Category Archives: Palakkad Iyers

Kaineettam Collection Time!

“Konthey, onnu ezhunthuko! Innaiku Vishu aakkum! Appidiye kanna moodindu, paathu vaa!” The moment the wife utters these lines today morning even as early as 5’0 clock, I am certain that our 10 year old daughter will wake up like a robot instantly and start walking. This is unlike the other days where virtually we have to cook up different stories like “Konthey, innaiku schoola film kaatara, get up and get ready quickly or cheekiram ezhunthiru – picnickku late aayidum or dance period irukke innaikku, ezhunthuko,…,… Basically all stories not related to studies! Athe samayam, leavu naalna oorukku minnnaadiye ezhunthuduva. But today as she wakes up and we guide her to the Swami ullu with her eyes closed, she is all full of excitement and enthusiasm. For soon, she will get a few currency notes as Vishu Kaineetam from her Appa and Amma. After the Kani Kaanal is over as I hand over a crisp 500 rupee note to her with blessings, the immediate response is “Ennappa, only 500 Rupees this year also??”

(Now here imagine some cloud kind of thing swirling over my head as I flash back to the Vishu day of my childhood – somewhere in the 70’s)

In Tamil Nadu where I was brought up, Vishu was observed only by Tambrahms of the Palakkad/Kerala Iyer origin. So it’s a day of one-upmanship among friends who didn’t observe Vishu. “Enakku engappa/amma naalaikku naraya kaasu tharuvaale!!!” – kinda stuff. The previous day while we go to sleep, Amma/Appa would set up the Vishu Kani in the night. We can hear murmurs of “Onnoda necklace vei, Ongaloda modhiratha first kazhatungo,..,…” emanating from the Pooja muri. In the early morning usually around 5, Amma would wake us up – “Konthey, onnu ezhunthuko! Innaiku Vishu aakkum! Appidiye kanna moodindu, paathu vaa!” Though we did this year after year, there used to be a sense of palpable excitement as we slowly walked with eyes closed towards the Pooja room and opened the eyes in front of the Vishu Kani! In half sleep mode, generally we went thro the motions of what we were asked to do like worshipping and smelling the Mambazham, Apple,… At the end of it Appa would remove a new crisp 5 rupee note from the silver thaambaalam kept in the Kani and hand over the same to each of us as Vishu Kaineetam. The only day we get to receive money as Kaineetam from Appa. The other days usually Appa’s kai neelum with kuchi. For some silly mistake in the Maths paper or grammar mistake in English paper,… Once we get that in hand, we used to do a shastaanga namaskaaram usually without the abhivadaye in that thookapichu mode!!! And then it’s the turn of the Amma to give a shining 2 rupee coin as her kaineetam. Again a namaskaram ensued. Between the 3 siblings there used to be a competition to olichu vechufy the money from one another. That 7 rupees was equivalent to probably 700 Rs of today enough to float in Cloud 9 for few weeks!!!

Usually Vishu day is a day where we as kids used to have collection targets!! Among kuttigal – “onakku etharai kedachuthu?? Enakku 55 Rs kedachuthu” types. Vishu day or even a few days in the vicinity, if you meet some elderly mama he is supposed to give you some Vishu Kaineetam. So that day even Nanu athimber whom we generally avoid to escape his serial questions, is a welcome entity! Naangale poi avar kaala vizhunthu avar kekara kelvikellam badhil cholliduvom. Just to get the Vishu Kaineetam of 1 Rupee! Similarly we never used to spare the neighbourhood mamas who were from Palakkad. Remember vividly one mama who used to go on a nostalgic trip every year when we went to meet him on Vishu. – “Noorani la Vishu annaikku enna pramadama irukkum theriyumo??” He used to ignore our “Theriyume mama. Pona Varusham thaan chonnele” and continue to labour his Noorani stories. For us it was a small price to pay to maximize our kaineetam collections!!

