Sunday, May 18, 2008

Catapulting into Oblivion

The following terms on sudden occurrence or combined usage catapult me into oblivion....
Read the following carefully and answer the questions below.

Aliyan: Sister's husband or wife's brother
Ammossan / Ammayi Achan: Father-in-law
Nathoon: Husband's sister.
Maama: Mother's brother
Kochapa/Kochupa/Elaapa/Kunjippa/Papapa/Paaapa: Father's Younger brother
Kunjimma/Kunjumma: Mother's younger sister or Father's younger brother's wife
Moothapa: Father's elder brother.
Ammayi: Father's sister
Vellyammayi / Kunjammayi : Adjectives of above noun
Ummumma/Vellimma: Father's mother or Mother's mother
Vellippa: Father's father or mother's father
Itha: Elder Sister-in-law
Thaatha: Elder Sister

Now, quickly (not more than 15 seconds) try to translate the following usage, and relate to the person.

1) Moothaapade naathoonte molde kutti
2) Vellyammayide thaathde perakutti
3) Kunjimmade nathoonte aliyan
4) Kunjippade ammayide ummumade auntyde mon!

15 seconds or less is what you would have in a real life scenario to translate the relation into some meaningful image you store in your brain, for recalling at a future blunkasy time.

The root cause for my present day worries is that I used to address everyone as Uncle and Aunty, and everyone else by name :) Kerala is not very forgiving to guys like me cannot distinguish between maama and kunjippa!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pompous and ridiculous customs of Malabar

Funny, isn't it, that all these years, I haven't known anything about the customs and rituals in my hometown, simply because I didn't exist there. Now, that I chose to spend 3 months IDLing at home, I have had a first experience of the wrath of Man-made customs and rituals, that plague my society.

Before we begin, lets agree upon the following...

1) Relatives - parents, siblings, uncles and aunts (of both parents), cousins, cousins' spouses, their children, uncle and aunt's brothers and sisters, their parents, grand fathers, grand mothers. 2) Pazha Kola - One bouquet(!) of bananas, comprising of around 50 bananas.
3a) Aluva - A sticky sweet substance, in red, yellow, black colors , prepared with flour and large quantities of sugar.
3b) Ainas - Yellow coloured flaky sweet.
3c) Bonda - Brown baked ball of Potatoes.
3d) Chips - Fried banana pieces.
3e) Chakka varuthathu - Jack fruit fry!
4) Tin biscuit - 1 Tin of biscuit. Usually has around 1 kilogram of biscuit. Brand does not matter (may be made from a local bakery), however the weight and tin carrier matters!
5) 1 sovereign gold - 8 grams of gold
6) Rs - short form of indian rupee. 1 USD in INR
7) Aliyan - Spouse's brother OR your Sister's husband.
8) Palaharam - One name for Achapam, kozhalappam, Neyyappam, Unniappam and all the sweets mentioned above.

Alrighty then! We are all set with the terminology, join me in this fun and awe inspiring tale...

Boy's family presents the girl with 10 to 50 sovereigns of gold, dress worth at least Rs 10,000/-. The ceremony comprises of 20 to 200 people from the boy's family visiting the girl's house. Food provided for the boy's family should be top-notch. Girl's family usually presents a watch or ring to the boy. Photo session / Video will be arranged. Unlike marriages, where gold can be rented for a day or two, engagement is usually performed with own gold. All the aunts of the boy (father's and mother's side), will present a bangle / chain / gold coin to the girl.

If Eid falls between engagement and marriage, then dress for girl and money (Rs 2000 above) will be given by boy's family. Dress will be bought for girl, girl's parents , siblings and grand father/grand mother.

If Onam falls between engagement and marriage, the 10 pazha kola must be given to girl's family.

If there is any death in either of the families, then the following should be given to the grieving family.
1) Sugar
2) Tea powder
3) Lemon (That will be used to prepare lemon juice for all visiting people to the house, where the death has happened! aargh! Kha thoo!)
4) Pazha kola
5) Aluva

Please note that neighbors and relatives are usually aware and will calculate that the above items have arrived at the respective houses and will expect a share of it to be delivered to their houses!

After engagement the girl visits all of her uncles' and aunts' houses. She will usually stay for a day at each house, or if there are too many of them, visit each one for at least one meal. There will be a tight competition amongst the aunts to treat the girl well, and feed her, because what was given will be a topic of discussion for women, when they get together, next time. The girl usually gains around 5 kilos, due to the extensive feeding session.

