Here is a list of things that are true to almost every Indian middle class household, but we believe that Malayalis add an extra touch to all of these. Of course, we have come a long way in terms of incorporating modern thoughts into our ‘nadumuri’, but we do have a long way to go. While we have moved on from an era where girls were not given access to education or not allowed to travel outside their towns for jobs or higher studies, there is still a shudder in the household when a random somebody remarks, “Ningade moloru feminist aay maarunind! Sookshicho.”
List of Great Career Choices
There was a time, not so long ago, when we had to compete to get into the best entrance coaching institutes. MBBS or Engineering, it had to be – they said. It will be fun – they said. Life will be set – they said. What they never said was, “Isttam ullen poikko mone/mole”.
We all personally know people (not only Malayalis) who have gone out of their way, just to please those imaginary ‘naalaal’. Things have changed now and people are a tad bit more open-minded towards career choices, but not all. Professions like that of a researcher or Ph.D. pursuer are often quoted as, “Aah! Lab lu entho pani aan!” or of graphic designers, “Enth pani! Computerlu chitram varakknne oke oru pani aano?”
Good spoken English = Success
The prominence of mastering this lingua franca has always had a big place in all our households. “Nammukk nmmde mole English medium schoolil cherkkanam” was not just Kanchana’s dream (Thalayanamantram), but echoes the dreams of scores of parents who want their child to become Shakespeare overnight.
It was okay if they lost a few marks in Malayalam prose and poetry, but the family name was at stake if the child isn’t able to speak a string of syllables in English without hiccups when their foreign return cousins are here on vacation! This went on to grow to an extent where parents take pride in saying, “Ente kochinu Malayalam korchhhhe ariyullu!”. Knowing a universal language and providing platforms to ace them is as important as teaching children our roots. Success cannot be defined by the degree to which you have mastered a language. Hence, proving the formula in the title wrong.
Sexism, misogyny, religion
Most people we observe in our society are aspiring modernists. They are willing to understand a lot of things that have been practiced contrarily during their lifetimes. While they stay open to a lot of events that unfold in any home except their own, when something crops up within their own homes it often finds itself being dealt with baseless objections as old as the ‘chaarukasera’ in the living room. While we portray ourselves as preachers of modernity and equality, how many times have we casually passed a comment that reeks of regressive thinking?
Religion and the concepts that follow have crept in and out of us since our childhood. We were brought up in a society where a Hindu doesn’t buy land from a Muslim unless it’s the last choice they have. If you are thinking this is an exaggeration, try and talk to your parents or grandparents to get stunned by the stories they have to offer which is based not just on communal clashes but also narrows down to an eerie, unimaginable level. Muslim kids coming over to a Hindu friend’s house for Vishu is seen as ‘modern’ and not ‘normal’ in some places even today. Just think about it.
Social media presence
Social media is yet another area where we Malayalis have to fight for our space and individuality. There is no point in crooning over this because all of us, at some point, have been asked to take down a post that did not occur appealing to the family we come from or the society we live in. Some of us were asked not to keep our faces as profile pictures and had to upload a cute dog or a rose instead.
Also Read: Do We Need Social Media Classes in School?
Marriage and family planning
Like Aju from Bangalore Days points out, we are all unknowingly living in the loop of routine. There is an order that things and events in your life have to follow. One thought about a deviation and you are burned down to ashes with monstrous glances from all sides. It is an unwritten rule that once you are settled (in the eyes of our judgemental society) you have to make room for a partner, whether you are ready for it emotionally, or not. Unless you have a seemingly strong explanation to validate your point, you are in hot soup! And things never end there. They want to know why you are not popping out kids like ‘normal people’ your age and then they also want to know why you are not planning on giving a ‘company’ to our elder child. ‘My vishesham, none of your vishesham!’, please!
Malayalis have always seen a strong willingness to adopt what they feel is right and discard or un-learn things that don’t seem right anymore. And hopefully, these are some things that we’ll unlearn too. What do you think is a pot that needs a wee more polish other than the ones listed here?