The Tale of Gregory, part 1

If you are wondering what this post has to do with some one named “Gregory”, it will be clarified at the every end (like an S Ve Sekar play)

In a another couple of weeks, I will finally move into my own apartment. What took us so long, one might ask and the response to that is, I felt, worth a blog post.

I got married in a fusion Iyer-Nair wedding, but the fusion part is a bit misleading. An Iyer wedding is like saying:

“Jesus reflected on his situation and felt irrepressible sadness. His tear-ducts filled to a point where they could hold no longer and had to be released”
A Nair wedding on the other is more on the lines of:
“Jesus wept”

I wrote in detail in about that a while back, so long story short, that my wife managed to wear a 6 yard saree instead of the traditional 9 yard Madisaru was, by itself a coup of unimaginable proportions. The only Nair element of the wedding was the traditional white “Neriyal” saree she wore during the Oonjal ceremony, and white is a colour that repels elderly Tambrams like sunlight repels zombies. Otherwise, the wedding was yet another homogenous sequence of homams, loud-mouthed priests and badly pronounced Sanskrit imploring the newly wedded couple to produce offspring exclusively of the male kind.

Once the wedding was over, there is usually this small matter of deciding where the couple would start their new life before families get down to the more serious business of nagging them to procreate (unlike the priests, there is no gender preference for babies specified here). Typically in middle class families where new flats cannot be purchased at whim, the couple usually moves into the boy’s parents’ home. In our case, the problem was that we were spoilt for choice. It was between a smallish old flat in Besant Nagar, close to my parents’ home OR the first floor of my wife’s parents’ home, which was a separate place by itself.

While we formed an internal committee of 2 to investigate this matter and come up with value-added suggestions on the course forward, we found an intermediate arrangement that seemed satisfactory to all stakeholders. We spent weekdays in Anna Nagar (my in-laws home) & weekends in Besant Nagar (my parents’ home). It did not take me long to realize that, at least on the Tambram side of things, this was not a comfortable state of affairs.

It turns out that it is more acceptable for a boy
  • to be unfaithful,
  • kill a couple of kittens,
  • beat one’s wife
  • to demand dowry and lose it on horse races

than to spend more than a few nights under the roof of his wife’s parents’ home. The Tamil term to describe a chap who (even temporarily) takes residence in his father-in-law’s house is “Veettodu Mappillai”, which, if I may translate metaphorically, is someone who lacks several crucial internal organs (like spine, heart, blood at high temperature, reproductive system etc).

You see, everything about the Tambram wedding ceremony screams “Agreement between 2 parties for the transfer of female property from the Vendor, who will hereinafter be called the Girl’s father to the Purchaser, who shall hereinafter be called “The home of the Mother-in-Law”. There is even a mock “Grihapravesham” during the wedding when the daughter-in-law (more precisely, her right foot) makes an auspicious entry into a small room that, for symbolic purposes, is designated as the boy’s house, and more importantly, her future home. There is also a formal “Gotra change”, where the girl moves from her father’s cow-pen to mine. This posed a bit of a problem because when that annoyingly bigoted priest who officiated at my wedding asked my father-in-law what “Gotra” he was, his response was “Manusha (human being) Gotram”. As I said before, we dispensed with this particular ritual, so my wife continues to be a human being while I claim to follow some ancient chap called Sage Vadoola.

What made this situation even more piquant is that my wife comes from a matrilineal family and didn’t quite understand why this would be a problem. Even her name (Vijayalakshmi Smitha) keeps with the Nair tradition of daughters  taking their mothers names as their surnames (sons take fathers’ names) and every time someone in my family would refer to her as “Mrs Ashok”, she would correct it to “V Smitha”. She had no intention of going through that silly charade of changing one’s name the marriage, and I had no intention of sharing my name with anyone else.

But we stuck to our shuttling routine, blissfully ignoring subtle hints from my side of the family that I was starting to resemble a slightly dark complexioned grazing animal with wool. I must admit that my parents accepted this with equanimity of the kind that’s rarely seen in middle-class Tambram families. There were no honour killings involved and somehow, they made peace with me living in Anna Nagar.

That brings me to another point. If you are an unmarried middle-class chap, take this from me – there’s nothing better in life than to be treated like nobility at your in-laws place. Your wife, on the other hand, will always be a second class citizen at your parents’ home, not because your parents are bad people, but because that is simply the social norm. She will be expected to help out in the kitchen and household chores even if she is a working woman. In my case, that wasn’t such a big problem. It’s the subtly forced culture shift that I found not too palatable. If I was living only at my parents’ house, my wife would have had to give up her daily need to consume something aquatic. She doesn’t mind helping out in the kitchen etc, but I definitely mind forcing her to turn into a vegetarian.

So, we had got so used to this arrangement that it was only occasional conversations like these that reminded me that something was mildly needle-gone in the state of Denmark.
Mom: So, when are you planning to look for an apartment of your own? (Subtitles: When are you going to spare us the ignominy of being parents of a “Veettodu Mappillai”)
Me: Ah yes. I am looking. Since this arrangement is comfortable, I am not in any raving hurry to find a new place. I mean, right now, we have no household responsibilities anywhere. Cooking, washing et al are taken care in both homes and I get lots of time to blog haha..
Mom: Yes, but don’t you want a home of your own, something that you can invite your friends to (Subtitles: When are you going to spare us the ignominy of being parents of a “Veettodu Mappillai”)
Me: Ah well, that’s not a big deal really
Mom: Sigh

Eventually, it was our carbon footprint that convinced us to find an apartment a little closer to our places of work, and that began our 18 month long search involving all manner of unsavoury real estate agents and other assorted brokers who finally led us to the place we eventually bought, after several shady dealings with banks over loans, EMIs and interest rates. But that’s for another post. Next week perhaps, after I move into “Gregory” (yes, that’s the name of my new home, named after the only man my wife is likely to leave me for)

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134 replies

  1. Congratulations on your new home….

  2. Awesome pun name for your home! “Gregory House”

  3. Congrats on Gregory! Where, may I ask, is the new house?
    Ashok: Velachery

  4. As always, written with a dose of wit and humour. Congrats on your new home.

  5. As usual, your blog is a house apart! Nice innuendo too towards the end, (Only man “likely” to leave me for)

    Keep ‘em coming.

