For any Tambrahm worth his or her uppu, the phrase “Ela Pottachu” must immediately ring a bell or rather Getti melam!!! For, in any function one attends these days from Kalyanam to Poonal to Shastiaptapurthi to Sadhabhishegam or even Sasthapreethi the otherwise sober mamas and mamis, take a different avatar moment the phrase “Ela Pottachu” spreads in the hall! Enthusiastic mamas and mamis who are in the midst of “avaloda Jathakam eduthacha?” and “New Jerseyla ore thanuppu theriyumo??? conversations quietly wriggle to “Vantha 1st velaya paarupom” (Read as Handing over the cover/gift to the concerned). Once that is done, it’s time for Vantha 2nd velai – read as Saapaadu. The action shifts from the main hall to the dining hall!
There was a time in TamBrahm functions, literally you will have to beg people to eat in the 1st pandhi. Most of them – youth and old alike would settle for Velambing for the 1st few pandhis and then only would eat in the last. “Nadaswaram, melam ellam vechu koopittaathaan chaapida varuvela??” “Illa Bombay Sistersoda Bojanam Seiyya vaarungo paattu podatuma??? These used to be the type of lighter vein banter to get people to come and eat. Not anymore. With caterers taking over the serving, once the Muhurtham is over, many people settle to “Vantha mukkiyamaana velaya mudichudarom”!!! At heart there are 2 insecurities. First, if the count goes haywire the nice viscous saambaar may become close to flowing rasam by the 4/5th pandhi. Second, the initial enthusiasm of those serving gradually may wane and they start ozhapping. Having counted the days eagerly for a nice saddhi saapaadu, both could be extremely disappointing! So the game plan is to keep guilt pangs like 1st pandhileye saapidarome aside and try to hit the elai as early as possible. You will agree with me that it’s easier said than done – if you look at some of the following real life experiences at the dining hall these days:
• As you settle down to start eating and just as you move from paruppu/nei to saambaar, you will start feeling a whiff of warm air in your neck and shoulders. As you turn around to check, you will realise that a line is forming for the next pandhi right behind you even as you just started! “Breathing down one’s neck” can be literally felt here!
• As you dig in to relish the items one by one, you can hear whispers from behind like, “intha manushan enna ippadi izhu izhu izhukaraare! Sadhiye chapattathillai polarikku!!”
• Even as YOU try to get the attention of those you serve, you will get ample help from behind – “Saarukku inga thayir!!!” – Pochu, your desire of going for one more round of ada pradaman payasam goes in vain as the person behind you has already made you move on to thayir!!!
• The other day, while a person was eating he got a call. Just as he was making an attempt to retrieve his mobile which was tucked somewhere between his pot belly and veshti, he got a sermon from a waiting mami. “Mama, phone ellam apparum pesikkalaam. Seekiram mudingo!!!”
• “Gappa adichathu porum, naanga romba nerama waiting inga” – One mami was heard telling 2 ambis who were discussing pros and cons of Modi’s Demonetisation!
• In another case, paavam one young lady was sitting and having food with her 5 year old daughter and trying to make her eat. That’s all. Barbs started. “Kuzhanthaikku thaniyaa saapaadu eduthundu poi kuduka padaatho??? Inga ippadi paduthindu irukaale???”
• “Mamaakku sugar! Irunthaalum ippadi 2 payasathayum maathi maathi vaangi kudichindu irukaar!!” Another barb at a mama who was enjoying his payasam with a vengeance (his wife was not around) without realizing that he is now sitting like a Nandi before the next Pandhi!!
• Just as you attempt to move your now swollen tummy and get up, the person in the line behind has already occupied the chair like “Minnal”!!!
• For the in between rows which don’t have sufficient space for people to line up behind – people use innovative ploys to reserve their seats. Like:
o In some temples in Tamil Nadu just as you alight from your vehicle, you will see ladies who sell offerings reserving their customers from at a distance by saying, “antha sevappu sari ennuthu, Antha periya pottu mami ennuthu,… Like that, in pandhis also you can hear– from at a distance – “antha yellow kurta en seat, that ponchampalli mami’s seat is mine,..!!!”
o The time tested technique of throwing kerchief from a distance to reserve the seat as soon as a person gets up!!!
o Before itself, befriending the boys who serve and asking them to reserve the seat when you come!!!
o If those who are sitting and eating are your friend/relatives asking them not to let anybody else sit other than you!!
o So on and so forth!!!
So one can see, it is becoming a brahmaprayathanam to eat properly in a function now without getting embarrassed or being shameless!!!
So here are some suggestions (some serious, some satirical) to get over this:
• Have both options of buffet and Ela potta saapaadu. So people can choose and decide.
• If only Ela potta pandhi – have 2 separate rows for Senior citizens.
• Like they have row wise boarding in airlines, have alphabetical order wise calling. (That my name starts with A has nothing to do with this suggestion!!!)
• Have eating sequence as per arriving sequence in the hall. So earlier you come, earlier you can eat! As you enter, you will be issued a dining pass with a sequence number. Accordingly to the sequence you will be admitted in the respective pandhis. (When you keep track of the attendees you can also ensure adequate quantity of food and you can avoid extending the saambaar after the 3rd pandhi!!!
• Introduce a “Saapaadu sequencing app” wherein you will get a notification when your seat is ready in the pandhi. You can just go exactly at that time!!!
• Of course you can also tie a tag with a RFID chip to all guests as you enter which will record the time as you enter and give a beep when your seat is ready in the dining hall!!!
Hopefully by adopting some ideas like this, one can enjoy the function fully without training your ears all the time to hear the important phrase – “Ela pottachu!!!”