Like a farmer sowing his limited stock of seeds carefully, Ammalu uses her words sparingly but her mild and measured body movements are more vocal, if I may say so, than her words.
‘You liked this sari? ” My question.
A mild monosyllable ‘um’ ഉം,means ‘it is so,so’ The same letter pronounced with clarity means it is OK and when accompanied by a smile on the face, suggests that she simply loves it..Instead of um’ ഉം’ she may sometime, respond with oh ഓ or a double oh ഓ,ഓdepending on the degree of agreement.
When my father gets angry he never used to hit us. By rolling his eye balls and staring at us, if he says uhm, he has imparted the severe punishment more painful than twenty slashes. ‘uhm’ followed by the movement of his right fore finger is an order to get inside the house and I am inside it even at the expense of leaving my American girl-friend at the door step.But fortunately for her, it was Ammalu who accompanied me and she was his selection,without even having a chance for me to see her till we landed together on the marriage pandal.
‘Ohv!’ ഓഹ്വ് I left my umbrella in the train!” Don’t worry , it is older than your grandnie. ‘ I failed in Math.Who ever said that you will clear it?
Oh, pokattum Ammalu, means leave him; after all, this is not the first time you have found him with another woman.ഓ അമ്പട കേമ- Oh, ambada kema – don’t leave . He is acting smart; he deserves punishment.The word ‘ambhada’ reminds me its sibling ambadathan, a phrase often used by pattars.The Malyalam equivalent’ athrea ullu ‘ or the Tamil one ‘avalavu than’ or the telugu ‘anthe’ are less lustrous, when compared to our ambadathan, which generally means “that is the end of it’. If Ammalu says that, ” I am leaving for my appa’s house -nan enga appa aathukku poren ambadathan” അമ്പടത്താന് means ambadathan; that is the end of it. Either I have to jump into the well at the back yard of the olavkkode house ( but that will not help as I know swimming ) or go to to Nithyanada’s ashram and ask for a piece of ocher or orange coulour cloth. But neither Nithyananda nor the ‘niguta’ (hidden ) video camera is there now.What is the purpose of going there. I can as well catch the next train to Tvm and continue my travelogue.
“അപ്പാവിപൊണ്ണുക്കുആഷാടപൂതിമാപ്പിള്ളൈ ” Mama, What’s that meant for? Pls write in detail”.
Appavi pon is an innocent girl, as I already explained. Ashadapoothi is someone who says ‘ha,ha, hu,hu’ but is a big zero. He doesn’t look smart nor is he intelligent. He doesn’t know what he is talking about. Just makes some sound. He is not well-dressed . He is not an idiot or misbehaved but doesn’t impresses as an intelligent guy. He is not a bad character. In fact he is a good guy. So much meaning is contained in that single word Ashatapoothi. You can shorten it to ആഷാഢം ‘aashatam’ and also say അവന് മഹാ ആഷാഢം ആക്കും “avan maha aashatam aakkum “
Now, you may ask what is വയത്തെരിച്ചല് vaiatheritherichall ?
എരിച്ചല് ‘Eritchal’ is burning , as you know . ‘ Vayatheritchal’ is burning in the stomach. Don’t worry – no ulcer or any other disorder. It is in fact, a mild’ heart burn’ . In the above example it just shows my unhappiness that Uma talks high about her preparations but doesn’t offer me; It as simple as that. It is not an ‘eritchal’ at all.
If Ammalu says that എന് വയറു എരിയറതു because our cook ate almost all the kozhakkatais , leaving just one or two for us, that again is a minor heartburn . But if she says that ‘envayar eriyarutu’ because she happened to see me smiling at our neighbor, Ammini amma, who happened to enter our garden to pick up a handful of coriander leaves, which happened to be not available in her court yard, then it becomes quite a serious matter and a bomb can explode anytime, in my house as well as in my neighbor’s. The karukappalai chedikku kashtakalam, paavam. ‘Oru ponnodu vayathu erinchal kottikkinda , nee nanna irukka maattaai ‘ if a mother curses an youngster who is after her daughter, his life is doomed. He will become a husband soon and pay the penalty all the husbands pay for.
‘Enthukku engalai ippadi karichukottareer ? I hear someone asking. കരിട്ച്ചുകൊട്ടറീര് Karitchukottarathu is saying words which are not very pleasing to ears.പൊരിട്ച്ചുകൊട്ടറത് Poritchukottarathu you know surely, if you are a husband, like me. That is പൊരിച്ചു കൊട്ടറതു or talitchukootarathu, the last stage of cooking where you fry kaduku, molagai, uzunhtu paruppu, in hot oil to add to the sambar. Once I added that to koottu and got the thittu.
My Colombian adventure from Palakkad to TVM continues:
‘Mao-maoists, who are they ?’ enquired my MIL, who had serious doubt from the beginning about the percentage of truth in my narration.
