a collective name to refer to Iyers, Iyengars and sometimes even Madhwas. We guys reside in the bastions of West Mambalam, Mylapore and Triplicane which are the mini Srirangam, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur of Thamizh Nadu, Nanganallur and Madipakkam being the mini Mylapore!
    As if by chance if you get to peep into the records of Padma Seshadri or PS Senior school or hell, any random engineering college, you will see the names like Sai Srivatsan and Rahul Vishwanathan donning the top rankers list. With names running out (Vishnu has only 1008 names after all), names like zika, vyom, boom, xyzhish, even Leonardo DiCaprio featuring in the category is quite normal.

    We are the fifth generation TamBrahm whose ancestors thought teaching Vedas by the Cauvery and Palar banks could not meet their daily demands whereas the maths involved in them can fetch them livelihood. So definitely “En machnar, Bank of Baroda GM Ahmedabad la irukaar” is told in the same breath as “Chicago la enakku oru peran porandhurkaan. Engaathu bill gates porandhutaan.” Idhellam sollitu nammala oru paarva paarpa.”Aprom solluda kozhandha, eppo nee VISA edukka pora”. Namakku mind voice la “visa ATM card use panna kooda innum time varalayae nammakita ivaa kusumba paathiya”

    “O***, enna shot da machan” apdi naanga aathuku theriyaama sarakkadichi match paakumbodhu kathina ungalakku Vasool Raja MBBS yae paatha maari irukkum.

    You mumbaikars think, we have a pretty religious pooja-filled environment but with the level of fees our Royal Enfield Gurukkals/Vaathiyaars charge today, we prefer YouTube or thaatha for our avani avittam, sudarshana homam and what not. Diwali na, today our work is to get up, wear new dress, upload it in Instagram and update a “Ganga snaanam aacha” status in FB and happily kadalapottufy with our girlfriend in WhatsApp on festival leverage.

    Girlfriend… Inga dhaan the nosy uncles who try to be all world practical screw up things. We aren’t limited by the landline. These mamas and mamis stalk you in Facebook, dig up the photo of you with your aal and bump it with their like and message the link to your mom or dad in Facebook(and duly notify it in the regular vathivekara phone call). By the time you look up from your phone after the kadala session, aathla paatharam will be flying. “Inga paarudaa, nammalavaava irukkalaam but gothram kaettiya?” “Indha love givvu laam short term da. Rahul paaru, career la focussed aa irukkan.” But we will give up trying to explain that Rahul ‘s aalu is focussed on him so what’s his kavalai?

    Although, we are trained in Carnatic and MS amma’s suprabaatham and Sanjay’s aalapanai blares in our phone, our playlists contain Pink Floyd and Coldplay apart from quintessential kuthu songs.

    We hangout with our IIT friend at CCD for morning kaapi, take our North Indian friend to Murugan idli shop to show off our food and paying 100 RS for a pair of idlis, go to Cream centre and Kobe sizzlers with our college machis, nadula snacks at roadside Bengali chaat kada with Nair chaaya, supper at Dominoes, dinner at American pizza and mid night ice cream date with aalu at Ibaco planning for a movie outing at satyam cinemas the next day.

    Such a globalised species that we are, giri trading agency or iyer’s cafe laam is only a shop on the road for us. The Tam in TamBrahm makes it simpler for us here. The Chennaivaasis.

    Since pressure is force/area and the area you Mumbai TamBrahms belong to are less than we belong to, the pressure of being a TamBrahm is bound to be high 😉.
    But there’s always a pleasure to know a nammalavaa on the other side of enga ooru!

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  10. So it is a universal thing. I thought being from Sreeram welfare society’s high school (srws) andheri west; made us unique. We had compulsory Tamil or Malayalam till 5th standard. Didn’t know all “madrasi” schools did that in Bombay.
    It was this post that was forwarded to me yesterday. I related to everything there. Please keep it coming

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  11. Very well expressed Swetha. I endorse each and every sentence of yours.
    Brought back so many memories of Singara Chennai, where i was born and brought up.
    Nerul ( Navi Mumbai) is also not less, which has a lot of South Indians, especially Tambrahms and Mallus.
    We are surrounded with kovils.
    Keep writing Swetha. Am sure of meeting you one day, in one of the temples, while having sastha preethi or Radha Kalyanam prasadam. God bless you.

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  12. espied your blog Sweta thanks to a post on FB. very entertaining and well written.i was sorry to see it end. you could have gone on and one. would love it if you wrote to me on kisnan56@gmail.com. i am a freelance journalist and also moderate a yahoo group rkBREAK.
    all the best-RK

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  13. Hey, that’s really a good write up. I have grown up in Mulund, lived here for 22 years and yes the Guruvayoorappan Temple is stone throw away distance from my home. I have experienced a lot of things mentioned in this blog and I could not stop laughing at the way things have been portrayed in a very elegant yet hilarious manner. My college was in Matunga so I have got a taste of the Arya Bhavan bonda and tea, bhakti atmosphere of Kochhu Guruvayoorappan temple and Giri Store and the agarbatti vasanai from Acharya stores as well. This article is so true…. Thanks for bringing out the feelings of Kerala Brahmana pullagal and Pongal 🙂

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  14. Shreya,rombam nalla irukku..Hilarious observations and not at all exaggerated if I may say so…hahaha.loved reading it..keep writing.. you have it in you…I loved the style..satyama solren.. hahaha.Best is yet to come,I know..