Dress (1 each) should be given by the boy's family to the following members in the girl's family.
1) Girl, herself. Apart from dress, cosmetics are also provided.
2) Girl's parents and siblings.
3) Girl's father's sisters and brothers. (Shirt piece for gents and
4) Girl's mother's sisters and brothers.
5) Members of the mosque who will attend the marriage (Usually white clothes and shirt).
6) Girl's father's father and mother.
7) Girl's mother's mother and father.

8) Boy's uncles and aunts (both father's side and mother's side).
9) Boy's grand father and grand mother (both father's side and mother's side).
10) All cousins , their spouses and children.
11) Mosque members at boy's place.
12) Neighbors!

Boy's family will visit the girl's family the day before marriage and present the dress and footwear which the girl will wear the next day. Boy's party will arrive at around 12noon for the nikkah and then have lunch from the girl's house. When the boy arrives, he is usually welcomed by his aliyan, or a male cousin of the girl, with a bouquet. The boy must give some money to the person who welcomes him. After the Nikkah, the will be a garland exchange and photo session with each of the relative's family. The mother-in-law and father-in-law presents sweets to the girl and the boy. Milk or coconut water is also provided. When the mother-in-law gives milk (Rs 7/-) to the boy, the boy must give 1 8gm gold coin to the mother-in-law.
Boy will give Rs 5000/- to servants and cousin's kids at girl's family.
Girl will bring back Rs 2500/- back to boy's house and distribute the same to servants and kid's at the boy's family.
If the boy's sister is married, she must give almirah, pazha kolas, gold and dress to the boy.
On the day of the marriage, girl and boy stay at girl's house.

Next day after marriage:
When the girl and boy returns to the boy's house, girl's family will bring
1) Pazha kolas - at least 5
2) Fruits
3) Aluva
4) Tin biscuits.

After 2 days, the boy and the girl will go back to the girl's home, they will take back the same things. Following which, for the next 1 month, every day's lunch and dinner will be booked at each of the relatives' houses. The food will be exquisite. To escape from Chicken, mutton and beef, I said that "I like fish". fishthakujela!!! Every sea creature was presented before me, bathed in various spices, and frozen at various moments of death. Some of them even had eyes! In the end (i mean the treat's end), i got severe stomach upset, loose motion and was bed-ridden with rice porridge and coconut water for 3 days.

Adukkala kaanal a.k.a Seeing the Kitchen
After a week, girl's family members (Parents, grand parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, cousin's spouses, kids) will come to the boy's house. This function has been deliberately designed so that the girl's women folk can see the boy's house. Since most marriages are conducted at Marriage halls, they dont get an opportunity to see the boy's house? They will bring with them ...
1) Pazha kolas (Numerous)
2) Ainas
3) Aluva
4) Biscuits
5) Various electronic gadgets (Fridge, TV, washing machine, A/C, sofa set, mobile phones, cooking range, gas connection depending on the need at the boy's house). If the boy's house has everything, then ahem! here, take some more money or a plot of land ? or how about some shares ?
6) 80 grams of gold.
There will be a grand feast.

Adukkala kaanal (2) a.k.a Seeing the girl's house
During the 3rd week, the girl's family members (yeah, all of 'em) will visit the boy's house and bring the same sweets and palaharams. However no costly electronic / household items will be bought.

Barat Raavu a.k.a 15 days before start of Ramadan Fasting
Girl's family will bring
1) Aripodi (Rice powder) - 1 humangous tin.
2) Sugar
3) Horlicks
4) Tea powder
5) Boost
6) Neyyappam
7) Kuzhiyappam
8) Pazha kolas
to the boy's house.

Ramadan (Fasting)
During Ramadan, boy's family will give
1) Cash (Rs 5000/- or above) to the girl's house. Also the messenger who takes the money to the girl's house will be paid Rs 500/-.
2) If the girl is staying at the boy's house during Ramadan, girl's family will give zakat (Rs 5000/-) to the girl or the mother-in-law.

Eid-ul-Fitr (The only festival)
Boy should give dress to girl, girl's parents, grand parents, cousins. Girl's family will give dress to boy, boy's father, mother and siblings.

If there is any function for the direct and indirect cousins' of the girl, i.e, marriage, 40th day, birth, then gold must be provided by boy to the concerned family. The same does not apply to the girl, as the girl is treated as a dependent of the boy.