‘Mao-maoists are those who, wearing the uniform of Maos out of utter starvation, attack people for some food and run away when their hunger is quenched to some extent ” I clarify , “once they get some food to munch ‘mao,mao’, they escape. But I have fought with real Maoists too ” I boast glancing at my MIL thorough the corner of an eye, “even now I can fight with anyone”
‘Innu’, enna innu, ongalaithan, these words, a husband hear a hundred times.That is how ammalu and all ‘alus’ of her generation used to address their husbands. That was how their grannies and grannies’ grannies would have addressed their honeys. Surprisingly, my DIL, Meghana also calls her husband the same centuries-old way, though she is modern and employed. She is simply following the foot- steps of her mother or MIL .The belief was that if the wife addresses her husband by name, his longevity would be affected! The real reason could be the boys were named after their grand parents and it was considered disrespectful to use elders’ name by the DIL s. More over our names are too long and they get shortened to Venki, Chuppai etc. and the harmless ‘enna’ becomes handy and polished than the crude Chuppai or Chuppani. I would have ran away from the house if Ammalu had called once Chuppai or Chuppani or Chupprai. Subbudu is less rude.
“ഒമ്മോട് ഉരുട്ടും പെരട്ടും ഇങ്കെ വേണ്ടാ എന്നാ ?” Means, your nasty tricks won’t work here.
While she was standing thus, her hands firmly on my shoulders, face opposite to mine, sari almost touching my knees, there enters, through the main door, which is always kept open, except at night when one goes to sleep, our neighbor Chami pattar, raises his voice to a shrieking pitch and exclaims, കൂത്ത്?,‘ ithu enna koothu? what is happening here,what am I seeing!, I can’t believe my eyes etc.
‘Koothu’ is a stage play. You would have heard of Chakyar koothu, mono act by Chakyar, theru koothu , street -play etc. it attracts people. it is something interesting .
‘Ennak koothai kanteer inghe, Eakadasi brahmana! ?’ my MIL protested. ‘Eakadesi brahmanan is one who starves on theഏകാദശി Eakadasi day, for spiritual emancipation.. Nothing wrong in it . But some Brahmins starve just to enjoy the Dwadasi food better the next day in temples etc. ! This may not be true, but that is the intention behind the funny usage here!
‘Pattam pakalilae eppidi Appu on ponnodu kayyaiem pidichikkindu ?” ‘How can ‘Appu’, that is me, sit shamelessly here holding your daughter’s hand ? ”– Chami pattar wonders.
“Appu alla kayyai pidichikkindirukkan. En ponnakkum avan kayyai pidichikkindirukkal. Avan aaru, theriyuma ? ‘Mangalyam thanthuna ennu manikotti thalikettina aambadyanakum.”
This ‘ആമ്പടയാന്‘ is a unique title for pattar husbands. ആത്തുക്കാരര് AAthukkararar is a more familiar word used by those in the villages adjoining Tamil Nadu. കണവര് its equivalent in Tamil is not a familiar name among pattars.
”It is not Appu holding my daughter’s hand; it is she holding his hand, for your information and they are a married couple as per the sanction of sastarams” –MIL retorts.
ഇതു കൊന്ജം അന്യായം താന് ‘Ennavanalum paarukkutty ithu konjam anyayam thaan ‘ ന്യായം is justice and അന്യായം is injustice. But here the meaning is less stringent : ‘anyway, this is too much” Pattar says.
When I see couples move around in public places rubbing their body, or scratching the bottoms here in US or in any western countries, I used to remember this interesting dialogue.
Chami pattars son and daughter- in- law enters; She is pregnant and struggles to climb the steps when her husband gives a helping hand.
” വീട്ടുക്ക് വീട് വാശല് പ്പടി താന്Veettukku vedu vasal padi than ” ‘There are steps before every house’ is the literal meaning. The inner meaning is ‘such practices are common to all’. Obviously the father was not happy the way his son helped his wife’s hand to climb the steps.-
Pattar asks his son, “what did that idicha pulli pattar tell you?”
Puli is tamarind andഇടിച്ചപുളി idicha puli is well compressed tamarind block. Those who do not reveal their mind easily are called idichapuli
The son keeps mum.
ഒന് വായിലെ എന്നാ കൊഴക്ക ട്ടൈ യാ ‘On vaayilae enna kozakkattai ya ?” meaning is there a kozakkattai or sweet ball in your mouth, which prevents you talking ?
Then pattar’s daughter in law comes forward and talks non-stop.
‘Nee oru ottai patram aakkum’ admonishes her husband. ഓട്ടൈ പാത്രം Ottaipatram is a vessel with holes, which cannot hold water. Ottai kai is different. The one who is a spend-thrift is an ഓട്ടൈകൈ ottaikkai.
ഓട്ടൈ വായ് Ottai vai is the one who cannot keep secrets, You tell something to your neighbor with a specific warning to keep it secret, the next moment it has spread all over the village like a wild fire.
