I like Onam.
For the uninitiated, it is the Keralan harvest festival. Which we supposedly indulge in when we find the time away from our hartals and strikes. The remaining farmers who have not yet committed suicide to escape the whirlpool of debts, ensure we have some sort of a harvest from fields that have not yet been sold to raise wedding halls or movie theaters.
We do like our movies, don't we?
For a hard core mallu, our love for movies comes very close to how we feel about our sadyas.
Oh, you have no idea what a sadya is? Never mind, let me confuse you further.
It is where we serve a 9 course meal incorporating around 64 different mandatory vegetarian curries served in a specific predetermined order on a banana leaf, that is positioned in a predetermined way. To make things worse, it has to be eaten in a particular way. Each curry has an order in which it has to eaten with which course.
And you think the cutlery in a formal dinner is confusing. Europeans have nothing on a mallu's ability to make a simple thing like eating, into a mind boggling experience.
You need to do a sadya at least once in your life.
It makes you appreciate the simple things in life. I once told a friend of mine, that as a mallu, we are like potatoes. Everything of value is buried underground. Heritage, Culture, Caste...
I have never seen a race that use this word as often as any other bunch in India.
Translated, that says : Remember?
Its like everything in the present has to have a reference in the past for us to appreciate the future a little lesser.
Nothing is good enough.
As you can see I am doing the same here. Just goes to show I am a true blue mallu. There is absolutely no cure.
The same friend pointed out that my written work, dripping with subtle sarcasm, are my attempts to put a righteous distance between what I am and what I think I am.
Did I tell you I got very brilliant, insightful friends? I do. That's why I don't like them.
She is right of course.
But I am a mallu. Which means I can only show you the way but will never get off my coconut arse to lead you there. For that we will wait for one of our gods to come down in his next schizophrenia induced disguise.
Then somewhere in India, we will have another festival and another feast.
I think it was George Bush, at his diplomatic best, who claimed that the increase in global food prices is due to Indians overeating.
I believe, my friends, the ex president had experienced a sadya at Gopalettan's Tharavad in Changanassery when Omanachettathi, made her special Adda Pradamum, which the President of the U S of A supposedly asked her to pack for Laura.
I like being a mallu. It is so complicated to an outsider. Its like belonging to some secret organization - like the Illuminati or something.
For one thing, we speak in code. We do. Your rudimentary understanding of malayalam will fall on its face when faced with our Thiruvananthapuram bhasha (thats mallu for Trivandrum language). Each district, each community, each caste has added their own twist to the language. And you thought the toughest thing to do in Kerala was eating fried Karimeen without getting killed by the fish bone stuck in your gullet.
When asked why we eat on banana leaf, my brother, once told some unfortunate Japanese man who had the misfortune of being his friend, that after finishing our food, we fold the leaf and eat that too, like how people eat the cone after finishing the ice cream.
It was a strange sight to behold - three Japanese men trying to fold their banana leaves to a bite size.
We don't include, do we? I made an observation once that we Indians are a nation racists. Its almost a reverse racism, tinged with some sort of cultural righteousness, but its racism nonetheless. I nearly got lynched for it. Which to me meant that I was not that far from the truth.
But as a mallu, we really don’t let anyone get citizenship into our mallu confederation, do we?
I am married to a non mallu. It was not something done purposefully but it happened. Lets just say I was simbly irresistible.
Its now been close to 12 years and every time we attend family weddings, she’s introduced thus :
Oh, this is ------, Tys's wife. She’s from....eh...whats that place's name, molu?
Every single time.
Do I do anything about it? Absolutely not. I am a mallu. We don't do anything, we only show you the folly of our own ways.
That's the funny thing. Have you noticed that like some dominant gene, a mallu will convert everything around him to some semblance of malluness? We do. You don't allow a mallu into your life without getting afflicted by us. My wife's side of family had no chance. Their chappati sabji days were numbered the day they allowed me into their folds.
Its a wonder how she stuck around.
In her attempt to gain entry into the inner santum, she even mastered the sadya - how to make one and how to eat one. She wears the traditional garb like a local. She tries her hand at speaking the noise we call a language. But its a losing battle. I am too much of a coward to tell her that. No matter what she does, she’s never going to be what she dreams to be :
She will remain in the periphery, an exotic inclusion, like many others, to fool ourselves into believing the magnanimity of our mallu culture's ability to include.
She will join the esteemed ranks of the outsider, who waits hopelessly, to be let in.
Now all we need is a sign and we can proceed to take over the world.
Photo credit: thekeralatours.com