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  15. Another important characteristic ,they translate tamil/English for most of the conversation……..

    Examples…..

    Eppadi irukkel / how are you?
    Neythu vanthaen neengal illaihey. Engey poi irunthael? I had come yesterday you were not there, where were you?

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  16. Though I can’t relate any of the above (considering the fact that I’m a Chennai Vaasi) it was hilarious to read. I was able to put myself into the shoes of a Mumbai Tambrahm (Hey! But I’ll still support CSK okay? :p) . I thought that this vambu and chetai of maamas and maamis is restricted only to those from the south, I’ve been proved wrong. But There is nothing like trolling oldies . I mean, once there was this random mama whom I barely knew asked me what oil do I use for my Shikai and I was like mama I use “Amazon kadigul lerndhu ariya mooligai al tayarithy brazil natilendhu erakkumadhi seiya pattadhu, ervamatin ” ( He was bald BTW 😉 ) and a million times I’ve been asked if I did adhyayanam -_-
    Keep Writing (Y)

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  17. Interesting read! But many points.don!t apply to several Mumbai Tambrahms any more. Many mamas & mamis have moved away from vambu, don’t bother about boy – girl relationships, don’t object to love marriages…..so no question of running away, don’t do so many pujas. This article may be.relevant to 15, 20 years back?!!

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  18. Hahaha from one belonging to the Baby Boomer generation. Still living in Matunga but nostalgic for the good old days. When I smoked my first cigarette my father knew it the next day. Ongathu pullay cigarettu kudikarathe patthein. Of course I have quit since many years but then, it was the worst sin and had to be conveyed to the parents. There was no anonymity.

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  19. Alla, intha post le oru kochu addition undu. Vishu vam, Onam vam vishesh nall gal kondadevom, Double bonus aakam palakkad iyer ke! Mathe feestival um irruku. Pakschay mukhiyam thvayharam itna aakam. Ende Gurvayoor appa.

    Interesting Blog though. Thanx

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  20. Awesomeness Sweta. Grown up in Kalina and Andheri and surrounded by Menon’s and Nair’s equally; it was a challenge to explain my fluent Malayalam- was it because of the Thrissur/Palakkad background or the Mallu’s around. Questions like- how come your mother tongue is Tamil; your native is Kerala and living in Bombay were questions i have had to put up with throughout my schooling, celebrating Onam, Vishu and Pongal, Mandalam season with equal enthu, diwali, holi and navratri with ‘northies’ guess our sect is exposed to every culture in Bombay is my personal view…very nice read ..jamaaichutel..besh besh!!:-)

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  21. I have spent 60 years in Matunga. Now I have shifted to Chembur, Good write up Sweta. Cannot forget the smell of Vengaaya saambhar emanating from South Indian concerns on Thursdays along with urula kizangu – speciality. Vaadhyaars and seniors gossipping and laughing outside bhajana Samaj. Matunga was great then with tram terminus outside Aurora Cinema.

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    1. My Dad also has fond memories of Aurora. When I was 10 we went all the way to Eros from Goregaon to watch a Tamil movie. Now almost all Multiplexes have screenings of Tamil and Malayalam movies! What a relief! I’m glad you got nostalgic by reading my post 🙂

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  22. Great post! Brought back so many memories of Mumbai and Matunga. I grew up very close to Matunga and my mum still needs to go there thrice a week for her ‘fix’! This is inspiring me to write a post too on growing up in tambrahm Mumbai….

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  23. Tamil spoken by iyengars is very different from tamil spoken by palkadu iyer. In the early 60s when we moved into Mumbai we felt very strange listening to palkadu tamil which had a mix of tamil, malayalam and hindi.

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  24. Mulund’s Guruvayur appan temple( stone throw away from my home), Vani Vidyalaya school where tamizh or Malayalam is compulsory upto 4th std., Jaathagam parivartanai on Sunday. Mama’s dialogue: Jaathagam Vani Vidyalaya, SIES n Diamond garden chemburla vaingo…Bombay paiiyana/ ponna kadaipa. Note its still Bombay with Tambrams

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  25. What u missed possibly is dombivli where I lived where it was another mini madras! I guess iit iim medical discussions galore next to the Balaji temple!

    Nalla ezhuthirukke kozhanthe:))

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  26. Haha can so relate to your story sweta. Being a Kerala Iyer born and brought up in Delhi, have always been called as a confused mallu . thanks for the nostalgia 🙂

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