The Muddy Tsarinas

(for the Tamil challenged, the title is a pun on Madisaar, which refers to the 9 yard saree traditionally worn by Tambram Maamis)

In an earlier post, we discussed the games Chennaiites played. But in doing so, we did grave and cemetery injustice to a species that, as Neha points out, is the very core of the Tamil economy.

This is a post about that species, Homo Mamiens, and the games they play.

The zoological name was coined by the Celluloid Ranter, Ramsu, whose comment on my earlier post is pretty much the inspiration for this one.

Game #1: Karthikological Kabaddi

Contributor: Ramsu

Maami: Oh, nee BITSla padichchayaa? (You studied in BITSaaa?) Then you should know this guy.

Me: (Polite disinterest) Who?

Maami: (Reels off a long spiel on how she is related to him. Typically, the common ancestor is either Adam or the ape, depending on which version you believe.)

Me: Who?

Maami: (Begins to reel off an alternative way to link the two, this time involving duck-billed platypi)

Me: I mean, does this wonderful guy have a name?

Maami: (Doing the mami equivalent of head-scratching) I know his dad’s name is Krishnamurti. We call him Ambi at home.

Me: (Waiting for this conversation to end)

Maami: Wait I think his school-name was Karthik.

Me: At any given point in time, there are about 3,567,290 Karthiks in BITS, not counting plants. None of them are know by that name.

Maami: I don’t know his nickname. Avan adhellam veettula sollaradhu illa. (He does not reveal that at home)
Me: Usually, these nicknames aren’t repeatable in mixed company. Such as…

Maami: Oh, ok. Escaaapes before I elaborate.

Me: ( Sigh of relief)

Additional notes: Replace BITS with TCS, Infosys, Satyam, Cognizant, and that version of this game is also getting increasingly common.

Game #2: Sanjay Subrahmanian 100m Freestyle (a.k.a The Rich Madras Maami Mock Humility Game)

Contributor: Bikerdude

Maami 1: What maami, many days not seen?

M2: Yes maami. was a little busy with daughter’s wedding.

M2: Oh very nice maami. Grandaa?

M1: Illai maami, we kept it very simple. Just close family in Trident Sheraton followed by a Sanjay Subrahmanian concert by the pool side. You know, people are so bored of the same elaborate ceremonies.

M2: Aaamam maami, I did the same for my son’s wedding too. Just a couple of sweets catered by a very puuuure traditional cook who has catered for the PM himself. Nothing fancy ma. You know, that’s what children want these days

M1: very true maami. Left to myself I’d only eat thairshaan and wadakkina wendekai, but they forced me to eat all 5 sweets and 17 traditional south Indian main courses at the wedding and Im still getting over it.

M2: (Silvery laughter). I know maami. These kids these days.

Game #3: Dollar Store Dodgeball

Maami 1: What Maami, eppidi irrukkel (How are you?) US Trip and all went wellaa?

Maami 2: Oh yes. first class. Such a beautiful country you know.

Maami 1: I heard. So where and all you went?

Maami 2: Not too many places. Just Niagara and Pittsburgh Venkateswara temple. Granddaughter is very young and frequently falls ill. And my son does not want to miss even one day of his mother’s cooking. (silvery laughter)

Maami 1: (coppery laughter). Plane food and all ok-aa?

Maami 2: Don’t even ask, maami. Somethinng and all they will bring. God only knows what ingredients they use. We only ate the fruits.

Maami 1: For me any giftaa?

Maami 2: Of course maami, how can I forget my closest friend. (proceeds to handover

1. set of 3 plastic cups (made in Thailand) purchased from the Dollar store).

2. 1 package of Snickers chocolates bought during Halloween sale.

Maami 1: Oh. Romba thank you maami. (Whispers to herself – adachi kanjapisnaari. I can get these in Nilgiris supermarket in Mylapore itself.) Why, so much expensive things and all?

Maami 2: Oh. Not a problem at all. I asked my son to take me only to the best quality shops. Like namma ooru, I didn’t want to simply buy cheap things from Pondy Bazaar or Ranganathan street. (silvery laughter)

Maami 1: (iron-ic laughter)

Readers, Your ideas please.

