Shanti Muhurtam by Rekha

Shanthi Muhurthathilendu Shivaloka prapthivare..….chronicles (which turned out to be debacles) of Tamil terminologies!!

“Where am I from?” This question pops in many minds with a confusing alarmity especially for those who have migrated. For example, I am a Tamil Brahmin not from Tamil Nadu but from Kerala…Huh??? Thus the Tamil I speak is much diluted because my ancestors migrated to Kerala, and myself being born and bought up in Mumbai. Hence many of the Tamil vocabularies were alien to me. To add to that, I married in to a conventional large TamBrahm family hailing from an agraharam thus opening a pandora of fresh new vocabularies. Vidam vidama chamayal, ongathu vazhakkam engathu vazhakkam, mor mollaka, aracchu vitta kozhambu, podi potta kozhambu, mor kozhambu, aathakarar aathakari and many such. They had all the essentials of a highly traditional TamBrahm culture.

My stumbles with the tamil jargon began even before my marriage and here are a selected few anecdotes (not in any particular order) which would be enough goof up material for the tamilians to out caste me!!

Shanti Muhurtham..Let peace be with me!!

I was at Chennai Nallis purchasing sarees for my sister’s wedding. That’s when I was initiated in to the knowledge of typical TamBrahm wedding shenanigans. And as is customary my family was purchasing sarees based on the different rituals like Vruthum, Nichayathartham, Oonjal etc.  Since childhood I was never forced to imbibe customs, traditions and beliefs and took to them because I liked them. Hence, kept myself updated with these rituals.  Finally  time for the saree selection for “Shanti Muhurtham” (the first night!). Now we all know Indian culture has its own taboos about certain truths of life and are extremely shy to discuss these among themselves let alone with children. Hence obviously I had been kept in the dark about this aspect.  I questioned, as loud as I could, in front of the sales people, my family battalion full with aunts and uncles, other customers, “what is shanti Muhurthum?”  There was an absolute inconvenient silence for a minute.  At the age of 20 I was not to give up. I probed further and was wondering why am I not getting an answer! I couldn’t apprehend the facial signals I was receiving from my relatives.  Finally after many angry glances from my mom, embarrassed look from my relatives, the sales people and many other and to avoid the situation getting out of hand, one of my (by now thoroughly embarrassed) aunt took me aside and explained the meaning. My reaction:  embarrassment and sly satisfaction at embarrassing others and having attained extra knowledge. Bringing up a taboo topic in public that too so loudly is a crime in itself and I broached this in one of the busiest shops in Chennai.  Shiva Shiva!

Shivalokaprapthiadainthaar….this could have been the death of me!

Hailing from a small nuclear family of just four (father, mother and two daughters) my husband’s family loomed large in front of me. In my solicitousness to please my sister’s in law and co-sisters, I would write letters to few of them after I moved to Dubai. Since I could not read or write Tamil they wrote Tamil in English!!  Don’t ask me how they managed that!  In one such letter my co-sister conveyed to me the following,  “pona vaaram mama shivalokaprapti adainthar”. I was bewildered and wondered what the heck happened to that mama. I was not used to such long words in Tamil. After much probing and thesising, understood that the mama had expired!! Tamil is a melodramatic language isn’t it? Should we blame it on Vairamuthu (the famous lyricist)?

Jyadagamedutacha…followed by kullichindirukkeya!!

TamBrahms have this unique way of tormenting people. An unmarried girl/boy is tormented with “jyadagameduthacha” question and is made to feel inferior until they are betrothed. Thereafter comes the next question especially to the bride or the bride’s mother/mother in law, “kullichindirukkala”?  (to the uninitiated this means “are you pregnant?”). Actually this is not limited to TamBrahms but is a disease in existence in the whole of India, only they are worded differently. I too was not spared of this torment. When a mami asked me this, I took offence and said “ennamamiappudikekkarel? Naan daily kullikkaren!” “enna ippudi pesara? Unnume theriyadhu indha ponnukku” look followed.  Positive outcome of this conversation, an irritated/embarassed mami, an enlightened and satisfied me at having learnt one more vocab which has been safely tucked inside my bag. Will take it out on a yet another innocent newly married woman. What is learnt has to be unlearnt on some one!

Then begins the initiation of the son in to the TamBrahm traditions including our overt fascination for velli, eversilver pattarums, pittalai…..but care be taken for these young TamBrahms be initiated only with english terms not the Tamil ones, but then sometimes English too can be deceptive!

“Those days’ people had bigger ‘brass’ compared to these days,” said my sister in law to my teen son, little knowing where this whole conversation is going to lead to. “We (read TamBrahms) are a proud lot and love to display brass.”  “In my Pukkam (in-laws house and also explained to my son) they had a very big store room where they stored different sizes.” “Whaaaat???? Bras?????” queried my son, totally dismayed.  Yes, she replied. “When you come to my in laws place I will show you” “They regularly cleaned them”, said she further enhancing the love of brass items for us tam brahms. “It is customary to display these during Tam brahm functions including weddings.” “The store room is strictly under lock and key as these attract thieves.”  “ What the……..they get stolen as well?????these bras?????” asked my son shocked beyond words!!  After about 15 minutes of this conversation my poor sister in law realized that what she is conveying and what is being perceived is totally different!!!   Now she could have spoken about our fascination for silver & steel as well, unfortunately she chose to brace him only for the brass!!

Ever noticed half of the words used by TamBrahms seem to be their own creations. Least the TamBrahm ancestors could do was create a TamBrahm dictionary.  There is palakkad TamBrahm chamayal book why not Palakkad TamBrahm dictionary? But please, may it be tamil written in English!

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6 thoughts on “Shanti Muhurtam by Rekha

  1. So goes my experience – here I got married into a Mumbai tambrahm household – my husband brought up in mumbai in a guju area could speak neither Tamil nor Malayalam infact couldn’t manage even decent Talayalam.
    Now – after about 3-4 months of the wedding – 25 years ago – there were calls on Sunday noon – from my dad & mama to speak to me and that day being a holiday – I go in to take my leisurely bath ( is a luxury in mumbai on normal working days and in a joint family with one bath room to share with all) – my husband takes the call – he is asked – ” kulichindurukkala’ meaning differently put is she pregnant ? My husband says ‘pardon’ ‘ say that again’ twice and then very confidently says – Amam ungailukku eppidi theriyum? And says normala kalambara she takes bath – but inniku Sunday so she is taking it easy …. My dad understands and the. Has some usual conversation and cuts the call. Now my mamma in the next 10 mins – kulichindurukkala ? And my fellow – Amam eppidi ungallulku Ellam theriyum? Ippo than Appa Ketta and now u r asking – my mama misunderstood and almost celebrates in chennai ; and says will talk to her soon and puts the phone to propaganda the good news …. Now I come out of bath and my husband says – nee enna tirchyla before marriage kulikkave mataiya – and now how r u announcing to your entire family before going in for a bath? I said – wait tell
    Me what happened …. It took me two trunk calls ( no STD) to clear the me(Ii)ssunderstanding.

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  2. Extremely hilarious same time, educative indeed. Things what r supposed to be shared to grown-up girls, let it be shanthimuhurtams, chamayal, pathram, n forget not the riwaz such as palum/pazham kudukaradhu, oonjal, etc really grt n interesting… I doubt wether any immediate revolutionary changes expected…. I think as parents who have gone thru this route, must update our kids today. If not they bound to be not getting to know these and tambaram charm likely to vanish .

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