At the English medium school in Mumbai where I worked years ago, whenever my Supervisor wanted to tell me something she would call out to me, “Raaadhigé…”
When she did that, despite the fact that,
- she had addressed me in a language alien to my mother tongue,
- my name now sounded like … well not like a name!
- she had in all probability called me simply to chastise me……
despite all these and more, the moment she rolled her tongue around my name in that peculiar and distinctive way that only a Keralite can, I would be a lost person!
I would instinctively want to bend forward, shake my head gently from side to side and do a few steps of the Mohiniattam right then and there!
Believe me guys, I haven’t actually done it, but that is the effect the people from Kerala have on you.
You may love them or hate them, poke fun at them or …….whatever, but ignore them you can’t for sure!
The Keralite or Malayali or Malabari or simply The Mallu has become ubiquitous and omnipresent around the world, simply because he is ready to venture out of his native city and go where no man has ever gone before. To conquer the final frontier of the job market!
And once he lands in a strange new land, no sooner has he unpacked his suitcase and pulled out the bottle of hair oil and the packets of banana chips, then he sets about getting the rest of his family to join him – his achan and his moothachan, his chethan and his chaechi, his maman and his magan are sure to be right behind him. And before you can finish saying Thiruvananthapuram, the entire family has taken roots there and spread their branches far and wide.
That’s how it is in almost the whole of the Gulf region at least. If I cover my eyes and play Blind Man’s Buff down in the street below my building, at least 6 out of the first 10 people I collide into will turn out to be Malayalis.
The most popular advice given to newcomers coming into the Gulf is that they’d be better off learning Malayalam before attempting to learn Arabic! Exaggerated? Maybe. False? Not entirely! 🙂
Inspite of all the Mallu jokes circling the world, one cannot but admire and appreciate the unabashed, impressive and all-pervasive love and pride that the average malayali has for his mother tongue, his typical food and dress, and the festivals, customs and traditions which belong exclusively to Kerala..
My Sudanese neighbor looks blank when I inform her that it is Ugadi, my New Year day on 14th April. But when I say Vishu, her face lights up like an Led bulb and she nods her head violently to show she’s understood!
And I have to admit, I am openly envious of ONAM, a festival which is celebrated in the entire state of Kerala – by one and all, in every home, irrespective of class, caste, creed, religion, age or sex!
Such a beautiful feeling, to celebrate a festival together, unanimously, at the same time and for the same reasons! It is truly a festival which brings people together, binds them together and keeps them together.
If not in every state in the country, our entire Nation needs a festival like this – a festival of the people, by the people and for the people!
May this Onam bring peace, happiness and prosperity to all!