Mix and Match by Aravind

Blog post by Aravind Krishnan

‘Hey, where are you from?’

A simple sentence; the introductory sentence which connects strangers; simple & eloquent; a plain enquiry to know the person you are. But not if you are a third generation TamBrahm from Mumbai!

Usually the response to this question is simple, but with my response [or any similar individual who has experienced & undergone this before] this is only the beginning of confusion.

Thus goeth my conversation:

‘Hey, where are you from?’

‘Mumbai’ *Chamatthu Kozhandey Smile*

‘But you don’t seem Maharashtrian?’ *confusion begins*

‘No, I’m not a Maharashtrian. I am a Tamil Brahmin.’ *yet another test of patience*

‘So Chennai?’ *tries to clarify*

‘No, Kerala.’ *adamant & a little bit vain*

‘But you said Tamil Brahmin, how are you from Kerala?’ *more confusion*

‘We are Tamil Brahmins settled in Kerala!!’ *exasperated sigh*

‘So how are you from Mumbai then?’ *romba confused stranger*

*takes a deep breath and begins my standard explanation*

‘Basically I am born and brought up in Mumbai. My grandparents & ancestors prior to them hail from Kerala, but we are Tamil Brahmins.’

*random stranger visibly confused and thinks this is too complicated & gives up*

Identity crisis? Well, one won’t be wrong in assuming that this is what will happen if there are multiple states involved. But for me and people from my generation of TamBrahms who stay in Mumbai, this is normal! We take as much pride in being a Mumbaikar as we are a Tamil Brahmin. Luckily, we have clarity even when others are confused with regards to our origins.

People say best of both worlds. In our case, we have best of all worlds!

  • We love Maharashtrian cuisine and Vada Pav as much as we love Puliyodarai & Idli-Dosai!
  • Our Saddi Chaapadu is relished with equal fervour as much as a Maharashtrian Thali!
  • We love Puran Poli as much as our Vella Payasam!!!
  • We love our curd rice & narthangai as much as Bakharwadi & Kothimbir Vadi!
  • We love Sachin Tendulkar as much as Ravichandran Ashwin!! (I speak for myself here)
  • We love Matunga as much as we love Madras! (To those who have been at both places, they are very similar!!)
  • We love dancing to the beats of the Puneri Dhol as much as we love Sivamani’s epic percussion! (We can do our Ganpati Dance to any Dumma-koothu song)
  • We love Tamil cinema as much as we love Bollywood!! (By extension Malayalam movies as well!) (And Bollywood still needs to come up with a match for Kamal & Thalaivaa!!)
  • We love A R Rahman’s tunes as much as Ajay-Atul’s!! (Music Lovers basically!!)
  • We love Marine Drive as much as Marina Beach! (See, even the names are similar!)
  • We love Siddhivinayak & Mahalakshmi as much as Vadapalani or Mylapore Kabali kovil! (#ChamatthuKozhandey)

[I can keep adding various similar themes between both places, but I seem to have made my point and will stop before saying anything blasphemous and being blasted by both!!]

Bottomline: To those who feel we are not in touch with our roots and have lost ourselves in this city of cross-cultures & cosmopolitan society, that is not the case. We love our culture and tradition and are equally proud to be part of other cultures & try our best to enjoy both. Just like milk, sugar & coffee powder come together blending seamlessly to make the divine filter kaapi, we take in best of everything while upholding our roots with pride!


12 thoughts on “Mix and Match by Aravind

  1. Interesting discussion. Palghat Iyers form a unique group who are Iyer by belief but bilingual Malayalam and Tamil speaking by culture. There are however some Iyers in other parts of the state who call themselves Kerala Iyers. Further there are Iyer and Iyengar communities in neighbouring states of Karnataka and Andhra. Some like Hebbar Iyengars and Sanketis identify as Kannada speaking. So Iyers are not essentially Tamil speaking.

    Given further migration this is further complicated by living in other states. In a sense Sanskrit is the basic language that stays with Iyers in all states.


  2. Very truly said!! I’ve had many such experiences; Palakkad iyer, born in Mumbai and brought up in Bangalore!!!
    But I do love seeing the confused expressions when I explain all this ☺


  3. I can relate to it so well. I’m a tambrahm from Mumbai, whose dad is from Trishur and mom raised in Mumbai with roots in Kerala. My husband is a tambrahm with similar roots, also raised in Mumbai, who moved to Pune for work. So, our first home is in Pmune. We have close relatives in Chennai and Bangalore and we’re now settled in London. It’s fun to watch my 9 year old daughter explain to her friends where she’s from. Just imagine! 🙂


  4. I have had similar experiences being a Palakkad guy born in Mumbai and brought up in Bangalore…Our older generations already had the trend to leave their hamlets and move to greener pastures. That is why we see plenty of Tambrahms in most major urban areas of India. I unfortunately don’t have a single relative in my village today.


  5. And it makes it even more interesting to explain the antecedent of my dear wife for a non-tambrahm person like me who has married a TamBrahm from Mumbai 🙂


  6. I really don’t see the confusion here, you just answered 2 different questions here, “where are you from ?” (Mumbai) and “what you are” (TamBrahm). In this day and age, people need to recognise those 2 questions will not have the same answer for the majority of us.

    Now add multiple countries into the mix and there you have the beginning of a mini-biography every time you answer 😂


  7. Of course the question ‘where are you from’ is not from another TamBrahm other wise the Q&A session will be different. Brilliant



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