41 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. A few weddings I attended here had made me realize
    that if ever the rupee get devalued to a large extent, one just needs to come to the Maami’s and ask them to surrender their thangamaligai’s to RBI.

  2. My apologies in advance to those who do not understand Tamizlh.

    Scene: Late 80s,
    One of the small Kalyaana mandapams around the Mambalam/ Pondy Bazar area. These have shoebox sized rooms allotted to the PoNN and Payyan aatthukkaara. Typically the womenfolk of each side cram into one of the rooms. Seer varisai examination, jewellery comparison, blouse changes, make up and gossip. 5 kilo roja maalai hung on a nail. Noise levels are pretty high, humidity is 100% and the rustle of silk sarees is all pervasive.

    M1 (badly bucktoothed periyamma of bride): AeNdee Sacchu, sammandhi aatthu-kkaara romba raangi pudicchavaaLaa iruppaa pola irukkay.

    M2: AenDee? ennaacchu, ennacchu?? (All heads turn with hairpins clamped between teeth, little girls whose pinnals are being braided have it inadvertently yanked, bride being made up turns around as well, smearing the drishti pottu mid-application)

    M1: Vandhu eranginadhum erangaadhadhumaa naa poi sammandhi maami-tte ‘enna maami, kalyaaNamaa?’ –nnu kujalam vijaaritthadhu thappaa pocchu dee-mma.

    M2: Ayyayyooo, ennaacchu, solli tholayaen-Dee!
    (All attention is now fully focussed on M1. Little girls whine ‘Amma, hook poettu vidu’ to which the ammas unwilling to miss even one word, usually respond with a backhander and ‘Porutthukka mudiyaadha-di shaniyanae’. Noise levels go up as the smacked girls set up a loud wail. The pazlhuttha sumangali-s grumble ‘Aen-Dee Kamu, kozhanthaya enna-nnu kaeLu’.)

    M1: Badhilukku aedhaavadhu sumuhama solli yirukkalaam. Aana, pidicchuntaaLae paakaNum.

    M2: Enna, enna??

    M1: Sorraaa…nammatthu manushaaLLaam vada naattu-laendhu vandhavaa, ellaarum Baambay Delli, Kalkata-nnu periya periya aabeesar udhyohatthulae irukkaravaa. Kaekkaraa..enna ipdiyoru Mandabam thaan kaDacchudha, veyilum puzlhukkam-um thaangalae, oru AC poDapdaadha…. kuLikka kiLambinaa venneeer ille….saapdalaam-nnu ponaa eppa paar, verum saadham thaan, boori, rotti patthi kaeLvipattadhillaya…ipdi adukkiNdae poraa-dee!

    M2: (Setting up a loud wail) naa appavae sonnaen ivar-tte, oru nalla hall-a book paNNungo-nnu, aedho AVM Rajeswari-yaame, selavaanalum paravayillai, moottha poNN, oor mecchara maadhiri kalyaaNam paNNinaa-dhaan namakku gouravam-nnu. En thalai ezlhutthu..ipdi nee vaangu padaNum-nu irukku!

    M3 (atthai of bride): Paavam Balu-ve aen-Di kuttham sorrae! KalyaaNatthukku innum mooNu paer nikkaraa, neeyum vacha vacha-nnu poNNaa petthu poettirukkae, irukkaradha-yellaam moottha-va maeleye selavazlhi-cchtta appram nadu-ttheruvilae poi nikka vaeNdiyadhu-dhaan! Illae..Balu kalyaaNatthulae ungappa 2 pavun sangili podaraen-nu sonnaarae, innum-thaan vandhunNdirukku. Modhalle adhai vaangiNdu vaa, perissa kiLambittaa Balu-vai kuttham solla!