  6. Congratulations Ashok !!!

    House is my guru on Sarcasm. Like your wife, I would ditch the world for him. :)
    But, I never really dreamt of naming my house Gregory. Nice idea ‘V.Smitha’.

  7. Hilarious. It’s good that it’s titled Part 1, promising more to come.

    Is “needle-gone” some Tamil pun for “rotten”?
    Ashok: The term for food going stale is “Oosi pocchu” which literally translates to needle-gone in a pun sort of way

  8. Blatantly humourous!!! Loved the dissection of the Iyer-Nair weddings :) Congratulations on the new house!!! Hope we can get a post with some snaps of your new abode.

  9. Darn good way of distinguishing a Tambrahm wedding from the Nair variant :D

    And congrats on the new house!!

  10. Excellent post.. (Loved your earlier post on weddings as well).. Keep them coming..

    Congrats on your first home..

  11. Well, after my wedding I thought that all TamBrahm guys were without spines. In my wedding not only did I have to wear a Madisaru, I had to be picked up by my spondiliosis and slipdisc ridden father and uncle (because that is the tradition). Not to mention the bizarre yechhal and madhi rules that followed.

    Anyways, my cup of woe overfloweth. Congrats for having a spine and also your new home!
    Ashok: Let me give you an insider’s view. Tambram rituals are like the plague. Rather infectious and tend to attack from all directions. I thought I had won some major victories with the madisaar, gotra change & some other trivialities only to be carpet bombed by a million other things I never knew was going to happen. For instance, I would have liked to skip the Grihapravesham part too, but they slipped it in quietly under my nose.

    • ha ha! carpet bombing sort of sums it up! but i like the Grihapravesham thing because of that sweet thing. i wish they would just give me the entire box of it. of course it helps that i dont have to either of the offended parties any more, just a neighbouring maami in six yards of silk….
      congratulations on the apartment!

    • @ Tilo1583: Nobody put a gun to your head to marry a spineless Tambram guy. Or maybe they did?

  12. I d ditch anyone for Greg House too.hi-fi to your wife.congrats on ur house.

  13. Delightful post!! Congrats on Gregory :-) And all the best! Especially enjoyed your absolutely perfect description of veetodu-mapillai and second-class-DILs! Very sadly true in most families.

  14. Lovely! Best wishes, peace, prosperity and all that stuff which actually means may you have many children

  15. hey ashok…
    have been readin ur blog for sometime now… this is my first comment… and what made me write one was Mr.House…. im a total fan…. Congrats to the both of u 1. for the house 2. for naming it ‘Gregory’…. very interesting…

  16. Why blame the poor priest? He is just like the computer. Repeats really well. Returns an error if the argument is not on his list of valid arguments.
    Ashok: Well, this one was like this computer model that was sold to me on the promise that I could program in BASIC modern code :) But it cheated me by coming infected with all the spamware of the past. I had hired this priest on the express promise that he was willing to consider modernizing and customizing the rituals.

  17. Congrats on the Gregory Brosnan affair Ashok!

  18. Hahaha, superbly described wedding ritual. Look fwd to Pt 2

  19. Shabash, mappillai! Kalakittai!

    Absolutely loved this part:

    The Tamil term to describe a chap who (even temporarily) takes residence in his father-in-law’s house is “Veettodu Mappillai”, which, if I may translate metaphorically, is someone who lacks several crucial internal organs (like spine, heart, blood at high temperature, reproductive system etc).

  20. should it not be

    “Gregory illam ”
    -MD,MBBS,F.R.C.C.S
    Ashok: That would make it Tamil & in the spirit of national integration and celebrity of our diversity, we decided to ignore Malayalam & Tamil and keep it in the national language, English

  21. Speaking of british Puns ..if you live in a housing society would you name it
    “sherlock”

  22. Too good. Still laughing.. Ha ha ha.

  23. Your previous post on the wedding is interesting. Always thought it was just my family (extended et. al) who came to social functions to fight. Must be a Tamil tradition :)

  24. Dude, you have a real gift of explaining things.

    Awesome read.

  25. Only you can bring up such serious items of discussions to the table with such grace and humour. I love everything you wrote and reflects exactly how i feel about things.

  26. Fantastic post! Wish more guys grew the spines to be veettodu mappillais! Sigh.

  27. I knew it when I saw that “Antha Akshaya homes … 55 lakhs apparom neenga kodeeswaran” ad, that someday you will end up buying one too! Congratulations!

  28. Hey ! Congratulations on the new home and welcome to the world of “I cant quit my job cause I have EMI’s to pay”

    But for once I would like to take a “Not Agree” stance with rest of your parent’s disapproval of your… how do I put it lifestyle choice.

    And my friend I this comment is coming from a man who married a Punjabi ( I had proper Punjabi rituals [sangeet , Saint, ring ceremony] and finally a Iyer wedding)and I hail from a family of veda ganapadigal.

    Comments section is too small a place to write a response but in one sentence “you expect your parents to give up their belief and value systems of 50+ years because you believe you got it all figured out”
    Ashok: Absolutely not. I just want them to not impose their belief system on me (and my wife)

    • Well ! I know what you mean by impose, believe me my problem has been compounded by my daughter’s categorical refusal to learn tamil or even acknowledge it is a form of language at our household.

      Still things are easy for me & my wife cause after initial two years into our marriage we concluded that there world is defined by what they know and see and ours by what is visible to us. We also acknowledge that they do have some right on our lives and we allow them certain liberties and draw our lines little farther than we would normally have. Surprisingly my parents walked two steps for every one we took once we stopped the confrontation phase.

      But at end of the day to each his own

  29. Interesting story that traced your road from homam sapien to homo sapien.
    -Nikhil

  30. Absolutely fantastic !! I second your advice to the yet-to-be-married folks… But what can be done to change this… it is shameful (for us men) to continue to enjoy the benefits in our inlaw’s place while allowing our wives to be treated like a second-class citizen….

  31. Longtime reader but first-time commenter here.

    This was hilarious! The “Jesus wept” bit and “producing offspring exclusively of the male kind” were side-splitting. And I love Greg House too!

