I am not a feminist or an anti-Malayali. These are mere observations from my everyday life and any resemblance to anyone living or dead or to circumstances, is purely intentional!
Born and brought up in Kochi, Kerala, completed schooling in Kochi, college in Chennai, worked in Chennai and currently working in Bangalore – I am very much a Malayali who knows to fluently read, write and speak the Malayalam language though I might look nothing like a south Indian, let alone a Malayali to few people!
I have utmost reverence for the land of Kerala, its traditions and culture. Like any other Malayali, I am an ardent fan of Lalettan (Mohanlal) – yes, we think our chubby Lalettan stands tall against the other non-Malayali actors. Beef is my staple and will find my undercover dealer to source it even in Karnataka! I love coconut oil on my hair, yellow crisp banana chips and yes, I do have relatives and even my parents in the Gulf (or Gelf like how some of you pronounce it). My English does have a lathering of the Malayali accent and I do sometimes get my pronouncing mixed in the ‘O’ of horse and hose. I accept.
As much as I am honoured to be a Malayali, surfing through all these years in my life, I stand with the realisation that the Malayali community is one of the most hypocritical ones across the globe. Well, hypocrisy is just one sliver, their nosiness in other people’s business, the diabolic moral policing, the filthy shrewdness and the intolerable narrow-mindedness are other facets of the dirty coin. By stating this I know I am inviting the wrath of many from my native, but I am sorry, it’s the truth and it’s bitter.
Ever travelled in the red private buses in Kerala? It’s one such entertainment that should be added to the ‘things to do in Kerala’ section of the tourism website which obviously should have the person sign a NOC before entering the ride. And P.S – this is an exclusive for women. Not only does one get bashed around like a rag doll fit enough to twist your intestines, you will endure a violent experience with the lewd comments from the conductors or Kilis as they are called locally. If you are a plump woman in jeans or even a normal sized one with some modern clothes on or a non-Malayali – be ready for ‘those looks’ from the aunty crowd. They will gradually unrobe you with their killer looks! Got headphones on? Wow! You are the next alien in sighting! Wait a bit more for those nudges and invisible fingers that will caress your rounded lady parts from behind.
Now, there will be some among you who will tell me that this is not an exception to Kerala – yes, it’s not. But this kind of abuse in public transport is comparatively lesser in the other cities of India. I have used buses and local trains in Chennai for almost all of my 7 years and there hasn’t been even one single such instance. Don’t many of you scorn and scrunch your face in disgust at the mention of a Tamilian, shooing him away as a ‘Paandi’?! Well, these people are much civilised and refined than an average Malayali! This is an insight into the flip side – the Malayali urge to put their noses (and many other body parts) into other people’s business and their fixation on sex!
There was a time during my college days when I returned home with some colour in my hair and couple of piercings in my ear which I still flaunt. My neighbourhood aunties had a greater problem with these than my mother. They tried to threaten me with things like- “Wait till we tell your Mom!” Woman! What makes you think that my mother hasn’t already seen this and anyway how is this your concern?!
Having been educated in a co-ed system, I sure do have a lot of male friends too. But a person should disown all friendship with other genders once you set foot in God’s own country because we Malayalis don’t understand a relationship called ‘friendship’. A man and woman can be together only if they are involved romantically or sexually. An approval for a romantic relationship is still a favour you get from the comparatively better lot of Malayalis, else for the rest you are just a pair looking for a shady corner to have sex! This is one of the main reasons why spinsters and bachelors seldom find apartments or houses rented out to them in Kerala because the Malayali owner is constantly worried whether these unmarried people might bring over someone to indulge in sex. Sex is such a sin you know! Rape? Not as much!
There are two sides to this – what makes you think that your rented house is the only place on the planet where they will have sex? A couple (or a group) who is determined to indulge in carnal pleasures will do it elsewhere if not your house. If there is a will, there is a way – remember the proverb they taught you in kindergarten? Secondly, why this unwanted hyping of sex? Here, let me make it clear that I am not being an advocate of premarital sex – I believe it is a very personal choice and why don’t you let people do what they want – be it meeting or mating. Well, all the rich Malayali house owners are willing to rent their spaces to only ‘married couples’ because they are married and marriage is a legal license to practice sex. Totally understand this. But what do you do about these ‘married couples’ who might be indulging in a threesome or orgy? The so-called colleague or cousin going into a ‘married couple’s’ house might be their ‘tripod’! Well, one is not to undermine the capabilities of Malayalis thinking that they do not savour kinky acts in bed; they sure do.