We usually pray in advance to have some relatives at home during Vishu. And since Vishu is usually in April during summer vacations, some mama, chittappa, athai,.. used to be there. And after Vishu when we used to visit our “Native place” – Kerala for summer vacation every year, the Kaineetam collection obsession continued. Whenever we used to visit our relatives place, before even anybody says something we used to do a namaskaram of the Thatha/mama/chittappa/periappa/Athimber,.. That was the cue for them to open their purses. Some wouldn’t resist the urge to take a dig at us – “Ennada, enna paathale oduvaai. Innaikku vizhunthu vizhunthu namaskaram panraai?? But happily would hand us over our due. So by the time we return to our base after vacation we all became flush with cash. While these are etched in memory can’t remember what we did with that money or where the money vanished???

The nearby Ayyappa temple which was managed in Kerala style with Namboodiris,.. used to distribute Kaineetam on Vishu day to all for which there used to be a long line. After 2 years, they introduced a special line for senior citizens supposedly to give some relief to elders. It so happened the normal line got shorter and the special senior citizen line continued to be long!!! So as children we used to get on to the normal line and collect our Kaineetam quickly!!!

As we celebrate yet another Vishu today, it’s great that we are able to maintain the Vishu and the associated Kani Kaanal and Kaineetam tradition even to this day! But just wondering with all this drive towards reducing cash transactions and increasing digital payments post demonetization,.. kaineetamum thro some App – digital aayidumo?

On that note, wish you all a very happy Vishu!!! “Kaineetathai online la anupichudungo!!!”

Thottukka Enna?

“Konthey, Dosai vaathu vechurikken, chooda irukku, vandu eduthukko!” – A loving and caring Tambrahm mother’s very usual call to her son at the time of food. The teenage son who is immersed in solving a model question paper (what else) for some entrance exam responds, “Dho vanthutten Amma! Thottukka Enna?” More than the dosai, the “thottukkara item” or the side dish remains the cornerstone of Tambrahm eating and living habits even to this day! Many will go happily hungry rather than eat without the proper side dish. “Pattiniya kedapene thavira, intha dosaiya ketchup kooda ellam thottundu chappida maatten, aamam, cholutten” – familiar line isn’t it??? This is one more aspect of Tambrahm household which has come vamsaa vazhiyaa!!!

In the rigid annals of any Tambrahm family, the “combination” matrix is another knowhow which is passed from one generation to another generation. As per our Nanu Mama’s 3rd law of cooking, “For every item there are many equal and opposite thottukara items in terms of taste.” And there is a matrix with main dishes and side dishes which establishes the hierarchy of preference. So for every main dish you have a “thottukara item” which has been established in terms of the 1st choice, 2nd choice, third choice and then vera ethuvume illaati, what is the last option and so on.

For example, for the most common Idli – the first choice for thottukka is Chutney. And then Saambaar. And when both are not there – you settle for Molagai Podi. If you think it was as simple as that, sorry, Conditions apply. On Sundays there is a mandatory twist. The one and only option for Idli is Chinna Vengaya Saambaar!!! This I am talking of at home on normal days for morning tiffin or night palahaaram. At marriages and functions, it has to be Chutney and Saambaar and Molagai Podi. For children, Idlis with Molagai Podi mixed with Sugar or Idlis with Curd and Sugar (probiotic aache, vayathukku nallathu!!!) As I mentioned, the days when there is no Chutney or Saambaar, hell hath no fury than this. The usually smart ambi that day makes a lot of silly mistakes in Maths. And God save the mama’s colleagues that day at the office. “Ennappa ivalavu carelessa credit/debit entry podare? How can you be so careless I say??” Ore Archanai mazhai thaan! Nowadays, I am told that smart office colleagues call up the mami and ensure that the menu on appraisal days are done with the right combination!