As soon as the news is confirmed, girl's cousins will bring palaharams, pazha kolas, tin biscuits to the boy's house. This process will continue till the 7th month and applies to all direct and indirect cousins of the girl.

Ghee Drinking - 4th Month of Pregnancy
During the 4th month of pregnancy, the girl's family will come to the boy's house and present them with a Uruli (a big aluminium pot for making biriyani) , fruits and some steel plates and pots. The girl will be taken to the girl's house where she will be forced to drink ghee. After that she will be sent back.
Please note that cousins continue to visit with Palaharams, Pazha kolas, and all sorts of sweets. Due to the abundance of palaharams, these have to distributed evenly to the boy's relatives and neighbours. An auto-rickshaw is hired and the task is alloted to the young male members of the family.

Return of the Mummy - 7th Month of Pregnancy
During the 7th month of pregnancy, girl's family will bring 80 grams of gold, food items, pazha kolas, ainas, aluva, tin biscuit, kozhalappam, achappam, neyyappam etc. The gold is not kept at the boy's house, instead, it is worn by the girl and taken back to her house. The girl then stays at her house until 56 or 90 days after delivery.

If the girl is not taken home during the 7th month, it is considered un-auspicious to take her home during the 8th month, it is then only done during the 9th month.

Vayaru Kaanal a.k.a Seeing the Tummy!
Between the 7th and 9th months , the boys' family and relatives (comprising all the chitter chatter aunties), will visit the girl's house and have food there. This activity is called Vayaru Kaanal. This is when aunties and grannies pass comments on the size and shape of the girl's tummy and make wild guesses on the gender of the child. Please note that unlike the cousin's visit, this is a one-time activity. Additionaly, gold, dress might also be delivered.

Once the girl is admitted to hospital for delivery, boy's family takes charge of all the hospital expenses. After the newborn is gifted by god , relatives will visit at hospital with fruits. After the mummy and baby are discharged, they are taken to girl's house where they will stay for
a) 56 days if its a normal delivery.
b) 90 days if its a cesarean.
Home nurse / Maid will arranged by the husband's family.

Relatives must visit the new born within 30 days, and present
1) Dress for baby and mother
2) Baby cosmetics - Powder, Cream, Lotion, Soap (All Jhonson and Jhonson please ...)
3) Rs 50/- or Rs 100/- to the house maid taking care of the newborn and the mummy. If you dont pay this , service quality is affected.

The house maid charges Rs 7000/- for 40 days and is responsible for
1) Bathing the baby, washing baby clothes.
2) Bathing the mummy.
3) Preparing medicines, turmeric, oil etc.

40th day of the newborn
All relatives (boys' and girl's) must bring gold (coins, chains, anklet, bracelet). The sleeping baby is troubled by the relatives who make a show of the gold they have bought and put it on the baby. 40th day marks the license to exit home for the baby's mummy and baby. They are now legally allowed to travel. As usual Food is provided, an extensive photo session is held, and there is a register kept which holds record of who bought gold and who didnt. It is also mandatory that the House maid / servant is gifted appropriately during the ceremony, or else, hey she wont come to any of your families to take care of a new born. Boy's family also provides dress to girl's parents, siblings, grand father, grand mother and cash to the home nurse.

56th / 90th day
Depending on the type of delivery (see clause mentioned above), the new born and mummy is taken back to boy's home. Girl's family must bring everything required by the new born,
1) Dresses for the baby
2) Feeding bottle, Sheets, Walker, Cradle, potti (tiny closet).
3) Small cupboard / almirah for keeping baby items
4) Deposit in the name of the baby!
5) Plastic plates/pots for washing baby clothes etc...

Tharakallu idal a.k.a Foundation stone for home
There is nothing wrong with praying before you lay the foundation stone of your home. However, should you invite your grandfather's brother's son's daughter's husband obligatorily for this function ? It applies to direct/indirect cousins as well. phew....

So, thats it for engagement, marriage and birth.. lets move on to death.

I like the hindu custom that no-one should eat or drink from a household where death has occured. In muslim families , grieving family has to provide cool drinks / chai / lemon juice / food and curry to the visitors! If there is a big feast going on at home, its either engagement or death! (Marriages are conducted at halls and hence feasts are not provided at home).

3rd day of death, there is a group prayer and biriyani is served. This custom has been taken off in some sects. 3rd day , supposedly is when the eye decays !

