Malayali parents are inherently suspicious people. So, privacy in a Malayali household is a joke. They Sherlock their way to secretly finding out the whereabouts and doings of their children. And as kids, all we could do was find the loophole in their system, and use it to our advantage.
If you’re a 90s kid, you’d know the value of a telephone. A phone call from a ‘friend’ had to have codes when the parents were eavesdropping and curiously deciphering the conversation. Obviously, the only way out was to talk in the language of school – “Da, I have a doubt..Oru Math problem”. Or, as Noel from June would say, “Phone vilikymbule veetukaar arengil vannal, PAWnnu paranjal mathi.”
But, when the phone bill came and you had to justify the surge in the bill, you immediately regret all the late-night calls and conversations. All panicky and with droplets of sweats on your forehead, you blabber lame-ass reasons, citing that you had a lot of homework and that you needed the help. What’s worse is when your parents request a detailed phone bill only to see the list of calls made, and carefully noting down the number that’s been constantly repeated. Pani Paali! Even if the number was that of your best friend, your parents were convinced that you were talking to someone of the opposite gender. The panic was real.
Next came the locks on your bedroom door. If it was locked, you were up to something fishy. That was the rule in the invisible rule book of the house.
Say, you had a bad day at school. All you want to do is just lie down on your bed without your parents asking, “Enagane undyirunnu school oke?”. More than that, you wish to just have a piece of mind inside your locked bedroom. But, unfortunately, Malayali parents don’t understand the concept of self-rejuvenation and mindfulness. So when you lock the door and don’t respond to your parents calling you out, there would be a knock on your door. Several hesitant knocks! Then you’d have to cook up an explanation to gain their sympathy.
The same cycle happens when you wish to watch porn. That’s one of the reasons why our computers were strategically placed in the common area where everyone would have access to it. Let’s not even talk about the slow dial-up internet back in the day.
Looking back, we realise that our parents did have trust issues. Privacy in a Malayali household is a joke, for real. Sure, their spy game was beyond belief, and all the snooping around our room and things definitely taught us something – ‘How to not get caught by your parents?’. We all learned the A-Z of presenting the ‘ideal child image’ in front of them, and that was the only way to gain their trust. Be a good boy or good girl, and you can get away with anything. For youngsters reading this, this trust issue will go on till you become an adult, and if you’re among the unlucky ones, you might have to set boundaries even in your late 20s.