  32. I’ll be a bit contrarian here, man.

    Independence (aka your own place) is kind of useful .. till you have a kid, and both of you plan to work rather than stay at home. So you are more or less dependent on your parents, or your inlaws. And it is then that you get a much more complex set of factors coming into play. Your independence is well.. transient is how I’ll put it, if kid(s) are on the roadmap.

    That royal treatment you get at your inlaws is what you’d call “honored guest” treatment (as opposed to “member of the family” treatment).

    A taste for fish .. well, I wouldnt eat meat or fish if I were staying at a vegetarian’s house – or having dinner with a vegetarian of the sort that is disgusted by meat / fish smells, appearance etc. (you should hear my father sound off when someone is cooking chicken one or two houses down the road and the wind blows the smell our way). Elsewhere, I eat everything from camel in saudi arabia to kangaroo in australia.

    That’s what Samco, Ente Keralam etc (and Azulia if you want sea bass) are for. Or your own flat where you can go and cook meat, fish or vegetarian for a change. [Of course, not when someone who has issues with that is staying with you, but ...]

  33. jesus wept… I loved that bit.
    cheers on another entertaining post. :-) :-)

  34. Gregory House! Good choice. :D

    One riot of a post, this. Made for a fantastic read.

  35. I feel its easier to be a rebel and agree never to partake in any ritual than say “just this one time” and mop mosaic with cowdung water later. Easier said than done I agree..

  36. Nice post dude. But really I would never name my house. “I’m moving into Gregory” or “I can see your head, it’s popping out of Gregory” isn’t something I’d want to say.

  37. Everything else in this post is classic KA…but Gregory? hmmmm…not many will understand the pun and stuff behind it…to the common man it will sound like a pseudo living in a post colonial hangover….

    I have seen many houses with “English” names in my place… the third floor in an apartment complex called “Peach Tree Cottage” because it sounded foren…or one of the kids was reading Enid Blyton.

  38. Haha! happens.. but then things are beginning to change..

    (Praying it will.. )

    Oh, And say ‘hi’ to Gregory for me, will ya? B)

  39. I had thoughts something along the lines of Suresh here as well, your wife expected to help in the kitchen and you getting a royal treatment in your in-laws house is the same side of coin, basically.

    The mistake wasnt that your wife was expected to help in the house, rather you were getting free lunches in your in-laws in house so to speak. If you are an adult, male/female you should pitch in running of the house, it is a big task and more number of people, more amount of work.

    The much bigger evil is, as a male you arent expected to pitch in the kitchen, but i am sure you are expected help in other activities. This stereotyping is quite the problem. This should stem from individual preferences and compromises and so on.

    • @sachita – I actually like cooking, and fancy myself a better cook. So on the rare occasions when we – a working couple – do cook (with meals at both parents + inlaws living nearby, eating out, etc), my wife does all the heavy work .. cutting vegetables, cleaning up after me etc. And I play Escoffier and Sanjeev Kapur and do the cooking. Tasty too, if I may beat my own drum a bit.

      Nothing at all wrong with pitching in and sharing the workload. Your mom isn’t asking your wife to do that she isnt doing herself.

  40. I have one question to u r replies to one of the earlier comments. You mention “you kind of have an issue if your parents try to impose their belief system on you and your wife”. I mean that is the case through out in all the parent – son/daughter relationships right?

  41. Ahhh. The pressure to procreate. My Man and I sorely let down 3 of our 4 parents when we took the decision to remain a family of two. (His father, his mother, my mother = all disappointed; My father applauded the decision; I’m not sure what to make of that.)

  42. KA,
    Interesting conversations going on at HawkEye’s blog. FYI, Hawkeye is in town. Assuming he accepts your beer offer to explain your POV, can I please request you to call me also? I will put up Minutes-of-the-meeting in my blog. This will give me the pleasure of knowing you both personally AND making myself famous on blogosphere. What say ;)

  43. Hey, i just happened to stumble upon your blog and i must admit your writing is awesome, i actually dug through your archives and enjoyed your posts immensely.

  44. Reg. “loud-mouthed priests and badly pronounced Sanskrit ”

    I would like to humbly point out that your knowledge of Sanskrit is too inadequate (remember “shuklam bharatharam” in an earlier post?) to comment on the Sanskrit of priests.
    Ashok: Of course, my school history teacher did not know all of history there is to know, but still was qualified enough to correct the tests I took in school, so this is a fallacious argument. My knowledge of Sanskrit might be dubious, but a mistake’s a mistake, is it not?

    • I don’t know, Ashok. That mistake you had made revealed ignorance of pretty basic Sanksrit. So while it is _possible_ that you were correct about any mispronunciation (I was not there, so I don’t know for sure), in my opinion, it is highly probable that you were wrong.
      Ashok: Alright, since you say so, and you are the Right Honourable VSSS, you must be right :) I retract my opinion

  45. Really funny! Trust you to put in a funny spin to a thought provoking issue, and thus actually provoke thought!

    Hope you keep these coming!

  46. First of all I wish you& your wife well in your new home.
    You are certainly not biased gender or otherwise. I respect you for that.
    But is that a Tambram norm to move into the boy’s parents’ home? This must be one that ordinary middle class T.. like yours truly is not aware..
    Well, are renting homes stopped being an option at all or am I turning geriatric?

  47. Ashok, what’s with you and Hawkeye? Why is he picking on you?
    Ashok: No idea :) But I don’t get provoked easily. I’ve invited him for a beer. No response yet. Update:He is up for a discussion once he is back in Chennai

    • Well, what else do you expect from a MCP like Hawkeye?