    Pitched battles now rage! Thirty year old issues get raked over! Earning capacities of husbands are slighted! Allegations of corruption are levelled! By the time the menfolk bang on the door to sue for peace, mallihai-ppoo is flying thro the air, braids are grabbed in the fight, ‘savuri-s’ come loose, kids scream, older women unleash a hoarse timbre of voice previously known only to their husbands, teenagers sit back and enjoy the fight.

    My lunch break is at an end. However those interested in extending the scenario may continue! I will rejoin at end of Business hours!

  3. M1: Hey therimo..A mami’s daughter American-a kalyanampannindootalam!
    M2: Oh amaam, kezhvipatten! What a shock illa. A mami’s athukarar suffered a minor attack-amem?
    M1: Yeah. Yen therimo..iva ponnoda officeku phone panirka, she was on leave-am. Officekara chollitalam ava maternity leavela irukanu. Namaba mudiyardho? Andha ponnu poona-madhiri irundhindu ennalam kaaryam panirka paaru.
    M2: Oh my god. Apdiya? Naeku adhu theriyadhu. Sheri adha vidungo, unga payyanuku varan pathindrikalamem?
    M1: Amaam. Ellathayum reject panind irukaan.
    M2: (Sinister smile) Edho love-giv panna poran mami, jaakardhaya irungo.
    M1: Checha I’m quite modern and I’m very broad-minded you know? Neeye ponna paathuntanalum ok pa, atleast ingavandhu peruku oru kalayanam pannindrunu sholliten.

    Btw, muddy tsarinas is the worst pun, yet 🙂

  4. Nanba, Good one da. Especially the game 1. Even i have been a victim of that game played by maamis. Unfortunately, it was double trouble for me – i studied in BITS and also worked in Cognizant 😦

  5. Bikerdude, you rawk. Fantastic stuff! There are variants of that conversation involving jewelry, but that probably requires a whole blog all by itself. Even a single post might not suffice.

    Ashok, Game #3 was brilliant. As for the Snickers, for all you know the mami dressed up in a cycle sari (a term used by one of my colleagues to refer to the only sari variant that makes bicycling a snap), went trick-or-treating at Halloween and handed over the loot to her “best friends”.

  6. LOL KA: Loved the dollar store maami 🙂 Im quite guilty of being a $ store mama myself sometimes blush. How about a part 2?

    Soundar – The bride’s drishti-pottu smeared as she turns around eh? LOL

    Ramsu Ada yennatha rockcki, rolli… 🙂

  7. This is too good. Can I please have this published in a Chennai-based magazine that someone I know edits and publishes. OK FINE. It’s my mom’s. But please 🙂

  8. Yenda Ambi,

    Plucking Low hanging fruits aren’t we?

    It is time someone from the maami community cut you down to size. Fighting with priests, who depend on your money for salary, fighting with mom to draw funny baby krishna shapes, making fun of maamis -> all this looks like you are picking soft targets aren’t you.

    After all harassing a priest isn’t much diffirent than dangling a 50 Rs note to a beggar and asking him to do a one-leg naked dance and earn the money isn’t it? The poverty of the guy will force him to dance to your tunes and you come sounding all machismo in your blog. Whats the point in using your half-baked knowledge to insult that guy’s profession?

    Maamis like me defied Maamas like your grandfather and went into employment. We fought against getting stuck in the kitchen, singing carnatic music and wearing madisaar since age 24. what do you know about maami’s and priests to make fun of them?

    What did you do? make fun of old ladies just to earn a few laughs in your blog. Just to show you are a cool guy? Not getting sex nowdays heh? How about picking someone your own size? Why dont you make fun of some blogger like nilu? I hope he was around long enough to puke on your pathetic blog.

    Me: (Waiting for this conversation to end)

    trying to sound cool are we? Showing off using maami as a tool are we? would we do something like this to our boss, maybe somebody who pays our salary? maybe a thug who can beat you to pulp. Appo pottaichi madhiri mudindu poviyonno? Inga enna veerappu?

    Vaai illa poochi’aana maami, archagar ivalellam galatta panravanukkum pondatti’a adikaravanukkum romba vithyasam illa. You show your machismo to people who are too weak to react.

