Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to Know the Difference between a Tamilian (Tamu) and a Malayali (Mallu)

The substantial and up-and-coming talent of the young Raamesh Gowri Raghavan (a Tamu, by the way) referred to one aspect of this post and the response was phenomenal on Facebook. I had posted this on Facebook first, not here, as I usually do. 

The point in question is "Not all people who speak fast “anda gundu” are Mallus" fifth in sequence below.


I have often been asked if I am a Tamu. When I say no, then they ask me if I am a Mallu. When they hear no, they ask me if I am from Andhra. I say I have spent most of my life in Bombay, so I think I am a half-Bombayite, but I was born in Kerala, so I am half-Mallu. I am a hybrid. Therefore I am essaying below a short treatise on how to make out who is a Tamu and who is a Mallu:

Not everyone with curly hair using coconut shampoo is a Mallu

Agreed Mallus use coconut oil in all their dishes, and also on themselves. So all shiny curly tops aren’t those of Mallus, some of them are Tamus also. The difference is Mallus apply coconut oil before bath and Tamus apply the oil after bath.

Not everyone with a dark skin is a Mallu

Yes, Mallus have dark skin but Tamus also have dark skin. Their degrees of darkness vary from district to district. Example: skin colour of a Mallu from Kasargod will be lighter than his cousin from Quilon. Likewise a Tamu from Nagarcoil would be darker than a Tamu from Erode.

Tamus make stars out of those from other states. Mallus like their stars home grown

MGR was a Mallu and Rajnikant is a Maharashtrian but both of them became big stars in Tamil Nadu. But Kerala’s stars are from their own soil – e.g. Mohan Lal and Mamooty. Kamalahasan made a brief foray into Malayalam cinema but didn’t succeed.

Tamus substitute “P” for “B” and Mallus substitude “B” for “P”

A Tamu will say “Pollywood” for “Bollywood” but a Mallu will say “Simble” for “Simple.”

Tamu: Pollywood poster
Mallu: Bollywood boster

Not all people who speak fast “anda gundu” are Mallus

Tamus speak very fast. That’s because the excitement of a Tamu meeting another is so great that they want to share as much as possible in the shortest time. Whereas Mallus are standoffish when confronted by other Mallus and would speak guardedly, meaning slowly.

The nurses in hospitals you have been admitted to are Mallus, however, the guy who designed your operating system will most likely be a Tamu

Because there are more nurses per square kilometre in Kerala than any other state in India. Also there are more programmers per square kilometre in Tamil Nadu than any other state in India.

Party affiliations

DMK, AIADMK, PMK, are parties in Tamil Nadu, ergo, Tamu while CPI, CPI (M), CPI (ML), Congress (I), Kerala Congress, Kerala Congress (Mani group), Kerala Congress (Joseph group) are parties in Kerala. I know, I know, Mallus are like protoplasm that divides and subdivides. When two Mallus get together there would be two political parties.

Hope the differences are abundantly clear. If you have any doubts please ask in the comments section. Hobe I have made the differences simble enough.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hey, Young People, Want to Know What Life Was Like Then? - Part 1

I was just thinking: do young people know how difficult life was for us old timers? You would like to know? 

Imagine these vignettes from around thirty to forty years ago:

You had to go two kilometres to a shop having a telephone to make a call. So, you mostly used your office telephone to call friends and relatives. And, that too if there was an emergency. You had the round dial that would go "krrr... krr... krr..."

You still wrote letters to know what was going on in a person's life. If it was urgent a telegram would be sent. People used post offices to send money.

Movies were the only sort of entertainment and we would gather at the nearby theatre on a friday to catch a movie's first show. We used to call it "first day first show."

Matinees were movies shown in the first show of the day and "matinee queen or idol" meant a female star who is so sexy that we all wanted to catch the first show. Waheeda Rehman, Madhubala, Sadhana, were all matinee idols. Wonder why that term is no longer used. 