      This article proves this: http://hawkeyeview.blogspot.com/2009/07/diaper-generation.html

      With all the pain women go through to care about a new born baby, all this fellow thinks of is “changing the diaper”
      Ashok: I don’t think so. Hawkeye, like a few bloggers out there, expresses opinions that may not quite be popular or “in vogue” or conform to some limited contemporary definitions of “liberal” or “urbane”, but in the spirit of the internet, have a space and audience for it. He writes humorously on the more sillier aspects of political correctness, feminism and what he feels is the ignorant pursuit of modernity simply by ignoring the past/tradition/customs etc. Simply tagging him as an MCP doesn’t make any sense and would be an oversimplification. As long as we continue to see these debates as a “whose dick is longer” contest, it serves no purpose. As far as I am concerned, his viewpoints, and his criticism of my opinions, have a place and dont deserve to be narrowly tagged with oversimplified classifications like “conservative”, “male-centric” and “traditionalist”. In the larger discourse that we are all part of, opinions, counter-opinions and criticism is par for the course. As personal bloggers, we all have our pet topics and personal biases, and his are no worse than mine, just in different areas that’s all :)

      • Gans: Thanks for the link, but is that MCP? I just did not understand the connection between that post and Hawkeye being an MCP. This post, by no stretch of imagination, “proves” that he is an MCP. (Whether he is one or not or you see him as one based on other experiences is something that I am not aware)

        Or maybe, I am not getting it…care to explain for the benefit of us and others?

        Thanks.

      • Ashok: Well put. Thanks. But naming the house as Gregory, I still have not stopped laughing. Thanks again!
        BTW, would you/Hawkeye be recording the conversation and transcribing it and posting it in the blogs (of course, the personal stuff can be weeded out) as watching two extremely articulate people slug it out would be very interesting.

  48. As a hyderabadi Tambram guy married to a Bengali gal I fully relate to your experience. but in my case the experience was different. I had tried my best to prune and fuse the two wedding traditions but both the sets of parents prevailed to great extent.

    I had an abridged Bong wedding, followed by an abridged Tambrahm wedding the next day – madisaar and all. I was too exhausted to examine the slokas and I let it all slide (considering its all only a formality)

    thinking about it now, it was actually fun but I cannot forget the agony of bending down to touch the feet of every older relative (from both sides of the family) TWICE on the two days….

    you are lucky to have got away easily!

  49. thala enna dhan neenga gethaah irundhalum House kalaikkradhellam romba over.

    ippaddikku
    a faithful Greg House fan :P

  50. Heh. Reminds me of the time when my Iyer cousin wanted to marry a Nair boy and my paati went to her and said “Nair a? Ava tea mattum dhaan nanna poduva. Vendam di indha kalyanam” :P
    Thankfully good sense prevailed and she did get married to him! :)

    Nice post! Gregory part II please!

    ermm. you are not *really* going to call the house Gregory are you? :roll:
    Ashok:Of course. The nameplate is being made as I type this

    • Revs, omg your paati reminds me of mine! in a very cute, though highly old fashioned, caste concious way! lol. was she by anychance called paapa paati?

      • @nageno
        Every brahmin family has a paapa paati, baby manni, mani maama, kicha anna and babu chitappa.
        I have all these characters in my family. And my paati says all brahmins are related to each other somehow. So yeah, we could be talking abt the same person! ;)

  51. Not without reason, Veetodu Maapilai (without the quotes) is not a compliment.
    Ashok: And it shouldn’t be, but neither should it be a slur.

    • By existing social norms, VM is considered a compromised position. For a lot of reasons, not all of them reckless.
      Ashok: Perhaps, but you do qualify that with the “by existing social norms”, so some elaboration might be in order

      • The qualifier does not indicate ‘free-size’ relativity. I will remove the qualifier, anyway. VM is a compromised position. (even if rent is paid for a maadi veetu portion.) Not only because it’s against the accepted norm but also because it’d work against some basic rules of relationships, space, distance, nature of the sexes, clan, family, etc. formed over time. Now, you can counter that with , “No issues in my case. I have found a way to break the million-year old lock.” And I’d say, “Good for you.”

        A woman (employed or otherwise) being expected to help with household work in her pugundha veedu does not make her a “second-class citizen.” Even if man X and wife Y live in Y’s parent’s home/campus, generally the onus would be on the women to do the household chores? (in non-metrosexual homes, at least)

        I understand you are being funny and all. But not everything about patriarchal norms (e.g., change in the gothram, name, residency of a married woman) may be silly, bigoted and retarded.
        Ashok: I still don’t see a clearly articulated reason for why VM is a compromised position. What are these established basic rules of relationships, space, clan etc that are being violated here? I am not claiming to have solved any million-year old problem, nor am I describing the existing system by any of the adjectives you mention (retarded etc). My post simply deals with the existing system’s discomfort at my choices and my laughing at that discomfort. As for the gotra change, I would understand perfectly if I had married a Tambram girl who has a gotra. I did not, and while assumptions are being made about why the “manusha gotram” response was rude and uncalled for, the sneer with which the question was asked and overall bigoted behavior of the priest (who incidentally is my own grand-uncle, whom I know personally well and better than the people pointing out that he was “simply doing his job”) seems to be ignored by everyone commenting here (and on Hawkeye’s blog). In the interest of brevity, I did not reproduce the entire conversation the priest had – he demanded to know the gotram of the bride’s family. The girl’s family said they didn’t know what it was/didn’t have one etc. The priest’s irritated response was that it’s very surprising that they didn’t know and pointed out in no uncertain terms that “good” families trace their lineage to a sage in the past. It was at this point that my father-in-law lightly remarked that they trace their ancestry back to the first human being, hence, “Manusha gotram”. Of course, none of this means that the entire system is wrong. I have seen well-mannered, highly-knowledgeable men who possess the tact to not do what this idiot did at my wedding. Let me give you another incident. There is a point when the girl’s father has to wash the groom’s feet. Again, Iyer wedding – tick, Nair wedding – no tick, so this had to be discussed. Personally, I had no intention of asking a 1971 war veteran with a handlebar moustache to wash my feet, so I said no. The priest said that it was custom. I asked him if he could ask my father to wash the bride’s feet. He laughed. We agreed to disagree and drop this ritual. The system works beautifully if everyone is born into the system. Not otherwise, and I am merely detailing my experiences with my family and their strong ties with the system. And oh, last thing – the part about helping out in cooking. As I stated in my post, helping out is not the problem. I made a choice to have her help her mother make fish curry as well instead of only helping my mother make Sambar

      • Also, it is not uncommon in Nair (and other matrilineal) families for the boy to stay at his in-laws house, so while this is not common, I’d be happy to hear if you have any theories of how entire communities manage to violate these basic rules that you speak of

        • You chased him away, apparently.

