She wakes up and looks at the mirror. Holy Jeepers, her nose is not on her face! Of course, it wouldn’t be. Because, I just found her nose in my business! Say hello to the Judgy McJudgersons, the ammayi, of our lives!
Like it or not, you’re constantly being judged by others based on your sociability (that is, how you behave socially), your morality (whether you are fair to others), your competence (how capable you are), so on and so forth. Imagine you are at a wedding and suddenly you get that chilling, goose-bumpy feeling of two faraway pairs of eyeballs piercing down your psyche. I call it the ammayi once-over (the top to bottom to a handbag to jewelry evaluation that some women give other women). As though being judgy isn’t tiresome enough, torturing tirades by these so-called concerned kulasthree aunties are absolutely cringe-worthy. And so is the fact that they think these lectures of theirs will transform these young girls into missionaries of patriarchy. Please, the world has enough of Judgy McJudgersons already!
Just the other day I happened to stumble upon a couple of episodes of a popular television cookery show. Popular back then, but oh-so-notorious plus the muse of every roaster these days, all thanks to the anchor ammayi’s demeaning attitude towards female guests who admit that they can’t cook to save their lives. Equally vexing is to watch the way she sends a young actress who had zero affinity towards makeup into a guilt-trip for choosing to not wear makeup. It’s high time these people realize that it’s all a matter of personal choice. It’s her choice if she wants to wear stilettos with skirts or sneakers with jeans. As much as it is her choice to color her hair ombre or stick to subtle hues.
Most girls get consciously aware of such prying attitude and nosey comments when they hit adolescence. I remember the time I was traveling home with one of my friends and her aunt had come to pick her up at the bus stand. So, this lady who’s seeing her niece after a good one year, instead of beaming at her and giving her a warm hug, gaped awkwardly at her and shrieked “Oh my god! Your skin has become so oily, look at how many pimples are there on your face!” Well, this was exactly the last thing a girl who has just culminated a ten-hour bumpy journey without sleeping a wink needed to hear. Thanks und, ketto! Also, isn’t it ironic that though the zits were on the kid’s face, the itching and irritability was on the beholding lady?
Another front where judgments pour in incessantly is one’s figure and complexion. So, I head to the parlor to give myself a much-deserved haircut and pampering and the hairdresser cries out “You became sooo dark! Bangalore ilee kaat arrikum (Must be the effect of the Bangalore breeze).” A bewildered me gets back home to a bunch of guest folks seated on the couch yelling “Hey! You became so thin! Ee kochinu onnum thinnan kodukarille? (Don’t they feed you at home?)” As much as you want to piss them off, you resist the urge, put on a sheepish smile, and try to excuse yourself on the pretext of taking a shower after the haircut. And then the focus is on your sister. “You’re going for B.A Economics? How come you didn’t land an MBBS seat?” Sometimes I really wonder how they find time to ponder over things that they have absolutely no business bothering about. Actually, their time management skills make me go green in the face!
There was a point when I wondered if marriage would put a full stop to this, but alas, how wrong was I! Trust me, it only gets worse from there. Okay, so let’s look at it from three different realms.
“She’s barely scraping through her course. Kettichu vidanam (You should get her married!)”
Honestly, I don’t see the connection here. For all you know, she may have made a wrong career choice and is struggling to finish the course whatsoever and you bring up the mother of all solutions – marriage. Even if you think the only job she can land is buttering people’s corn at fairs, please do not open your mouth to suggest the M-word.
“The guy’s family is quite modern” *insert Shammi’s sthreekalk athyavashyam freedom kodukunna modern family dialog here*. “They are really impressed with your qualifications! But listen to the best part: Since they have extensive acres of estate land, you don’t ever have to work a single day in your life!”
I’m sorry but do you really think she amassed all these qualifications to wait unabatedly for the day she can bury her degrees in the soil and plant a plantain tree over it?
Also read: A TALE OF TWO PENNU KAANALS
You spot the toffee-nosed, super-pretentious ammayi patrol at Lulu Mall who had already spotted you (stalker level infinity) and given you three once-overs! From the other end, they come running to see you while you mentally make a wild guess as to whether they’re going to comment on your lipstick color or hairstyle when one of them goes, “Shopping for groceries, huh?”
Yes aunty, Vero Moda has a mango festival running and I’m here to pick some of the finest of the tropical fruits. She gives me a fourth once-over and her eyes take a long-drawn dwell at my abdominal portion. With a cheeky, pseudo-shy smile she exclaims “Oh! Pacha manga arikkum!”
Lulz! Sho, manassilaki kalanju!
Another ammayi masquerades concern and asks “So, have you learned to make perfectly shaped dosas yet?”
Yes aunty, actually I had. But then my husband is so patriotic that he missed seeing the Indian map on his plate, so I’m back to those now! *paste thug life glasses and cigarette on self*
For the first time in two months after the little bub arrives, you take a solo walk in your neighborhood desperately wanting to make the most of your precious “me time”. And there comes jogging towards you the nebby-est ammayi of the neighborhood, ammayi brigade Even before your fuzzy and frazzled brain recognizes her (yes, consecutive sleepless nights do that to you!) she exclaims, “Oh my god! You look so tired, my dear!”
Really? Oh no! I shouldn’t be, right? I mean let’s list it out:
a. I just popped out a baby. Not exactly as quickly and effortlessly as a popcorn machine. In fact, not at all.
b. I feel lucky if I get to sleep two hours straight into the night without being shaken up by hungry wails and howls.
Believe it or not, often not talked about but this is the phase where the most unsolicited advice pours in. I’m not gonna dig deep into this but just concluding the post with the most ridiculous advice I personally was told.
This ammayi who came to bathe my baby scorned at seeing me struggling to feed the baby in a certain position. Along with her grimace, she offered her pearls of wisdom completely free of cost. “You should get used to this feeding business soon. As yours is a baby boy, for the next two years this will be your routine. If it was a girl, then you could have weaned her in a year”. Bewildered I asked her, “What do you mean?” To which she remarked, “Alla, aankuttikalk nammal kooduthal poshakam kodukkanallo” (No, I mean boys do require more nourishment to be stronger than girls, right?).
My brain mumbled “Slow clap to this ammayi who has managed to bring in streaks of sexism, chauvinism, and discrimination in the conversation regarding a three-day-old baby!”