All our spare time was spent in playing, or, at home reading books. Friends would drop in and call us for the following games: marbles, gilli danda, lagori, tag (pakda pakdi), eyes prize (I don't know what this game is called except that you touched a spot and said "eyes prize"), langdi (hopping on one leg), et cetera. All these games have vanished. In addition cricket and football were our favorite games played at school and near home. 

There were tournaments - both football and cricket - where the local team was cheered. Since I am a Chembur boy we had the Chembur Challengers in football, the Ginnis were the favourite of the Kannadiga boys. KV was called "Pele" at that time and he was treated like a star.

Picnic meant going to Kanheri Caves or Elephanta Caves with our own food and water. We didn't have bottled water then.

In Tilak Nagar where I lived (where future star Anil Kapoor also lived, yes, we are contemporaries) we had screening of films during the festival season. Since we had 112 buildings there were a wide range of movies being shown with stars like Shammi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar, et cetera. Music was also played before the film show, which was the only source of listening to music.

When television arrived around 1973, a house in the next building bought a black and white television. I remember it was kept on top of a cupboard so that everyone could see. We used to watch the Sunday movie standing outside, peeking in through the bars of the window. On wednesdays we watched Chitrahaar which was a compilation of songs. 

Since cricket matches were five-day affairs, shops used to keep a television in their windows facing outside and we used to watch kneeling on the sidewalk. It was good advertising for the shops.

News came through Siemens and Grundig radios. Newspapers and magazines were subscribed by the really educated and shared with neighbors. There were lending libraries that lent books and magazines for a price, Re one for a book and fifty paise for a magazine or comic.

(Got to go now. More to come.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and now Kajieme Powell: Three Black Youth Shot by Police

Today I saw this gruesome video of the police shoot down an armed (yes, he had a knife on him) black man in St. Louis, US. This is the first time I saw someone being shot in real life on computer. It wasn’t a pretty sight. It’s stark and it’s disturbing, a man losing his life in front of you. There were several witnesses on the spot and one was capturing it all on movie camera. I hope it will be accepted as evidence of what happened.

This came closely after police gunned down Michael Brown in Ferguson, close to where the above unfortunate scene happened.

The above video shows a black man (Kajieme Powell) who has stolen an energy drink from a store waiting at the sidewalk. He isn’t drinking the frothy drink, just standing there, saying he is on Facebook etcetera. I cannot understand his argot, but I have a suspicion that he is talking about Michael Brown’s shooting. He seemed a disturbed young man. Then why didn’t the police use some harmless method to arrest him: spray or rubber bullet?

St Louis happens to have a majority black population though the police force is majorly white. It is alleged in this article that the police mostly stop and search innocent blacks than whites. The town council is also made up of white people, a majority, that is.

After Michael Brown’s shooting the town of Ferguson erupted into violence and looting. People poured into the streets and took the law into their own hands. The protestors should have shown restraint, but didn’t. The anger was evident.

In February this year Treyvon Martin was shot in Florida because he was wearing a hood when he returned after meeting his would-be step mother. A man suspected him to be an armed robber and shot him.

The issue in these three shootings is the same. Racial discrimination and hatred. Is it so rampant in the US, which as I understand guarantees freedoms to all races and is the most democratic of countries in the world? Can we expect some justice here?

True US has a black president, it is the policeman of the world (Iraq, Afganistan and now Syria). But incidents like this give it a bad name and give it the appearance of a helpless witness of race violence in its own backyard.

Does this mean that the efforts of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks (the gritty lady who refused to give her seat to a white man triggering the transport boycott) have gone in vain? Is US still a nation of freedom and equality for all races?

I guess only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams R.I.P.

(Sorry, the video that I posted here seems to have some copyright problems. So, I am removing it.)

I saw this video of Robin Williams' standup comedy (full performance, because it's an hour-long performance) and laughed and laughed. I checked Twitter in the morning after I woke up and found he was dead, a suicide. I went no, no, no, not him. I was devastated. Why does a comedian commit suicide? For what reason? He is so much loved, so much adored. He can say whatever he wants without being sued for libel. He has the world under his feet.

