At the outset, let me claim I have nothing against mallus. Though I am a Tam, I have mallu sensibilities coursing through my veins… I lived in Kerala for 23 years of my life and continue to go back there every year. I can read, write and speak the language reasonably well, better than my mother tongue. And I do have a lot of fondness for aviyal, tapioca chips, idiappams, flying kaapi and Mohan Lal (not necessarily in the same order!).

But when I first came to the Gulf, I was not prepared for the deluge of Malayalis entering my life. The phrase ‘feeling at home’ got an entirely new meaning. For if you asked a Malayali, where he is from, he’d never say, India but Kerala! How patriotic! Whoever I met turned out to be a Malayali – from the shopkeeper downstairs, to the park attendants to the LPG cylinder supplier to the husband’s colleague – were all Malayalis. And the Indian Social Club had a Malayalam wing and a Kerala wing! Anything to beat that?

And my first ever workplace was straight out of a Malayalam film. Where the editor, protagonists, antagonists, the Marketing guys and even the office peons were all Malayali. Now it was a question of what brand of Malayalam fitted in best. At the end of seven years in said organisation, my Malayalam had no traces of its roots. It had now developed Kannur, Kozhikode, Tiruvalla and Trivandrum influences.

How you are perceived is also equally important. The non- Malayalis call the Malayalis ‘Malbari’. They secretly despised their industriousness and enterprising nature and ‘stick-together-like-Fevicol’ spirit. But familiarity as the popular saying goes, can also breed contempt.  For me over time, the ‘you from Kerala, I am also from Kerala’ and the routine ice-breaker, ‘Malayali aano? (Are you a Malayali)’ bonding began to jar… I attempted a way out of the situation by saying, ‘Okay, I live in Kerala but am a Tamilian’. But that got them only more curious. ‘Ah! Palakkad!’ they would say with an all-knowing grin!’ And that’s when I beat the scene. I had absolutely no intentions of tracing my family roots to Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra to strangers. So if they thought I was one of their kind, I was… No arguments!

A photographer I know is fed up of his mallu status in town. He once went to a distinguished person’s house. Before the photo-shoot, he made small talk where he ‘revealed’ he was from Kerala. And voila, like Harry Potter says ‘Expecto Patronum’ and conjures a stag with his wand, said person conjures the cook from his kitchen and says, ‘My cook is also Malayali, now talk in Malayalam’. All my colleague could muster was ‘Ente Ammo!’ and wished he could beat a hasty retreat. Now, after many such incidents, he is a self-styled Mumbaikar! Last heard, he was practising, ‘Jai Maharashtra!’ with a vengeance!

Whatever said and done, the Gulf cannot be the ‘Gelf’ without the mallus. They are a part of the landscape and nothing can dislodge them from that status. This I learnt and learnt well, when a former Omani colleague when introduced broke into chaste Malayalam and said, “Enthondu vishesham? Sukham aano?(coarsely translated into What’s news? Are you good?”)

If you can’t beat them, well, join ‘em!

P.S.: I love God’s Own Country and all Mallus are my brothers and sisters… so take this post in the humour you feel it deserves…

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18 thoughts on “A mallu here, a mallu there and a mallu everywhere…

  1. 🙂 Hahahaha…only yesterday one Srilankan asked me. ”Are you from Kerala?”. Here everyone can easily identify me with Tamils(actually they identify us as Indians) is what I was thinking and here is the first person who seems to know that where I was originated from…he’s a Srilankan chef… I asked him ” How did you know?”. He said ”I saw your moustache…I worked in Oman”, and at that time I was waiting for him to make hot hot Hopus(AApam..). ”Endae Keralam….yethrae Manoharammm..”. Keep writing…

  2. LOL…thats a good one… Actually ever since I left Kerala I haven’t encountered many Mallus. Barring the nurses in hospitals in Delhi where my granpa was often hospitalised when I was in college or a stray few I’ve met in Pune (although Pune has a sizeable population)… But when I do meet them, I am so eager to bond with them!

    Incidentally I am the only so-called mallu many of my friends in Pune know!!! another LOL

    1. rits, don’t you think we miss home only when we are away? we long for the familiar sights, sounds and smells of our childhood. now looking back, i think what a snob i was back in school not even attempting to speak in malayalam. now, what an irony, i learnt to speak chaste malayalam after coming to the gulf!

  3. Thanks for putting a smile on my tired face:) (I’ve been literally standing on my toes (high-heels should be made illegal)…about 10 hours a day for last four days – and TALKING…hence the tired face!)

    Isn’t it wonderful to see how granular our dear Indian society is:)

    – Paarijaat.

  4. There is a famous joke. Tensing and Hillary had tea from the top of the Mount Everest, prepared by the Mallu in his traditional ‘tattu kada’. Similarly if you go to Antartica, you could see a mallu shop selling hot flying tea.

    Good ‘regha’ Good.

    1. thanks 🙂 have you heard of the one were Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and found a Malayali in a chaya kada… whatever said and done, they sure are an enterprising lot 🙂

  5. Wonderful exposition of the all-pervasveiness of the gulf malayali . This phenomenon has spread to many places and to many occupations. The PMO in India is infested with bureaucrats of the ” Mundu” variety.

    Narayanan

  6. I hope you all will like this story and NEVER EVER UNDER ESTIMATE A MALAYALI.

    Kuttappan is a Malayali (Keralite) working for a multinational company in Mumbai. Not well educated and he is working as a peon. Whenever Kuttappan hears somebody talk he will come in between saying that I know that very well I know him very well like that.One day Kuttappan’s Boss a foreign educated person & a North Indian was talking something about Arnold Schwarzenegger . Kuttappan was passing thru that way, suddenly he came in between saying that oh Arni he is my best friend. Kuttapan’s boss laughed at him saying that how can u be a friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger you are only a peon living in India … Kuttappan said if u won’t believe it’s your problem I can’t help you. Ok. The Manager saidI am going on a trip to US next week you come as my assistant and we will go to Arnold ‘s house and see what happens. Kuttappan agreed with a smile.A week after they landed in US. First they went to NY. Arnold was there in NY. They went to meet Arnold. Seeing Kuttappan Arnold ran towards Kuttappan and hugged him asking that hey Kuttappan long time no see where were you man? Kuttappan went with Arnold to have some coffee. Boss was stunned.

    When Kuttappan came back, the boss told him that we will go to President’s place to find out whether u knows him or not. Kuttappan agreed with a smile. At Bush ‘s home Bush also did the same as Schwarzenegger asking that where were you my friend for long time? Kuttappan went to have tea with Bush while the boss was sitting out side the gate When Kuttappan came back boss said I have to go to Vatican to get blessings from Pope Benedict , so u come with me. At Vatican crowd from all over the world was waiting to see Pope Benedict . Kuttappan and his boss are also there. Boss asked Kuttappan, do you know Pope Benedict. Kuttappan said y not? Boss told Kuttappan that he will not believe this. Kuttappan asked boss to wait for some time and went inside the crowd. After 15 minutes Kuttappan came on the balcony along with Pope Benedict.
    pope was holding Kuttappan’s hand. Kuttappan’s boss became unconscious and fell down.

    When Kuttappan came back his boss was on a stretcher by his side nurses and paramedics. Kuttappan asked Sir what happened. Then boss told; Kuttappa u know Arnold I believe, u know Bush I believe and u know Pope Benedict, I
    believe that too but WHEN U CAME WITH POPE AT THE BALCONY THE CROWD WERE ASKING WHO IS HOLDING THE HAND OF KUTTAPPAN after hearing that I became unconscious.

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