Essence of a TamBrahm by Priyanka

Blog post by Priyanka Natesh

No matter how modern we appear on the outside, the trace of a TamBrahm cannot go unnoticed. A pottu, or poonal, and that chamathu kondhai charm that oozes out involuntarily! Growing up in Hyderabad since I was 6 years old didn’t give much time to get to know namma Chennai any more than Pondy Bazar and Marina beach.

What? Kovils? Adhu almost ellame pathachu, don’t worry. But Hyderabad has no shortage of TamBrahms, believe me. Almost around every corner you can find a mama with a pattu veshti, or a mami with a diamond stud mookuthi, or smell the heavenly aroma of melting vennai for ghee, or hear an agitated amma yelling, “Saapadu aari pordhu! Seekrama sapdungo!” or see a poised appa reading The Hindu while sipping filter coffee. I think 90% of Hindu subscribers in Hyderabad are tamilians. Already a known fact ah? But I had to state the obvious, because of that strange, unexplainable pride about the newspaper (whether we read it or not).

So, as I was saying, even though I didn’t grow up in Chennai, my family and this city made sure that our traditions and customs were properly drilled into me, despite my attempts to escape, as an irritated teenager! But it all makes sense now. Lot of it, if not all. Like ultra scanning the rahu kalam|yamagandam timings in the ranimutthu calendar before signing any document (cheques, exam forms… practicing your signature…), because “nalla neram” is very important. You just go along with it, because deep, deep down that tiny TamBrahm voice is winning the argument over the logical voice. No questions asked. And if you’re still curious, Google will give you scientific reasons for everything.

The only regret I have about growing up here is not being able to learn to read and write Tamizh in school. Tamilians have a natural flair for languages (4 out of 5 tamilians I know, do), and picking up new tongues is easy peasy. Except Hindi, you say? 😛 Thankfully, Hyd disciplined my tongue to speak Hindi without an accent.  Over two summer vacations, I learnt from Amma to squeeze out the tamizh script. Reading vandhachu, but writing innum varalai. Strangely, our script is easier to read than to write! Five “na’s”, two “la’s”… romba kashtama irikku pa! Then there are the tongue twister competitions we have with our cousins and siblings— “Yaar theccha chatta, thatha thecha chatta!” and “Thupparku thuppaya thuppa……..thoovum mazhai!” Sorry Thiruvalluvar. And when my telugu, hindi friends want me to teach them something in Tamizh, I start off with “Vazhai pazham thol nazhivi keezhe vizhindhidhu”; blank stares. All they know is “romba” and “chumma”, because romba sounds funny, and chumma means “kiss” in Hindi. So don’t ever say “chumma” to a Hindi person.

Watching Thillana Mohanambal, lighting the kathigai deepam watching Jaya TV’s live telecast, crooning to MS Amma and Sudha Raghunathan. So many little things that define a TamBrahm’s essence. I could go on and on.

English translations:

  1. Kovils= Temples; 2. Pattu Veshti+ Silk dhoti; 3. Mookuthi= Nose ring; 4. Vennai= Butter; 5.“Saapadu aari pordhu! Seekrama sapdungo!”= Food’s getting cold! Come to eat soon!; 6. Nalla neram= good time; 7. Romba= a lot; 8. Kashtam= difficult; 9. Chumma = simply!

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6 thoughts on “Essence of a TamBrahm by Priyanka

  1. Though I’m not Tambrahm, having stayed with a Tambrahm family for a year converted me into one. I’m in awe of the tambrahmness 😀


  2. Most of this sheer nonsense trying to compensate a world of new challenges and concerns in a new environment. If persisted, it will slowly alienate our own children who are adopting and at ease
    in them. Many TB’s were themselves exposed to them when they left their villages and Tamilnadu
    live in other states. Their enunciation of spken Tamil was a laughing matter with Tamils of Tamilnadu and the lthey were the marked targets for the locals of their adopted Indian states.
    USA is vey tolerant by and large.
    It may be fun to indulge in SVV or Deven Tamil (do you rember or know of them), but to dwell
    in such nostalgia, bordering on nonsense is laughable.


  3. Typical scenes at my house except for learning tamizh as I grew up in chennai. My cousins at Delhi, Bombay and Hyderabad and even USA experience tamizh learning from their parents.



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