I watched the video and then wept. For him, the world, the way the world is ridding itself of talented people. Why does God take away such good people and leave the dregs behind? Why are comedians' lives so tragic? Is it because all our lives are tragic?

I loved his movies. I have seen quite a few of them and liked the way he made you laugh, the funny faces he made. I liked him a lot less than Jim Carey, but Jim Carey is Jim Carey. I don't like Chevvy Chase and Adam Sandler type of comedy acts. No. They are too stiff, while Robin can make things funny with his voice and his actions. Turns out he was shy as a boy and then picked up confidence doing plays. He did many stand up routines like the one above.

He ridicules everyone: Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, George Bush, Tony Blair, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the whole lot. Doing comedy is not easy. It's tough. You have to work hard on your lines, act them out, be perfect, because there is no room for failure. And to act out in front of an audience (a packed auditorium as you see above) is even tougher.

It is said he liked to put people at ease and help people. He was also good to his fans and talked to them. In a world increasingly devoid of comedy he was one beacon of light that shined on us humourless people.

I hope - up there - you are making God chuckle with your cracks. Rest in peace Robin Williams.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Demise of Literary Criticism in India

 There's something frightening going on. Yes, it's fearsome, it's unprecedented, it's disturbing. It's the lack of literary criticism we are witnessing. Anybody can write anything and get away with it, provided it isn't communal, doesn't offend the majority community (or, the minority), outdoes the doodhi in blandness, and veers towards the occult and mythical figures in phantasmal settings.

Yes! Literary criticism is dead in India. Was it there in the first place? Did anyone venture to write a critical review of Nehru's Discovery of India and get published? But that was in the days of the independence euphoria. Hardly any English books were published. We thought criticism would become more mature. Today with around eighteen thousand English language books being published in an year, in India, the absence of literary criticism is worrying. That's more than a thousand books a month.

This total absence of literary criticism is disturbing. The newspapers have given up reviewing books, unless it makes news. They have included the really stinking tell-all memoirs into their breaking stories. A book makes it to breaking news when the subject of the memoir visits the author and requests (threaten, rather) to withdraw the book. And, they don't give space to a first-time novelist looking to hold on to some straws before his book sinks into oblivion. And they don't give a damn for those novelists as Maria Carey is divorcing husband Jermaine Dupri over poor album sales, which, for them, is breaking news.

The Times of India used to have book reviews, and then they stopped them. India's leading newspaper having a circulation in million doesn't think literature or literary criticism is important. So, no book reviews. Instead it reviews the colourless and tasteless books issuing from their own press. DNA used to have book reviews, which were also withdrawn.

So as expected, shit happens. A man appears on the collective conscience of us literary types, the dregs, that is. His name is Dinanath Batra and the organisation he spearheads called Shikshan Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS) specialises in book extremism (I didn't say terrorism, deliberately). Roughly translated his organisation means "Society for Saving Education through Revolution." How far-fetched can one be?

He is reported in the press as saying that Indian culture must be saved from external influences, however, erudite, however, well researched. We must do this and also uphold the concept of India being a Hindu nation. So he asks the publisher of Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: an Alternative History to pulp the book. The publisher does. Another book On Hinduism by the same author is also likewise withdrawn. Now the literati types are aghast. The shock is tremendous. How did this come about? How can a published and distributed book be withdrawn from the shelves and made into pulp?

That's because the literary types didn't give shit when literary criticism itself was given a go-by by the media. They didn't raise a finger. Nada. If they had they could have pointed out to one or two reviews in newspapers praising the book. Then the publisher would have had a case if the matter went to court. In this case the publisher had not even the straw of literary criticism to fall back upon.

If we don't have a healthy literary community, criticising or praising a book, we give rise to the likes of Dinanath Batra and SBAS. If you don't like a well-researched book you pan it in the media, or, else, write a rebuttal. We, the literary types, have nothing, or, nobody to go to, we are in disarray and the foe is at the gate.

So, then, literary criticism is dead. Long live literary criticism! Welcome book extremism!