    Intha mathiri same-topic one dimensional psuedo-cool post ezhutharavanukkellam oru blog, oru readershippu , athula unakku perumai vera.

    Maybe you should try to write abaout something that at least has a chance of saying something back to you. You have drawn enough from this i am so cool i rebel against weak targets well. draw from some other well.

  9. Oh! on making fun of maamis from older generation.Lets see if when you are old, you come across and witty articulate and cool with your children’s friends. Lets see if you pick up on the nuances of ‘courtesy’ ‘manners’ etc of your younger generation. They will make fun of you.

    At least we socialize. Far better than kids like you playing video games, blogging and being a hero in a virtual world. we live in the real world

  10. Maami koecchuntaeL pola irukkey!

    Jillu-nu moer konduvara sollattumaa?

    Dei KA..oho kaapi-ya…indhaango!

    Maami, edhukkum check paNNikkongo, enga ellaarkkum shoulder-la chip than irukku.

    UngaLukku poriccha arisi appaLam-ay irukkumo?

  11. Dear MylaporeMaami,

    Stop being so outdated and get a sense of humour.

    This isn’t some hate blog. Ashok writes what he has seen and experienced. Stop following everything blindly without questioning anything. Question everything. And try to make things better or more meaningful.

    Insulting readers of a blog that you don’t even know about is not very polite. You should learn basic manners and politeness first. Then you can lecture us.

  12. Go! Maami! Go!

    bale! bale! fantastic response. i orey supporting.

    (sits down and sees maami vaarinji kattify and come)

    Marc,

    remember the mug-up student who will write the same answer no matter what question was asked. yes? Are you his twin brother?

  13. Quote
    //At least we socialize. Far better than kids like you playing video games, blogging and being a hero in a virtual world. we live in the real world//

    Socialize? With whom? Certainly, I’m not seeing your lot socialize with any other than similarly clad maamis, sizing each other up and down wherever it may be you meet up. Not even the temple is spared. Yeah we play games, blog and all but we will never creep out when someone tries to help us to get to our feet when we have fallen face down in the street. You maamis cite ‘madi’, ‘aacharam’ and whatnot as a stupid reason. Stop with your ‘I’m-holier-than-thou’ attitude. Grow up! And NOT in your ‘real world’
    !

  14. Thambi Arun,

    you earn so much doing saaftwarela. Why dont you give it to all the poor kids and live minimally. why do you wear reebok shirts and adidas shoes? you cite free market, capitalism and whatnot as a stupid reason.

    nokku free marketnna enakku madi acharam. nee ennoda yendappa ambi betternu neneikara?

    Yaaravthu rendu peru charity panraannu point out panniyanna. enga aathu pakkathula rendu maami irukka! social service panraa. exception ellam rule aagumo. solludapa arun ambi

  15. Example of holier than thou attitude:

    but we will never creep out when someone tries to help us to get to our feet when we have fallen face down in the street. You maamis cite ‘madi’, ‘aacharam’ and whatnot as a stupid reason

  16. Love this post! Hilarious.

    After all harassing a priest isn’t much diffirent than dangling a 50 Rs note to a beggar and asking him to do a one-leg naked dance and earn the money isn’t it? The poverty of the guy will force him to dance to your tunes and you come sounding all machismo in your blog. Whats the point in using your half-baked knowledge to insult that guy’s profession?

    Ha ha, I wouldn’t call it much of a profession. Like you said, they’re glorified beggars.

    Lets see if when you are old, you come across and witty articulate and cool with your children’s friends. Lets see if you pick up on the nuances of ‘courtesy’ ‘manners’ etc of your younger generation. They will make fun of you.