        • In matrilineal communities, the mother lineage is used for the purposes of inheritance and tracing descent only, no? And not for residency procedures after marriage? It appears to me that even in these communities, as you acknowledged, it is not standard practice for man X to move to his wife’s parents house. And for X’s father to say to his DIL, “en paiyan kannula aanandha kanneera dhan paakanum.”

          In an age where Indian women smoke, wear jeans pant and develop “acquatic habits” (this is certainly common) against tradition, to selectively embrace other family traditions is a little inconsistent. Nevertheless I give it to you. We are all inconsistent with ourselves. In inter-caste marriages, such conflicts in customs are usual.

          But the Sastrigal was trying to do his job. May be, he never conducted an inter-caste/non-Tamil marriage before. (Most Tamils would belong to at least a Sivan/Vishnu Gothram for simplicity.) Gothram = clan/community unit, similar to Thravadam for Keralites., I assume. Was not the FIL made aware of such thins earlier, to prevent such embarassing situations?

          There are empirical arguments against Veetodu Maapilai.

          1. Traditionally, the man of the house is in charge of providing for his wife and kids, and being self-sufficient in this. (or at least a good pretense there of is required). Matrilineal, patrilineal, unclelineal or whatever, this expectation is the same. Any under-performance in this area as *perceived* by the wife or her parents never goes well. Experiments against the social norm have perception problems (even for the experimenters).

          2. Traditionally, the woman is in charge of managing the house. If woman Y stays with her parents after marriage, she will be fawned upon (First Class citizen) and may not quickly learn the necessary skills to conduct a family on her own.

          3. There tends to be some friction between a son-in-law and father-in-law. As between MIL and DIL. But testosterone is a powerful hormone and women are thought to handle conflicts better.

          4. Can man X can rightfully ask for the 4th coffee of the day or whatever he wants in his in-laws’ house? The kitchen belongs not to his wife but his MIL.

          5. A maadi veetu portion for which rent is paid is a pretense at complete seperation of the two households. The frequent imports of sambhar and other help rendered works against (1).

          In a decade of Java-induced prosperity and modernity, it may be tempting to reject such “sexist” interpretations. And embrace the advanced journals of metrosexuality and neutrality in all things. But eons of social and biological conditioning is stronger than quick-lunch liberalism of the last 15 years.
          Ashok:

        • 1. No, you are wrong. While matrilineal socities do not have it as a custom for the man to live in the FIL’s house, it is not frowned upon, like it is in patrilineal societies. That is what I mention in my post. The choice of where to live is simply one of convenience. This house is larger, more comfortable and gives us more privacy till the point I move into my own apartment.
        • 2. I take it that you disapprove of women smoking and wearing jeans (or am I misreading your import there ?) but let’s leave that aside. Perhaps I was trying to be a little more funny than necessary, but “acquatic” habits referred to my wife’s 26 year old habit of eating fish as part of her meal, a habit she would have had to give up if we lived only in my parents’ house.
        • 3. Again, if I had any friction, the simple thing would have been to find an apartment sooner rather than later. It’s only because we share similar tastes and I enjoy his tales of the 1971 war that this has never been an issue. I am not going to comment on your testosterone/estrogen logic as I am unaware of that theory
        • 4. 4th coffee? Yes. Very much so. At least I can. Could my wife ask for a 4th coffee at my place? Not without a bit of advice about 4 coffees being bad for the reproductive system. But aside, really? Your justification for maintaining the status quo of one kind of patrlineal tradition is the ability for the man to get caffeine fix a few more times than normal?
        • 5. “Traditionally, a man is in charge of providing for his wife and kids”. Accepted, and I have no problems with people who do that, but why exactly are you interested in claiming that it’s also the best thing for me? My wife earns almost as much as I do and pursues her career with as much vigour as I do. When we do decide to have kids, it will be a mutual decision taken at a time when the impact to her career is minimal. But since you believe that a woman’s place is to learn to “run a family”, “cook sambhar without it being imported from downstairs” and not be “fawned upon” (a perk only men can apparently enjoy), I’ll just have to say that I don’t quite see it that way.
        • My argument is that nothing in our vaunted “social systems” deals with this reality – the reality of women in colleges and at work. The only thing “eons of social conditioning” does is continue to screw women over and keep them where the system demands they be kept, and yeah, the “quick lunch liberalism” may not be perfect, but it’s at least flexible to deal with the social realities of the last 15 years :) You can dismiss it as metrosexual and also take subtle digs at IT people (Java-men?) while at it, but your logic is not convincing enough.

  • (a) As I mentioned in an earlier response, if you found a way to make it work, good for you. A lot of people tried and failed. All my arguments are only in general terms. Not about Krish Ashok.

    (b) I don’t approve or disapprove of Indian women wearing jeans pant, smoking and drinking. That is also bucking tradition, and people have done that easily. Everyone has the right to be consciously selective, inconsistent etc. in what they do.

    (c) Typically, running a household needs more skill/effort from a woman than a man. It’s not only about sambhar and kaapi. Hence the legacy of the kotthu saavi is on the woman’s iduppu, not in the dude’s jeans pocket. Not everything is equal and portable between the sexes.

    (d) I consider C/C++ to be real programming languages over Java.

    (e) A car running at 40 mph takes a few seconds to stop and reverse direction. Think about billions of people doing things in a a certain way for centuries and being confornted with lot of changes within a few years. “Angayum medhuva thaan varuven, medhuva thaan varuvan.”
    Ashok: For readability, I’ve continued here

  • /*If you are an unmarried middle-class chap, take this from me – there’s nothing better in life than to be treated like nobility at your in-laws place. */

    Isnt the above situation also a social norm and not translate to respect/affection – whatever, even if it exists – as much as the below lines do.

    /*Your wife, on the other hand, will always be a second class citizen at your parents’ home, not because your parents are bad people, but because that is simply the social norm. */

    Just wondering as i belong to that class you mentioned?

  • Love the last line. Guess what? I already knew you were naming your new house “Gregory” after House :)

  • Usually for veetota mappillai or verum mappilai itself the cliche goes as “watch, chain, modhiram” in jewellery (!) and “kari, meen, muttai” in food….I wonder what your inlaws fed you?