About 4 years ago, I was travelling across India and Nepal for a work-related project with 2 of my male colleagues. We were halting at hotels in various cities to continue with our photography shoot. Of all the places we had been, it was only in my dear Kerala that the receptionist madam wanted to know what is my relationship with the two men travelling with me. Apparently, colleagues together on a work project didn’t seem a satisfactory enough reason to her. I am quite aware of the million combinations and possibilities madam would have thought of. After all, we are Malayalis and we want extra spice and masala in everything, not just in our Beef Varattiyath!
Talking about sex – Bombay has been a state assigned as some sort of a sex capital of the country because of the Red street. Though this was a label from my parents’ or grandparents’ generation, Bangalore and Goa are the successors to this title. I have heard my parents say that in their times it was a common belief that anyone going to Bombay was heading to get laid. Now our Malayali uncles and aunties have Bangalore and Goa as the no-entry zones for their well-bred Malayali sons. Looking around at this Bangalore city where I have lived for two years, travelled in public transport and been on streets post 10 pm, I can only recollect events from Kerala where I was inappropriately touched in a moving bus at 12 noon or had lewd comments passed at me while walking on the pavement. But hail God’s own country!
Being obedient children, we more or less keep our parents informed of our doings. Haven’t there been these instances when you, especially the girl child when seeking permission for a girls’ trip with her friends, the answer came back as – “No, you can travel with your husband after you are married!” Oh! I forgot I needed a husband license to start living my life and executing my dreams. This might be a common experience for many children born to Indian parents but this standard is quite prevalent in Kerala.
Marriage is an essential magic word that officially gives you the permission to do many things in life. From getting tattoos to wearing clothes you like to drinking to going to parties to travelling, the marriage license is the key to your existence. The Malayali community essentially brings up a girl child as a charming commodity to be sold off in the matrimony market. I personally know people whose parents are against them getting a tattoo until they are married. The curse will be lifted after they get married. The justification is – what if your prospective groom or his family think that you are too outgoing and incapable of getting into wedlock because you have coloured hair, piercings, tattoos or because you have been to Thailand? Well, what if my prospective groom had a blaring tattoo on his biceps? Oh! That isn’t counted because they are men and they are allowed to do as they please. So basically the problem is not about your daughter having a small butterfly etched on her hand, it’s the ‘what ifs’ that might come from your prospective son in law and his family.
There is this common phrase I have heard from many Malayali men or precisely male chauvinist pigs where they compare the woman they date or have sexual encounters with, as a rusted, used M80 bike in a driving school wherein its sole purpose is to aid them in learning the ‘driving skill’. But once they have mastered the skill, they purchase an unused, brand new car – the wife from the matrimony market. Foremostly, equating a woman to a man(y) handled vehicle is derogatory enough. Then, possessing the audacity to admit that they want an ‘untainted, chaste’ woman in matrimony is beyond outrageous! Is the concept of chastity only applicable to women? Well, in most cases, this M80 is an educated, outgoing, earning woman who has a spine and tongue and will not abide by all that you bring to her platter. So marrying a woman with ‘balls’ definitely bigger than yours is quite daunting. When it comes to marriage, our Malayali achayans want a B.com just passed housewife who goes daily to the church. She will cook you your fish molly and pork ularthiyath and squeal and freak at the mention of anything beside normal – from booze to weed to even a new sexual position!
Like how the saying goes – You don’t meet a Malayali, they happen to you. Well, it’s up to each one of us to decide if that’s a boon or a bane. There are days when I praise the Lord for making me look like a chubby Punjabi gudiya to some Malayalis. This might seem to some that I loathe my motherland; it’s not so. Malayalis have happened to me and the problem is that they don’t understand boundaries. Starting with a casual tête-à-tête about your name and they will go on to advise you on which hair oil to use to why you should get married to why you should have kids before 30. Having lived away from family for over 10 years, I have my fair share of Malayali uncles and aunties at workplace, churches and social gatherings who feel it’s their responsibility to advice me on my life. No, it’s not concern, it’s just a Malayali thing to believe that they are put on earth to render advice to all fellow beings.
Malayalis love to connect because that is how they churn gossip. Tell them you are in Bangalore and they will tell you about their Kunjamma’s ammayis’s son’s father-in-law’s great-grandmother (some long and far relation) and why you should go meet them. No, thanks!
Nevertheless, we Malayalis are very earthy, warm people and you are never going to get the softest appams and mutton stew or beef fry or banana chips from anyone except us! ?