    Ha ha, that’s part of life, each generation goes out of style eventually. Quite a lot of oldies actually manage to get through because they retain their sense of humour and can give it as good as they get. Well done on being one of those 🙂

  17. Looks like ‘Maami’ doesn’t want to address any of the things we mentioned, instead preferring to go off on tangents.

    Hawkeye,
    I wouldn’t know. I don’t remember memorising anything. 😉

  18. We don’t have a sense of humour. Can’t be humoured about a few laughs raised in the name of the Madrasi maami. Huh?

    Auto drivers/kaaikari vendors and local rowse partys smirking:”Endha maami, konjam kaami”

    The maami has been a subject of much malice, malcontent, and ridicule in movies, on the streets and areas of public space in TN. She is thrifty, petty,her life revolves around domestic politics and sexually she is either frigid ( that’s what the maamas will guffaw) while for the NBs she is a promiscous wench. Is that tag justified? Ask your mothers and aunts who stopped playing the veena because “he didn’t like it” or stopped working because “his mother does not want a working type” or didn’t “Study further because of marriage”and more. (Sure, we should have a sense of humour, sorry I rant). Maamis petty battles are all you can talk about, because you have won the war. You can point fingers at her buying diamonds with your hard earned salary, laugh at her local community gossiping ( Aiyo I forget you men never gossip, not the way we do, so that’s all it takes to irk you huh?)

    What about maama nomics?He is thrifty, his world view is jaundiced ( usually hard core right wing- nice tam brahm maamas made the bomb with Vajpayee, not maamis, dudes), his modernity is restricted to latching on to capitalism, to questioning a few rituals and doing away with the poonal ( how come maamis are held up for not wearing the tirumangalam in public space : inda Tv news reader sandhya paathaiyo?thaali illame, dyeworce-a?), he would like to win the argument always at home against the wife, criticise her driving, count her salary, and has an exagerrated sense of importance.

    General wisdom will make you compare the Tam Brahm with the Jews. I agree, the jews don’t treat their women too well- they keep them apart on menstrual days, women rabbis are a strict no no and a Jewish woman marrying out of the community has more hardships than the man etc.

    Since the “Maatran valli mannakum” social renegades time, the Tamil brahmin maami has been held up for such odious comparisons. And oh if she protests , it is amazing how ruthless the cool maamas can be in decimating her.

    Is that why the maamis who have done better in life after marriage, like Rukmini Devi Arundale, Lakshmi Sehgal, Aruna Roy, Lakshmi Homlstrom, Indira Nooyi, are not married to supercilious maamas? How come these maamis flowered in the company of “other community men”? What were your ilk up to?Giving us the put down I presume.

    It is a shame upon the community that the widows of this caste group were subjected to unspeakble atrocities in the name of honouring caste virtues. Better ask the mottai paatis in your household… or are u guys “maadarn” and have forgotten your ancestors’s worst injury upon its women folk?

    The gounder woman, chettiyar woman, or mudaliyar woman is never cussed or cursed, but the maami is easy target for all such jokes. But then, the maamas made chinna veedus of all those Thevydiyaal dasi women and gave them respectability..sorry you were up to such noble acts. M.S Subbulakshmi and her mum are still thankful to the maamas in their heavenly abode for making respectable women of them.

    Does it befit a genteel blog like this to humour gender stereotypes?

  19. Marc,

    well! this comment section has been fun to read.

    /* Stop following everything blindly without questioning anything. Question everything. And try to make things better or more meaningful.*/

    This i thought was tangential to this post, maami’s comment and was orthagonal to the fact that maami was also questioning something.

    Infact Myloapore had her eye on the ball all the time. From where I am sitting this maami is coming across as more modern, intelligent and mature than many of us.

    Arun chose to call her stupid and bring in unnecessary things like ‘madi’ – which i thought was countered brilliantly. George for example thinks that you can make fun of weak people such as beggars, which played into maami’s exact point about this whole thing.

    i ended up feeling she was an underdog here. just my 2 cents before my weekend runs out.

  20. Everybody,
    Fighting is allowed on this blog only if each participant fills out a fight-requisition form in triplicate and gets it notarized by Gabtain Vijaykanth and meets me in person in the sugarcane stall at the entrance of Ranganathan Street.
    Otherwise, I will book all of you on Federal Blogfighting Charges.