5th day after death
I think this co-incides with the 16th day in the hindu custom. There is a group gathering prayer which lasts for 2-3 hours. After which, and exquisite feast is held, which is very well attended by the family and relatives (yeah , all of them! sorry i am tired, i cant list all of them again...)

Trying to think about the origin of these customs is difficult.
1) Probably, it was a way for women folk to travel and meet other women folk, because they were living there lives in the kitchen.
2) Probably, such functions promote a togetherness feeling . (I doubt that, i have personally seen a good relation get spoilt, because he was not invited properly to have lunch during a marriage!).
3) May be, it was like a festival, a reason to stay at a relatives house , and talk about the good old times and childhood.
4) May be, people had lot of free time
5) People wanted an occassion to show off new clothes, gold ornaments, and pass on comments and share news about whats happening in other families...

By themselves, the rituals seem innocent and miniscule, however imagine the complexity when you have a total of 10 uncles and 4 aunts at your side and 6 uncles and 8 aunts at your spouse's side, and a total of 120 cousins, their spouses (and their families, brothers, parents, grand parents), and sometimes even cousins children themselves are married have children (4th generation), a heads count should itself reach to 500 people ?!!! Ouch! That means, there will be an average of 2 functions every day!! holy shit! doesnt anyone ever go to work?

Thats all that I have attended, will surely update this blog, as and when I come to know about more customs. What are the customs that you have seen ? Do let us know in the comments section!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

truly jobless

So, what's the plan ?

RK pulled the ceramic bowl towards him and scooped a spoon full of rice water, blissfully ignoring RR's question. "So, what's the plan". He dare not say that his usually busy brain, had slowed down in the past few months, and had not presented with any new plans. RR had sensed this, and RK had stopped using the phrase "The universe conspires, when you set your mind on something". What if the mind decided to be unset, ruffled and floating about freely ? How
long would that persist? What would be its after effects? Like writer's blocks, does the mind too have "Void" spaces ? After all, the universe is full of vaccum, how can we be so full then ?

RK is you, me and almost everyone around us (spare the ultra rich and the very poor). Destined to continue with the mundane activities that constitute life, RK had little or no time to think about, "where are we headed?", or "why cant we do this differently?". Unfortunately on one dark night with no stars, the devil himself decended on a rope unto RK's medula oblongata, poked it with a tooth pick and said "Wake up, bugger!". The devil is a pirate, he keeps an eye on the horizon for innocent and lonely ships like RK, wandering and loitering about in the empty space. To uphold to "An empty mind is a devil's workshop", Mr Devil, will try to implant a new random thought. Thats an amazing capacity, to generate thoughts out of nothing.

To generate a thought which is associated to something we are doing is easy, you do a google search through the memory associating all the input variables(what you are reading, memory, environmental conditions and sensory inputs), and voila, there is a new thought. You must have experienced this, when studying for an exam, how many great ideas pop up into our mind. But, all of them are associated in some sort of way, an immediate after effect of our experiences being stored as associate memory.

However, when the mind is an empty state (is there really one ?), to pop up a devilish thought, or say a Universe denting one, now ,that is something!. Because, nothing can be associated to emptiness. That initial ignition is all that is needed, following which associative memory takes over and continues the process. So, as a thought creator (albeit, an evil one), devil is blessed with some of god's powers (creation). So, its not right to argue that devil merely manipulates stuff created by god.

Why am I refering to this 'light bulb thought in emptiness' as devlish, and not associating it with divine intervention ? Because, the majority of human beings I know, speak of this 'thought' as self destructive. And according to Scott Adams, any "self-destructive" thought will be eradicated in the next cycle and rinsed, because the ultimate purpose of all of us is to get organized into one being, and henceforth, try and remove any self-destructive stuff, which is learned based on experience !

This essay explains, how weak a trail of thought in an empty mind is, it tries to logically associate with whatever information available (blogs, studies, books, movies, experiences) and so forth, however, the trail of thought is weak because there is no conclusion to this , no "moral of the story" or anything, and so this piece will be forgotten very soon, and never recollected for any further thoughts, except ofcourse the devil desceding on the rope part, i associated that with a snake slithering down a rope, i liked that dramatization.

This is the end of my 'hypnotized time span', my cool seven minutes when words literally flow out of my mind. Anything I write beyond this will be deliberate, and hence cooked. Therefore, I conclude.

If you think I need some help, well, kujela, you are not alone!
I am beginning to dislike my use of Parentheses. Aargh!
This blog makes me wonder, am I going to de-celebrate my 27th birthday or 17th ?