Ever since I wrote a piece on the Mamas – “My close encounters with Mamas”– their counterpart, the Mamis stopped being kind to me. “Ennada, engala pathi ellam ezhutha maatiyo??” – was the usual refrain wherever and whenever I met them. Though my immediate reaction was – “Oh so these people are reading my posts”- I thought to myself that I must soon set this imbalance right. Hence this attempt. Typically in Tamil Nadu, any married lady from the Brahmin community is referred to as Mami sometimes in reverence, sometimes with scorn and sometimes in jest. For the purpose of contextualization, Mamis being referred so in this piece are ones who are now in their 60’s and may be early 70’s.
For decades, the Mamis were generally a subdued lot – sacrificing their interests, their choices,..,… for the sake of the family and single mindedly pursuing their husband’s and children’s interests selflessly. They took pride in the achievement of their kids and remained contended in whatever they were doing. But since the late 90’s the Mamis started taking a different avatar. It would be tempting to attribute this change to the overall rise of India and the Indian Middle class post liberalization. But I would ascribe this change to the rise of India as an IT behemoth and the subsequent changes it brought to the typical Tambrahm household. In a book titled “Indian Express” by Daniel Lak, the author quotes Kris Laxmikanth – a headhunter specializing in IT in Bengaluru saying that the ascent of India in the domain of IT can be owed to the “revenge of the Brahmins”. And may I say that the ascent of IT in India has led to the “Revenge of the Mamis” in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. This revenge saga manifests in few ways:
Far from being limiting their sojourn to pakathu veedus, Kovil and Kacheri, today the Mamis travel around the globe and if need be alone. If its Washington in the US in one year to meet up with the elder son, then its Wellington in NZ the next year with the daughter!!! “Ennoda passportla pages romba seekram theernthu pogarathu😓is a lament you can hear if you overhear 2 Mamis conversing. And the other Mami quipping – “Naan oru Jumbo passporta vaangi vachundurikken”. Recently I went to a concert of Sanjay Subramanyam, where the hall was filled with Kanjivaram saris of different hue, one could overhear Mamas discussing Modi Vs Manmohan while the Mamis were comparing Sanjay’s rendition in Thyagaraja Aradhanas at Cleveland Vs Austin. “Kalyani la antha “Bajare Re Chitta” Clevelandla pona varsham paadinaar paarungo,. Romba nanna irunthathu. Austinla Kalyani paadala!
Gone are the days when Mamis used to talk about going to Srirangam temple for Vaikunta Ekadasi and cross the ‘Swarga vaasal’. Now its “Pona Vaikunda Ekadasi annikku Pittsburg Venkatachalapathi kovil poyittu apparam we had a Potluck party. Naan puliyodarai pannindu ponen.
In my general observations, I have noticed that the Mamis have far better comprehension of Geography compared to their counterparts. When the Mamas struggle to figure out if SFO was West coast or the East, the Mamis have no such confusion. “LA state na Louisiana state pa, Los Angeles illa”– I heard a Mami clarifying to one MS aspirant the other day! And added in some measure “intha loosu payyan Bobby Jindal irukkaane – he is from there only”
The other thing where Mamis completely overwhelm their better halves is in the domain of health. Mamis are invariably troves of medical knowledge. Finding answers on complex health questions real time with any Mamipedia is more accurate and faster than any other “pedia” in the worldwideweb 😆 I can confidently vouch that most of the Mamas have very little clue on their ailments, dosage of their medicines,.. and are completely dependent on their Mamis to guide them on these. “Intha tablet saapaatukku pinnala. Itha poi saapaatukku munnala pottu karele”?? – is a dialogue one can hear often in Tambrahm households. On a visit to the Doc for routine checkups, it is mostly the Mami who does most of the talking. Young Docs have confessed to me that they get tensed and their BP starts shooting up when they see a Mama walking in with the Mami beside for consultation. “Dr, last time his LDL was 200 and still you didn’t prescribe any Statin! You better prescribe one this time!” (“Why are you coming to me?” is the Doctor’s mind voice in these situations!)
For long the Mamas have been masters of the Queen’s language, the kadichu thuppara accent notwithstanding😜. Now it’s the Mamis who apart from being good at English, have mastered the accents as well. If they give the TOEFL today, they will come out with flying “colous”!
In the age of social media, it is usually the Mami @ home who is savvier than the Mama. While the tryst of the Mama in SM is by and large restricted to checking updates, it’s the Mami who is proactively active . From sharing recipes of now extinct items like Thavala vadai to pics of their trip to Batu caves in Malaysia for Thai poosam to colourful and exotic Kolams (put in front of their daughter’s condo in Singapore for Onam), Mamis are in the forefront of the social media evolution and their own evolution.
In the times of Bahubali, the “Revenge of the Mamis” is happening full on. After years of being submissive, it’s their time of reckoning. And they are clearly enjoying it. And the Mamas have accepted it gracefully. Was there a choice??? They have to knock at the mami to understand what is that medicine post dinner.