  • I think you are nowhere near being a Veettodu Maapillai! You rock too much to be one. But it’s still nice to have one’s own crash pad. A Gregory, at that! Not baaad. I loved your description of Iyer weddings. But it does make me break out in a cold sweat because I will be marrying a Tambram boy next year and I have no idea what is expected of me. I have no Gothra. My ancestors came from the muddy banks of the Huanghe River in China and I feel no affinity with them. Thanks to the fact that I believe I have more in common with the Giant Panda than with the people of China, I am, culturally, an orphan. Or perhaps a sponge, given that I come from a multiracial country and am able to absorb all languages and traditions with infinite ease. Loved your post, as always.

  • BRAVO! :D It’s terrible to see you’re actually taking flak for this post, but this is awesome. I’m glad I know people like you!

  • Brilliant post!!! I received an email asking me to read this terrific post…I can only thank the person who sent it.
    Hats off to you. In India it takes courage for a man to stand up for his wife – like you said you can beat her, but you dare not show any courtesy (or worse, affection or respect) to her.

    Tweeting it.

  • Rocking post! Really enjoyed reading it. Google Reader threw up your blog as recommended, and it was right

  • Ah well, all good things must come to an end. You’ll have to take care of the house chores etc no?

  • Hilarious post!

    A “veettodu mappilai” is considered a sad commodity in most communities, considered to be devoid of self-respect. My quarrel with this is that non VM sons-in-law are not necessarily self-respecting – taking fat dowries (in any form, be it money, real estate, house furnishings, vessels, etc) from the bride’s side/using her money is as bad as staying in her parents’ house. I don’t see a big difference between the two.

    Also, some non-Brahmin communities have gotras too – it need not always be a sage, it could be an ancestor. It turned out my husband and I share the same gotra, though our families weren’t known to each other before marriage.

    And I protest having to help my in-laws when the husband is not expected to help either his parents or his in-laws. It doesn’t matter that that’s a chore I do anyway – why should I do it at his house?

  • You have been writing for so long now, and hats off to you, you haven’t lost your touch even a bit! And I didn’t get it for a second, but Ha ha, funny name for the house! :)

    I wish all men were like you! Full of life, seeing humour in everything, and considers the woman a human like him!! And not a species of some sort who’s just a side-kick, in her most glorious form : )

    Don’t stop writing!

  • (Some part of this comment has been deleted for being offensive) no comments on the gotra and rest of the mumbo jumbo as i don’t know those things at all since mine was a low-key love marriage with zero rituals. congratulations etc.
    Ashok: Alright, if that was designed to test my “I don’t censor” policy, you win :) Call me anything you want, but random sexist observations on my wife, on her ancestry and the general sexual preferences of half of the population is simply flame-bait and frankly, I don’t have the time to moderate an avalanche of responses to this

  • You missed the honeymoon part though. In my case, I was very sure not to “sleep” in any relatives’ house (as neither me nor my wife had our homes in chennai).

    1. I preferred linen without the vintage urine stain of formitive years of cousins and nephews

    2. For the most romantic night I would prefer a bathroom with no strategically sorugified bundle of grey hairs of the house woman, in lieu of aromatic candles

    So we decided to hit the road (for a fewkilometers) and book ourselves a suite in one of the four star hotels..

    Gosh did I ever know that an over-cautious mama would actually check every nook of the room for a hidden camera..

    The next day we were invited (with sheepish smiles and unneccassary blushes from parties not involved in the legal yet amorous activity) with a proclamation “You were not bugged” (like how Ashton Kutcher says in Punk’d)

    • @ashwin – i’ll refer you to debonairblog etc for hidden cams in hotel rooms (there’s even a clip or two there from the Taj). Your relatives were being cautious I must say. Good for them.

  • Very good read. Even better intentions (yours). No matter what people say regarding how you handled your wedding ceremony, your decision to stay at your in-laws, defending your wife for her views etc. I will say – hats off to you for following your heart and doing what YOU thought was right for you. We all get married once ( well, mostly), and it’s not like you are a “vetti mapillai” who does not work and mooch off of his mamanaar’s money. It would have looked real bad then. But, you have a job that I’m sure can support your wife too and just happened to find staying at your in-laws convenient. So what? Does that make you any less of a man? Though with the set up I have, it would not have worked out for my husband personally, but I can definitely understand if one of my friends did it. Plus your poor wife got to live with her parents even after getting married which is a super bonus for her. Who gets that kind of a chance? you gave that to her! she should be greatful/thankful to you for that. And most importantly, you did not fall low in yours and her eyes by doing it. I am not saying parents need to be ignored after marriage just coz you found a life partner, but they need to understand and respect what the son/daughter wants. They also need to let go sometimes and think what’s the worst that can happen? He/she gets hurt and comes crawling back ! so be it !! As far as society is concerned, we all know they will chew on fodder no matter what. It’s all about attitude.

    I am doubly proud of you since I am an ex-Vidya Mandir student too. Just way too senior to you, I think. If you don’t know Kiran miss, Alamelu Gopalan, MK, then, you are from a much much later batch than I.

    Congrats on owning Gregory! I am sure Gregory will solve any and all problems you will have in life in future. Keep smiling and enjoy your life in Gregory with the wife and make fantastic memories.
    Ashok: I am very much from the Alamelu, Kiran and MK generation so there’s a good chance I know you :)

  • See this -http://botharesame.blogspot.com/2010/02/krish-ashok-ashok-krish-that-euphoria.html

    Did you know? LOL
    Ashok: Of course :) I also contribute to that blog by the way

  • Even mine was a love marriage. But am a tamil brahmin (iyengar) and my hubby is kannada brahmin (smarthas). Though we both were brahmins lot of culture differences were there right from ashada masa (thts aadi masam) which starts 15 days later for us. So we had to delay our wedding to skip both the aadi masam.
    And we shared the wedding cost , I was always thinking why girl side had to bare most of the wedding costs. and my in-laws had happily agreed (this matter was disclosed neither to their clan nor ours for obvious reasons :) ). And I give part of my salary to my parents. As far as our marriage was concerned we had both the customs within the muhurtham. “malai matral” where out maternal uncles will carry us while we exchange the garland was awesome custom (our side custom) , they enjoyed it a lot. And yeah I respect my in laws (especially my mother in law) for all the things they accepted, coming out of their “social norm” as you call. My wedding went on so well that ,I am not very sure it could have happen tht good if i had married to my clan (when i said my clan i only meant some of my relatives (knowing them) am not offending Iyengars here)