More than the main items, to bring in some variety day in and day out in the thottukara item is one aspect on which our mamis get bugged about. “Ennamma daily Chutneye pannindu irukkiye?” Is a very usual refrain from kids who don’t care about the nuances of a Tomato Chutney Vs Coconut Chutney Vs Green Chutney. And on a Sunday for morning tiffin, if the Idli is not accompanied by Chinna Vengaya Saambaar one can expect the mamas to go ballistic – “Vengaya Saambaar illama oru Idliya?? Ennathu ithu?? Naan Mani’s café la poi chaaptukkaren!” (“Pongolen, enga vena pongo, naana vendangaren. Intha veyyalla samayal panrathukku naan padara kashtam enakku thane theriyum. Ithula Chinna Vengaya Saambaar illena idli erangaatho???” – may be the mami’s answer. But will keep the Tambrahm Mama-Mami repartee for another blog)

One of the important aspects for newlywed couples to reconcile is the “thotukka enna” matrix from both sides. In the first few months, the main reason for fights among the husband and wife is the mismatch and disagreements on the combination. “Engaathula sevaikku mor koottan thaan pannuvom” as per the wife. “Sevaikku mor kootaana?? Sahikaathu. Engamma Chutney thaan pannuva!!” as per the husband. “Engaathula Adai na avial than combination” – Husband. “Engaathula Adaikku vellam thaan thottuppom” – Wife. And like this for all dishes.

Since as a Tambrahm one can be from Tamil Nadu or Kerala or partly here – partly there, the ideal combination is very closely linked to geography of Poranthaam for mamis. This is a classic case of Geography coming in the way of ensuring chemistry between the couple! This disconnect remains a contentious issue in some families for the life time. In fact a known couple ended up in divorce within a few months as the wife due to her lineage forgot to serve Upma with Pazham repeatedly. The husband took to domestic violence every time Upma was made for morning tiffin eventually leading to divorce!

So I feel that during marriage match making, after matching the horoscopes, families should exchange the “thottukka enna matrix” as well to avoid marital tension later. Bharatmatrimony.com and its ilk are well advised to include these very important fields in their data base.
During friendly get-togethers involving Tambrahms during dinner, I have witnessed families engaging in heated discussion about food in general and the combination in food in particular. Which goes something like, “Engathula thayir sadathukku uppilitathukku oorugaai thaan pradaanam.” “Yei, thayir sadathukku pulinji thaan best.” “Ennakku Thayir Sadathukku oru mor molaga iruntha porum.”

As I mentioned earlier, depending upon the history and geography, the combination preferences of Tambrahms keep changing. While there is near unanimity in some combinations, as per me there is one combination for which the jury is still out. That is whether to eat Paal payasam with Pappadum or not. Ungalodu ennavaakum choice???

Ela Pottachu!

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!!!”

Kalyanama? En conditions Apply!

These days, in many TamBrahm households, with girls of marriageable age, the parents are gripped with tension – “Ivalukku kaala kaalathula kalyanam aaguma”??? On the other side, in households with boys of marriageable age, the parents are also gripped with tension in fact more tension – “Ivanukku intha jenmathula kalyanam aaguma”???Girls’ side – because of the many conditions the daughter is listing and boys’ side wondering if their son can ever fulfill the conditions of today’s girls. Whichever side it is – prachanai konjam gambeeram thaan!

Most of us must would remember the film ‘Manal Kayiru’ in which playwright and stage veteran Visu made his debut as a director. The film has the male protagonist played by comedian S.Ve.Shekhar laying out an elaborate list of 8 conditions which a girl must satisfy to become his wife. The director himself playing the role of a marriage broker in the pre – Tamilmatrimony/ Srutivani era lines up a girl and cons the hero into accepting her by proving that all his conditions were met. In these times of sequels, if one thinks of making Manal Kayiru – 2, one important change is called for in the script. Or rather a role reversal. Today, it has to be the female protagonist who has to dish out the conditions to be met by her potential suitor.

