The ‘Ayyo’ Shaming in a Malayali’s Dictionary

Remember the time when the word ‘Ayyo’ waddled its way into the dictionary. We even reacted to it by saying, “Ayyo dhey ‘ayyo’ dictionary lu vannu!” The dictionary defines the word as a term expressing distress, regret, or grief, equivalent to the term ‘oh dear!’ or ‘oh no!’. More often than not, we do use ‘ayyo’ to express our discontent at something. It is like coconut in a Malayali household. It’s added almost everywhere whether you realise it or not!

Also Read: 10 Things You Will Only Find In A Malayali Household

Mostly it is used in areas where somebody is shocked by our ‘physical’ appearance. We have all been there and to be honest, it’s brutally a prick in the eye. We detest all those moments when somebody comes crooning all over our face because we look a certain way that is not very ‘socially preferred’.

With body shaming casually creeping in and out of our households, we explore some of those ‘ayyo ’ moments that we’ve all suffered from.

Also Read: Do We Malayalis Have A Culture Of Shaming? 

Ayyo karuth poyello!

The most cringe-worthy of them all.

As soon as you enter some ‘kalyanaveed’ or some party soon after getting back from the hostel, you’re bound to receive this sure shot remark. It didn’t just begin there. It was there since we were a toddler.

If you haven’t inherited your parent’s ‘velutha’ color, then you have always, I repeat, always been told to put on more of that Cuticura on your face, not choose certain colours of dresses, no matter how much you love them, and not go anywhere near the ‘kanmashi’. Just because we have an extra dose of melanin, it doesn’t make us less human. And we are tired. Extremely tired of being told how to look ‘beautiful’. Can we blame the system for our parent’s behaving this way? I guess no. There was a time when TV channels endorsed fairness products so much so that you were made to believe that if you were on the duskier side, you needed to use a certain product to become a doctor!

We do not believe in the equation of fair = beautiful anymore, and it’s high time you unlearn it too. 

Ayyo kochinu enth vannam aan!

A competition to the above cringe statement.

If you don’t fit into the frame that is in certain ‘aalkkaarde’ heads, then just forget a happy married life and all ok? Vittu kalayanam! Say what? You have a job and are ambitious? I don’t think that’s going to do you any good dear. After all, ultimately, a girl’s dream destination has to be at a ‘swargam’ that is built by your prospective ‘chekkan’.

And if you are a boy? “Oh athokke rand aazhcha gym il poya sheriyaaum nne” to “Korch vannam oke korakk tto. Nalla sundari pennine kettande?” reign their lives. And what is all this hype about plus-size and all? Is there a zero size and a minus as well?

What does it take for people to understand that being healthy is not staying one particular size? And what do we say to all these poison-bearers who throw venom darts?- ‘Duh!’

Ayyo ithentha kolli biscuit o?

What exactly is kolli biscuit? I mean is it even a real thing? All our lives we have been told to eat a lot of butter, ghee and if possible, swallow some ‘lehyam’ so that we fatten up a bit. “Aalkkaar kanda nammukka athinte koravu!” is like the heartbreak of our childhood.

Have you been made to wear layers of inner wear so that you look ‘bhedham’ to the eyes of people you barely know and vice-versa? School life made it no easier, did it? Scale, vara, skeleton, theepettikkolli were some of the bearable names we had to listen to. We were also not allowed to wear sleeveless dresses because our bones stuck out farther than their ego and a big no to full-sleeves because “allele kaanan illa appzha full sleeve!”

Ayyo chekkanu kashandi aano?

A receding hairline is nothing short of a red signal when you are groom hunting or if you are the groom being hunted. Your success, wit and charm can never be a cover-up for what’s not on your head. Nope.

An ideal image of a man is always covered in hair. Thick hair, beard and a sporty moustache. If not for all of these, you have earned yourself the title of ‘paalkuppi’. And then for all of this to be normalised, some film artist has to come up with a bald head so that we don’t have to rush to salons to ‘unbecome’ what we are!

To all those people who prop out of nowhere with treatments ranging from Ayurveda to home hacks, please understand that we have accepted ourselves for what we are, and are proud of what we are irrespective of what is on our heads. No, we do not expect the same from you, because what is inside never mattered as much as what is ‘on’ the head, did it?

Ayyo naracha mudi ee praaythileyo?

Yea, so what should I do? Pour tar over my head? It’s one thing when you do something out of choice and it’s totally another when you are expected to do it because that is ‘deemed’ as the natural thing to do. Ageing is something we don’t have control over. So is premature greying of hair. While you casually suggest henna treatments and natural hair dyes to a person who wasn’t even looking for options, remember that you are just adding on to their stress and your shamelessness and nothing else. There’s nothing dumber than providing an opinion that was unasked for.

While these maybe some of those ‘ayyo’ moments we’ve all experienced, there is a huge list behind this scam which includes facial hair, the so-called ‘not feminine’ appearance and so forth. It is ruthless if not illegal to comment on a body that is not even yours in the first place. We can’t blame people who want to lose weight or pursue a diet out of their will. This fatphobic and diet-focussed society has pushed us to be so. Your relationship with health should not be defined by what you see on social media or dictated by society. It is personal and cannot be defined by others. 

What is equally sad is that we cannot just blame it on the previous generation. Look at us. How often have we called our friends ‘thadiya’ since we were in primary school?! Just look at your contact list and see how many nicknames exist that are offensive. Children are never born with the idea of discrimination. They are ‘fed’ these false values. We teach them what is dark coloured and what is ‘not presentable’. They learn to mock what we think is not normalisable from us. So the next time you make such a comment, remember that the best way to do it is to not do it all!

Aashna Praveen
Mostly seen pondering about things around me. Every person I meet, every object I see is a study specimen that I save in my mind log for later. I might end up making you famous, so think twice before you appear before me. *Insert tongue sticking out emoji*

Tell us what you're thinking

Subscribe to our newsletter

We'll send you a monthly newsletter with our top articles of the month

Latest Posts