Monday, June 21, 2010

Crisis, crisis!

As I sit in a café reading ‘English August’, I come across this line in one of the initial pages. “A bureaucrat ought to be soft and clean shaven… and if a Tamil Brahmin, given to rapid quoting of rules.”

It sets me thinking.

How stereo typical is the typical Tam Brahm?

Curd rice loving, non smoking-teetotaler-vegetarian? Curd rice loving, feigning to be non smoking-teetotaler-vegetarian? Non Tam speaking pseudo English wannabe? Docile, soft spoken, hard working, bespectacled dead bore?

Keeper of clean houses, drawer of kolams, chanter of Upanishads, analyst of the Gita, upholder of Sanskrit & Sanskriti, lover of the city of Chennai and its temples?

However, before we get on with that list, I have to rephrase my question. How stereo typed is the typical Tam Brahm? Quite a bit, in my opinion. I would know, for I happen to be one too, but of the other variety – the variety that does not fit in with anyone’s idea of that “ideal” Tam Brahm they pride themselves in knowing.

It is funny to see the reactions on people’s faces when they realize that I actually am a Tam Brahm. The expressions range from surprise to shock to disbelief. Maybe they expect to see someone else, some image in their mind that the real me does not conform to. I feel gravely apologetic during such occasions, sometimes ashamed, for not being able to live up to that conjured up picture of who I should have existed as.

Nevertheless, I can live with it; perhaps even enjoy all the unwarranted attention I get.

The genuine trouble I have lies elsewhere.

I am scared of the fact that I parade the face of this Earth without an identity, especially one that I am supposed to have. For instance, how would it be if, one morning, you walked in to history class, only to be rebuked for not looking retro and archaic enough to fit in there? Scary. No?

I suddenly feel the urge to ask myself the indispensable “Who am I” question.

Even before I attempt to introspect, I am rudely jolted out of the trance by other more pressing issues. For, there are malls to visit, clean houses to set up and pigs to observe. And, when all that is done, the beautiful Worli sea face to drink in. So, I park that absolutely non crucial issue for now, and get on with my questionable, stereo typed life.


King Vishy said...

I am a north indian brahmin.. I speak hindi at home.. but have been in TN for donkey years (all my life).. in the sense that you mentioned, i have an even bigger 'identity crisis' at hand, cos ppl would expect me to be a regular Tam brahm (going by my southie looks), when am not even Tam in the first place!

That is just to put thoughts in the sense you mentioned, but I have always felt the "who am i" question is over-rated and irrelevant. So what if I am whatever! How does it change your world/mine? Hardly matters :)

Soumya said...

Nice one Kavita!

King Vishy said...

HEYYY.. Just saw you call your counter "hit and run".. i just installed a counter today, and guess what I called it!!! :)

saamy sathyama coincidence baa..

Vinay said...

If one goes by stereotype, 75% of all Tam Brahms must be eliminated (except for the oldies)

By that reasoning, I should of course be eliminated from the human race as well :D

Kavity said...

I did not know that you are a North Indian!!
"Hardly matters", am not sure. When introspection sets in, you never know what matters and what doesn't. The mind is such a monkey after all.
Quite a coincidence, that 'Hit & Run', or so you say :P I demand royalty :D

Thanks :)

I was plagued by the exact same thought when writing this blog. For, most of the Tam Brahms I have known in life do not seem to "conform to the norms". But, having spent considerable amount of time in Chennai recently, my perspective on the 75% figure has changed quite drastically :(

Vinay said...

@Kavity, does it help if we can say that most ppl from our gen do not fall into the stereotype except for the atrocious Hindi part

Yogesh said...

You think you are not a typical Tam Brahm? :O

Kavity said...

That's where you are grossly mistaken..

And there comes Mr. Patwari with his two cents, perhaps more!

Ramya said...

@kavi.... i thought u luked tam bram types.. or prolly am used to see and thin and know u r one.. but am curious to know wht kindled this post now :) am sure theres one hell of a stry behind :)

@vishwa - inikku sema vettiya?? :)

Archana K said...

so very typical of u to make the title sound as if it's one menacing issue.....

Shreya said...

:) Overthunk. In this boundary-less world nobody conforms to stereotypes anymore. At the same time, we all carry a bit of our upbringing. For example, the fact that you keep relapsing into Tam when speaking with other Tams, is one.

Kavity said...

Apparently don't look so to many people I have come in contact with over the past couple of years or so! That is what triggered the post, a collective response to everyone who thinks otherwise :D

I know, I should have made a career out of dramatics. A little late in the day though, the knowledge :)

Yeah, exaggeration is an inherent trait of mine. However, in this case, I don't think I am overthunking really. Need to think, observe and analyze more though.
And, promise, these days I don't talk in Tam even with Tams! My team mate at work is one, and not a single Tam word has transpired between us in the past few weeks. Am turning over a new leaf, really :P

King Vishy said...

@kavity.. I do realize the "who am i" thing is very important for some people.. But I have never felt so myself.. Not even when it was raised in Self Transformation classes :) I somehow felt that didn't matter.. Could it be cos' I was always comfortable with my confused identity? Or is it that I don't really believe in the stereotypes of identities?

And I agree with Vinay on the point abt our generation.. In fact, I have seen so many folks from the prev generation (inc my father) who refer to others simply by their caste/community.. "Andha nayakkar veetla..." / "en kooda padichaan la Chettiyaru.." and the like.. I see a lot of this in the prev generation.. But I don't even know which caste/community my friends belong to.. Have never felt it was all the important (beyond curiosity value)..

@ramya.. enna ipdi sollitte? Innikkaa? konja naala-vae vetti than :)

Kavity said...

Self transformation classes are highly over rated! Have never really been able to earn more than grades from them :D
And, I guess I was not trying to make the point from a caste perspective really. I was just thinking of 'Tam Brahm' as a general group. But, now that you say it, it is quite funny how I have come across a fair share of people who are casteist by nature and do not belong to the previous generation. Well, 'Context is king', like how my friend says it. My context and some recent experience make me think the way I do.

@Vishy, Vinay and Rams:
General observation - It never ceases to amaze me that the world is SUCH a small place! We know eachother from different walks of life :)

King Vishy said...

True, this small world thing :) But considering the kind of educational institutions we folks have been privileged enough to attend, I guess this isn't too much of a surprise!

Epping Electrical said...

I've become more conscious of my identity ever since I've migrated here.. strange, eh? On my introspective days, poor Geoff has to suffer lengthy monologues about the lack of Bengaliness in my life :) Thankfully these days are few and far between!!