There was a time (Pre 2000) in the TamBrahm community when it was very fashionable for the prospective grooms in those days to have a Specification sheet for his future wife. The specs used to range from looks to education to upbringing to skills sets…  Nanna Samaika theriyanum, Kudumba Paanga irukkanum, Kalyanam aana velayai vittudanum, Nanna paada theriyanum, Bharatnatyam kathindu irukkanum

But post the IT revolution which swarmed India in general but Tambrahm community in particular, the whole situation is different. india’s IT rise has stopped the party the boys were having, on its tracks. Today, it’s the girl who call the shots.  The result is there for all of us to see nowadays.

Once the digital match happens via some matrimony.com, the parents slowly broach the subject with their daughter. “Ennadi intha payyana pidichiruka”?? And the responses start coming usually like this:

“Avan mogathila oru kalla lakshanam. Venda

“Paaka sumaara irukkaan, aana Non-IT background. Enakku sari pattu varaathu”

“Seemingly o.k, but avan companyla en friends irukka. Avaal ta check panninen. He has never got an On site so far. So….”

“He is o.k.. but kalyanam aagatha akka oruthi irukka pola irukku veetula, sari padave padathu”

He seems fine, but total CTC thaan potirukkaan. Enna Take home nnu theriyanum.

Naan avan profilea FB la check panninen… Thathu bithu nu post pannindirukkaan!! Cannot stand his sense of humour!

Sonthama Veedu innum book pannala polarukku!!

So on and so forth..

In this vadi katting, most of the cases get into the Recycle bin! (Digital cases aache)

After this microscopic scrutiny, if some case survives comes the next step of “getting to know each other” meeting.  In this meeting the girls usually come prepared with a set of conditions and questions while the boys just show up without much preparation.

The girls usually start with – “I would like to make things very clear now itself. Don’t expect me to be a wife like your Amma or Paatti”!!!

Avalavu thaanAppave the boy konjam backfoot la!!!  But still, konjam sudharichundu, “No, no absolutely no. Go ahead”.

O.k Ennoda conditions are:

  • “We cannot be in Joint family after marriage. Even if we are in the same city, we will live separately. When we have a kid, they can stay with us so that they can have the joy of spending time with their grandchild”
  • Naan, en parentsukku ore ponnu. So I will have to take care of my parents even after marriage monetarily and emotionally. Pinnaala, no questions must be asked on this.
  • “I don’t know to cook so much. In fact I can’t cook to save my life. Will try to learn as soon as possible. In fact, I turn on the GPS as soon as I enter the house, so that I can locate the kitchen

I hope you know cooking. So that we can manage”

  • “Enna dress venna pottuppen – Modern, traditional, whatever. Decent dressing thaan”.
  • “Apparaum, will not give up my job under any circumstances after marriage. And for me my career is very important. So Onsite kadacha, I will go”
  • “Then most important, I will decide when and how many children to have”

“If these are acceptable and o.k, namma further proceed pannalaam!

The boy now having gone thro few similar routines in the past and backed out hearing the conditions, doesn’t want to miss this time.

Boy: “Yes, yes. I agree. These are very normal conditions. I support them.”

Girl: “I have a few questions for you. Kekalaama?”

“Do you smoke? I don’t like smoking and smokers”

“Do you drink?  Intha social drinker appadi, ippadinnu kathai ellam vendaam. If we get married, you will have to give up smoking, drinking…”

“And I hope there is no other excess baggage in your family. Means – apart from your Appa, Amma and your sister – there is no old athaipaatiKollu Paati… living with you, no???”

The meeting gets over.

The boy is still in a daze. “Enna pannalaam? O.k sollalaama, Vendaama? Adutha case itha vida innum pathu conditionsoda vantha enna panrathu??”

The Girl is also in a daze. “Enna ithu, oru conditionume podala?? Maha reject caseaaa irukkumo???”

Back at the girls house – “Ennama un conditionsukellam o.k sollitaana???”

And back at the boy’s house – “Ennada, nee onnum conditions ethuvum podaliye??? O.k sollittaala??”

P.S: I read that S.Ve.Shekhar is in fact planning the sequel – Manal Kayiru – 2 with his son in the lead. I am sure that in this the conditions will be on his son!!!