  • Congrats on your Gregapravesham and wish you and Smitha a whale (epic aquatic) of a time :)

  • Continuing “I”‘s thread here for the purpose of readability

    a) Agree completely with you on that point, but I will still state this – The fact that several people have tried and failed is more indicative of the system’s reluctance to experiment and accept newer realities than the abilities of the people trying it (and failing) themselves. The same applies for me – My family, despite being what I thought was extremely orthodox, adapted far more easily than the eons of social conditioning you speak of would allow. So it’s been really easy for me, and I’ve really achieved nothing great in “bucking” tradition

    b) It is repeatedly pointed out that so-called “modernists” are also selectively modern in that they choose to keep tradition when convenient and throw it away when not. This is a fallacious argument for the simple reason that practically every generation in the last millenium has done precisely that. My mother’s generation is a lot less orthodox than my grandmother’s (for e.g, she wears a 6 yard saree when convenient while my grandmother always wore 9 yards). My grandmother’s generation by itself found it in them to “break tradition” by letting her go to school at least till class 8. Of course, the rate of dropping of tradition has increased in the last 50 years, so why the accusation that only the latest generation is doing “selective picking”?

    c) Again, your point that the sexes are different and that women are better designed to run a household is a little obsolete. While I will not doubt evolutionary conditioning, I will point to our seeming ability to adapt to new conditions as fast as they arrive. This is a small demographic, but still a useful one to observe. Quite a lot of Indian male grad students in the US learn to cook and run a household. Many of them do it messily but they manage to learn far more than they would have under the pampering influence of their mothers back home. When these chaps get married, they are far more likely to share the workload of running a home, and do not continue to rely on theories of social conditioning to justify their need to maintain the “I am the lord of the house and my wife is my servant” status quo. Does every Indian guy who has lived outside of India as a bachelor manage to do this? Probably not, but a fair number do. The kotthu-saavi on idippu image is very quaint and all that, but again highlights this very simple fact I mention again and again – Tradition works very well when there is little change in social contexts across time. The last 50 years have seen changes at a faster rate than the last 100,000. Of course, we carry evolutionary baggage, but if Norway and Sweden can become egalitarian societies despite a Viking lineage, simply theorizing that “we can’t change” is lazy

    Point d) Completely agree. Java is for douchebags

    Point e) Nice metaphor, but slightly inaccurate. To use the metaphor of a monolithic car that will find it difficult to stop and reverse smoothly to describe all of Indian society is self-serving to prove your point, but if I choose to see it as a highway of many cars, some ambassadors, some marutis and a whole heap of newer, more flexible cars, some of which try to go on the wrong side of the highway – some end in accidents, some weave their way through, and a few hopefully convince some of the larger and clunkier cars to atleast slow down their pace in the direction they are going, that is, in my opinion, a better metaphor

    • Dude, you are married to the love of your life and you shouldn’t be blogging to begin with. Blogging is for people in boring relationships. I am sure it was emotionally difficult for everyone involved to come to terms with your marriage. Most likely, people are in different stages of acceptance and you all have worked out a balance. That onnu vitta chithappa does not like the fact that you are married to a Nair, but nevertheless takes pride in telling his retired friends that you are a prolific blogger. Or that his daughter-in-law is in line for a promotion in her office. Unless he makes it a point to come to your house every morning and yell at you for having ditched the system and your wife for being born into a Nair family, I really don’t see any point in this. That is the sad part of web2.0 and blogs. In the absence of blogs, you’d have had a beer and watched Sun TV instead :). Which is what you should do.
      Ashok: Hahahahahahaha :) I drink more than enough beer Alan. Perhaps I must invite you next time around, seeing as you have a blog yourself :)

    • Dude .. some of the points are correct there.

      1. Relatives – especially the older and/or more racist ones – will be obnoxious about it in several dozen little, irritating ways. You can’t and won’t avoid it on either side of your family.

      2. The veetodu mappilai thing just doesnt work well after a few years. Take it from me having been married for 8 years – to another Iyer, no intercaste to confuse the basic issue of veetodu mappilai (and consider that I’ve had my wife’s parents living in my home for about 3 years after my daughter was born, and they now rent an apartment about 5 minutes away, moving from their own house in tambaram .. and my parents just moved two doors away from me). My daughter still spends most of the day either at my parents’ house or my inlaws’ house – because I and my wife have fulltime jobs. That situation is a LOT more stressful than simply making coffee and cooking food.

      Remember, if you run into a situation where anybody – family, friends, colleagues etc – have to rearrange their life to fit around yours, and spend substantial amounts of time doing something that’s actually your + your wife’s job (only neither can do it because there’s this other TV series called ‘office’ instead of ‘house’) – that is a huge obligation they’re taking on themselves. And that has absolutely zero to do with being a veetodu mappilai.

      When you move into your Velachery house with your wife, I will bring a lot of beer to the party that follows your graha pravesam. When you and your wife have a baby, I’ll come rushing to congratulate you – and buy you more beer.

      But – once that happens, when you have a baby to care for and you and your wife are both employed fulltime, when your inlaws have to move to adyar / your parents move to anna nagar to share the workload (or they both move to velachery / one of them moves in with you in your apartment), your relationship with your parents, and with your inlaws, will come under the sort of acid test that no amount of requests for the 4th coffee of the day will ever subject it to.

      This is a situation that has to be experienced and reacted to real time – and that no amount of discussion on this blog can ever prepare you for.

    • Wow… some serious disc on a post I skimmed for laughs at first read. Good post…I didnt think you’d ruffled too many feathers and like the way you engage your critics and keep your cool.

      Having said all that, how seriously did you mean it when you characterized the previous generation with

      …“I am the lord of the house and my wife is my servant” …

      This seems to be the attitude Hawkeye et al have a problem with. Was this true for your immediate family? Are you basing this on purely who worked outside the house and who didnt? How linearly did that map into real power in the household?