  21. “Is that why the maamis who have done better in life after marriage, like Rukmini Devi Arundale, Lakshmi Sehgal, Aruna Roy, Lakshmi Homlstrom, Indira Nooyi, are not married to supercilious maamas? How come these maamis flowered in the company of “other community men”? ”

    maami, paarthaeL-na, none of the thirty somethings who regularly populate this blog condone the excesses of the maama-s of our grandparents’ generation. If anything, wives are equals (cue for a chorus of angry protests from young maamis-in-making) nowadays.

    Also, progressive thought and practices are well in place (read KA’s earlier pieces on his marriage).

    Anger without release will turn poisonous and manifest later in life. (naan sollradhu sari-dhaane?)

    Therefore I am sure, those maami-s who stopped veena/ working/ singing at the behest of hubbies, mil-s, are most likely wreaking their vengeance now, in their sixties, exactly when maamas have probably mellowed and are open to reason.

    However I must say, a lot of what you say does resonate. Perhaps it is time for a blog of your own. You can be sure that a lot of maamis will make it a daily must-read. Why, even we ‘uruppdaa kazlhuthai-s’ might learn from your travails.

  22. Anger without release will turn poisonous and manifest later in life. (naan sollradhu sari-dhaane?)

    Conceded. Makes many a maami vicious, spewing back the poison handed over to her. But at 65 if mellow maama says, “Sachu , naan panninadhu thappu dee, peraandi yodu po schoolukku po, padi,” maami with her osteoarthritis, hysterectomy and other unmentionable woes, including taking care of her grandchildren, and years of having worked to the bone cooking meals will have no will or whim. “Akkadaanu sivanenu naan baatu iruken vidungo-na etc…”.

    So let’s make new beginnings. And thank you for saying that you 30 plus Iyer Boyz won’t make mistakes of running down your women and give them equal hoof space. Can we then expect that such frivolous maami jokes will stop and can we turn the page please? We will stop picking the karandi.

    You are not ‘uruppdaa kazlhuthai’z. We expect you to be more informed than the generation that called us such names and trivialised women.

    I am completely a late kate, a tyke here. An unexpected click brought me to this blog a month ago. And in surfing blogs I find it is upsetting to read so many Tam brahm blogs whining about being physically weak, mentally stronger, reservations, and so on. I think we need to move on from old rants and this space seemed frothy, rooted and engaging. But this maami piece goat my goat as it did the other sister maami I guess.

    Ah well…shall move on.

  23. //The gounder woman, chettiyar woman, or mudaliyar woman is never cussed or cursed, but the maami is easy target for all such jokes.//

    You don’t have a term like ‘maami’ for them. Perhaps it is because maami is a collection of characteristics in peoples’ minds. In that case you wouldn’t be a maami.

  24. Quote
    //you earn so much doing saaftwarela. Why dont you give it to all the poor kids and live minimally. why do you wear reebok shirts and adidas shoes? you cite free market, capitalism and whatnot as a stupid reason//

    MylaporMaami, ennaku Reebok shirts and Adidas shoes na, ungalluku Akshaya thritiya gold jewellery and pattu sarees. You embrace capitalism as much as I do. 🙂

    Anyway, as Soundar says we would like to see your blog soon. A regularly updated one.

  25. The average age of “maamis” is in the 60s and they are a dying breed. Let’s turn the page.
    A very funny post full nostalgia for the past
    when men didnt have to prove themselves and women were mamis?
    Even with all the criticism, perhaps the “boys” of today will remember the sacrifice of the mamis in order that the karthiks of the world can go to BITs
    tenderly,
    one of the last mamis.

  26. This i thought was tangential to this post, maami’s comment and was orthagonal to the fact that maami was also questioning something.

    That’s it! You can’t just go around using those terms like that. Descartes will destroy you, blasphemer!

  27. half of us owe what we are today to the brains of the common mammi.
    its funny we make so much fun of them, when our mums or grandma’s are prob maami’s as well..and this isnt just related to our tambram community, but all other cummunities as well..

  28. Cela m’est extrêmement précieux ! En tout cas, je vais revenir vous rendre visite très prochainement. Continuez !

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