Being in a relatively quiet place where the police diary reads like “Resident reported suspicious person. Officer found suspicion unfounded” or “Caller reported loud music. Officer advised residents to keep it down”…. no, hang on, that has nothing to do with what I was going to say.
Being in a place where there is considerable excitement on Dan Brown’s latest, Chetan Bhagat’s latest goes rather unnoticed. Thankfully, I read Kosu’s post on it, and apparently it’s about TamBrahm girl marrying Punju guy and the culture clashes that ensue.
Yeah, whatever, it’s Chetan Bhagat.
But I couldn’t really ignore it. Because one of the culture clashes is that the guy is used to a boisterous lunch table, while it is deathly quiet in the girl’s house at mealtimes.
Mr. Bhagat hopes to impress upon the reader about the clash between the boisterous culture of the Northwest of India and the mild, quiet, disciplined nature of folks from the Southeast.
Uh? Silent TamBrahms? Mr. Bhagat, you haven’t met me, or had lunch with my largelySouthIndian gang whose bantering resounds through the cafeteria. Heck, you haven’t even met my Appa’s Perima who manages to singlehandedly talk to us about absolutely nothing for fortyfive minutes on STD, and still give us something to laugh about. Or my Peripa who feels like his audio is on fastforward. Or my numerous cousins coming over for a Sunday evening. Or my Iyengar neighbor’s sister dropping by. Or attended my Akka’s wedding. Or.. hell, walked around my neighborhood in Irvine where the loudest voices come from the resident Tams. Oh hell, have you ever gone into a restaurant in Thanjavur? Or the streets of Kumbakonam? Or any damn meal at any Tambrahm household where folks will routinely dissect the ‘kirket’ scene, the impending nuclear war, relevance of Gandhi in today’s world, the latest movies, all at 4x volume and 8x speed.
You haven’t gone to some random tourist spot in Britain where all of a sudden the quiet atmosphere was broken by excited shrieks from the children, loud words of caution from the mother, grandmother, father, and lots of laughing at blade jokes by the rest. You haven’t ever been around in that intermediate period between breakfast and lunch at Arvind Anna’s wedding where all the oldies get together to put blade – offer commentary while reading The Hindu, Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Asian Age, Vijay Times and god alone knows which other magazine.
You haven’t even done basic research… talk to any Pankaja aunty on the streets of Bangalore and she will tell you about how she has no peace ever since some rather loud Kongas moved next door. She’ll delight you with details of how the mother shouts for the son, shouts at the son, and how everyone expresses their joys and sorrows at max volume.
I don’t know about the loudness, or the relative loudness of Pnjaabi folk, but all the Pnjaabis I’ve come across have been soft-spoken, and I have never in real life witnessed spontaneous Balle Balles or Shava Shavas, or any of the loudness Bollywood so loves portraying. I do know, however, that the most talkative people I’ve known are all TamBrahms.
This is just another of those playing-to-the-gallery acts that Mr. Bhagat is so known for… taking some popular perception and playing it up to a high level… hell, IITians and NITians have a richer extra-curricular life than most of the rest, and still Bhagat dares to say in his first novel that IITians have no life. Similarly this one about silent TamBrahms.
Or maybe, maybe Mr. Bhagat should talk to both my northIndian roommates, one from NITK and another from gradschool, both of who are quiet as mice, and both of who took time adjusting to ze TamBrahm volume, speed of speech, and sense of humour. Or maybe to Prof. Welling, who is Dutch and who finds it easier to understand what one Mr. Amanpreet Singh says better than what I say… and routinely asks me to repeat myself and speak more slowly.
And… tailpiece: Ambujam maami‘s excited voice resounded in the neighborhood for forty-five minutes. When she stepped out of her house looking pleasantly happy, Pankaja aunty accosted her. “I was talking to my niece. She’s in New York!”, Ambujam maami said, excited. “Oh, long distance call”, Pankaja aunty observed. “Next time, Ambujam,”, she said, “Use a telephone”.
PS: I seem to have totally forgotten the tenet of ‘Show, don’t tell’ in this post. It reads really amateurish thanks to that. But no time. Code needs to be written. Do comment, though.