      Do you make the implicit assumption that housework is “servant-like”?

      Most women of my dad’s generation that I knew were considerably more empowered than you make out to be (servant) and very few men could fit that “lord and mastery” label.

      The power imbalances were subtle, and in married domestic life, on fair occasion stacked up against the men. The only obvious things seemed to be a conferred status which was a bit higher for the menfolk and a stronger disapproval for women dissing their men in public ( vis-a-vis the opposite).

      With age women have benefited from their roles as primary caregiver and the men seem cornered into even weaker roles now- their erstwhile role as primary provider and wage earner are not particularly remembered let alone with any gratitude. In this context the older woman has more real (soft?) power than the older man.

      Maybe you are looking at bank balances in the woman’s name and her ability to live life on her own terms- while these are not so great for the older man, they are indeed still relatively worse for the older woman.

      Thanks,
      Jai
      Ashok: Totally valid points Jai. The “Lord/Master/Servant” bit was obviously a caricature, an extreme that is not quite common in reality. The reality, as you rightly mention is far more subtle. It’s small decisions that go the way of the man (education, status of widows) that have replaced the more egregious bias of yesteryears.

    • d) Java is not for douchebags, not is C.
      C++ is for douchebags.

  • I have been reading your blog for some time, and i have to say, that youve helped me kill a few hours over the time! I cant wait for you to have kids ( speaking of which, please please please dont name them gregory house ) because i really want to see peoples comments on the future dillema of their diet! lol.

  • I’ve always thought the “veettoda maapillai” bit has been considered a slur just to encourage mappillais to become financially independent and not sit their asses on their in-laws’ couch. I am sure that’s not applicable in your case.

    And I love how you encourage your wife to help out in both the iyer and the nair kitchen while you presumably do the “enjoy the sambar” bit and change male-centric mantras!

    Just kiddin’.

    Or maybe not. :)

  • To all you people commenting – there is no need to get personal. It ruins the whole spirit of the blog/post and starts taking an ugly shape. Let’s keep it civil and enjoy the discussion.

    To V.Smitha : You are lucky you got to enjoy your life style ( eating fish included) after marriage. Since your husband’s family is strictly vegetarian, I am sure you would not have got to cook or so much as even utter the urge to eat fish in their household. I am a fish lover myself and cannot imagine giving up eating fish at home. Food *is* a very important part of who we are, however it is argued. Karimeen Polichathu can make me drool any time of the day :) valiya taste ketto ..mmm..

    Congrats to you too on owning Gregory.

    Ashok : since you know AG,MK, Kiran etc, we must be from the same era. Let me email you offlline.

  • Congrats Krish and Smitha. You make ‘Gregory’ proud.

  • It’s only fair, given the Mallu-tammu conglomeration, that should you both have a girl, the name should be Jilpa, which is a Gujju name :)

  • Great post! Brings back memories of my own wedding! It takes guts for a man to stand up for his wife and not let her be treated like a second class citizen – even a little murmur of support brings flood of “he’s scared of his wife”, “joru ka ghulam” from the otherwise shudh tamil-speaking brahms.

    Sometimes I feel bad for the mother though – does a guy ever stand up for his mom in the same situation?

  • One wonders why anything Black and white repels the old generation.

  • sigh.. gregory.. :) he is so hot and handsome!

  • and why do people take everything so seriously!!!! instead of just relaxing and enjoying the humor :)

  • Did the meeting with Hawkeye ever happen? Any updates? Or just plain, I agree to disagree and a couple of beers later, you headed off to Annanagar/Besant Nagar and he to his house?
    Hasn’t happened yet. He was traveling and promised to connect once he got back

  • Hey Krish

    Hindu ‘Metroplus’ refers to your post in their ‘Brand Grandma’ article

    http://www.hindu.com/mp/2010/06/15/stories/2010061550120500.htm

    Good job there!

  • Rommmba late’a padichen sir.. Semma post! Wishes for gregory.. :-)

  • Is V smitha going to leave you for that freak ‘only man’ ?

    ask her if he can blog or do Jilsa and Jilpa ?

    I did not study in your school of humour and now that i am taking lessons from your blogs i am taking my examinations in your comments.

  • I just realised that your wife’s name is Smitha so i had a thought. Don’t hunt me down and kill me but your name is Ashok and your wife’s name is Smitha so logically if you had a boy child you could name him “Amith” :P

    *runs away*

  • ha ha! finally someone else who is from vadoola gothram…lol :P I tht I was the only one :P

  • I just saw your post- a month late. I totally appreciate the little things during your weddings. These have and shall remain bitter aspects me to me all along. I hated Kanyadhaanam. I was fuming thru the whole thing. It actually felt degrading to me – I wasn’t something you’d give “away” like a thing , however symbolic. While I am very proud of my TamBram heritage , certain practises like these make me cringe.

    • No need to fume over kanya daanam; think of it from your father’s point of view. – this means actually, “I am not going to spend any more money- so get lost”.. Also, kanyadaanam is universal, not restricted to hindu belief. May be wrong here, do muslims have this ritual?

  • hey! awesome blog for starters!
    loved the name Jalsa and Jilpa (chennai 28 would have been proud) and as far as this post is concerned, like Sathyaraj in Englishkaaran wud have said : “I am basically a someberi”, so “veetodu maapillai” is something I’d love to be. In fact if my eng. progresses like it is going now, my lifetime aim would be to find some rich woman and settle down at her place!!
    awesome blog again for finishers!

  • Awesome post .. and nice name for ur house ;-)

    U have potrayed the whole in-law’s complications so very well…..

  • Love the post as always! Absolutely love the wedding description with Jesus – I grew up in the Northern parts of India, and never understood why the tambram weddings were such sombre affairs (with bad Sanskrit jokes about male progeny from strange priests thrown in!!) Your description brings back scores of memories – all funny in retrospect.

    And loved the Gregory reference. Good luck with the new place.

  • “…to demand dowry and lose it on horse races…”
    i’m reading this at the office and i think I soiled myself laughing :D

  • Bonjour, Felicitations pour votre bel article ! J attend avec impatience la suite. Amicalement,

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