ഒന്നോടു കയ്യും ഓട്ടൈ, വായും ഓട്ടൈOnnodu kayyum ottai, vaayum ottai means you are a spend thrift and a loose talker too.
വെടുക്ക് വെടുക്ക് ‘vedukku vedukkunnu chollathunko’ reacts the DIL.
വെടുക്ക് വെടുക്ക് Vedukku vedukkunnu is speak instantly without thinking. ‘parukkutti nan poren inke ശന്ടെ മന്ടെ ഒടെയറതു sandai mandai odaiyaratu- I am leaving; they are quarreling
sandai is quarrel, mandai is head . Neenkal eppidiyo ponkkal enakku enna innaikku chethal nalaikku pathu. he curses the kin before leaving. Innakku chethal nalaikku pathu is if I die today tomorrow is the tenth day. This shows his disgust.
ട്ച്ചേ ട്ച്ചേ tche.tche, don’t say that’ MIL consoles him .
ട്ച്ചേ ട്ച്ചേ ,ച്ചു ച്ചു, ച്ചോ ച്ചോ are sounds to reveals intense feeling, in disgust or wonder. How do you translate such wonderful meaningful words to other languages ?
ട്ച്ചേ ട്ച്ചേ-you should not have done so.
ച്ചോ-who slapped my child! etc
Depending on the situation the above mono syllables may carry different meanings.
You would have observed that most of these phrases are unique usages of kerala Iyers and belong neither to their original Tamil nor to Malayalam of their adapted land. Like their olan, kalan, avail, erisseri and such food items, these phrases too have their own identity. During my school days , when my friends were mostly Malayalee boys, I did not like these usages. Now after seeing many places and hearing several dialects, I want them to be preserved as such as I am anxious to see that our village houses, with sloping tiled roofs, kootam, thinnai etc should also be preserved for the future generations.
I know that I am asking for too much.
Love and regards,
Dec 2, 2011
Cyber santhathikku yennodu vahai oru “jai”…….
Naanum antha nalla swabhavam copy pannalam yennu ninakkaren. Yenna sollarel? Anuvatham irukku yennu ninaikkiren 🙂
Mama, you are really brilliant. You still living in those wonderful days, simple conversations you had with Mami, Patti and all that dear and not dear people you have met in your life isn’t it. Keep sharing…I am enjoying all those dialogues like ‘Ummodu uruttum Perattum Inga venda, Mappalai Pambara viruthanakkum ellam vasichittu veeda renda polakkaren inga.
Ammalae, I forgot to tell you one important news; I just remembered after eating.
“Onakku chappattathanae ellam ormai varum, sari sollu”
You will remember only when your belly is full, go ahead
“Namma amminiyodu ponu kulichittu rendumaasam aatcham”
Our Ammini’s daughter is carrying; I think it is the second month.
“Athilae enna athisayam, avalukku kalyanam aayi maasam aaratchu illaya ?”
What is there, she is married since six months.
“Athalla Ammalae, ava aambadayan eppothavathu thaane aathukku varaan ?”
Her husband is not coming home frequently
“Usirulla aambadyan orukka vandhal porumade, paru. ithu theiryaatha onakku ?”
Don’t you know that it is enough if a masculine husband visits her once ( for her to conceive ?)
“Ennavo, amma. Antha pahavanukku velicham. Enakku onnumae theiyallai”.
God alone knows, I am not able to understand anything.
“Unakku onnum thaeriyathukka paru, pathu pethai ?”
Did you deliver ten children without knowing anything ?
അമ്മാളെ, ഒന്കിട്ടെ ഒരു മുക്കിയമാന കാരിയം ചോല്ല മറന്തുപോനെന്; ഇപ്പൊ ചാപ്പിട്ടപ്പോത്താന് ഓര്മയ് വന്ത്തു
ഒനക്ക് ചാപ്പിട്ടാല്ത്താനെ ഒര്മഐ വരും ; ശരി ചൊല്ല് .
നമ്മ അമ്മിണിയോടു പൊണ് കുളിട്ച്ചിട്ടു രെണ്ട് മാസം ആട്ചാം
അതിലെ എന്ന അതിശയം അവള്ക്ക് കല്യാണം ആയി ആറു മാസം ആട്ച്ചെ
അതല്ല അമ്മാളെ, അവ ആമ്പടയാന് എപ്പോദാവത് താനെ ആത്തുക്ക് വര്രാന്
ഉശിരുള്ള ആമ്പടയാന് ഒരുക്കാ വന്താ പോരാതാ , ഇത് തെരിയാതാ നോക്ക് ?
എന്നവോ അമ്മാ എനക്ക് ഒന്നുമേ തെരിയലൈ അന്ത പഹവാനുക്ക് വെളിട്ച്ചം
ഒനക്ക് ഒന്നും തെരിയാധക്കാ പാറു, പത്തു പെത്തായ് ?
FloridaJan 7, 2012
ROMBA NANNA ERUTHUTHU PADIKKARATHUKKU.