Tamil Blogs roundup at Global Voices

Bharat of Thee By Encore has started volunteering at Global Voices Online to cover Tamil blogs across India and Sri Lanka. In his introductory post he talks of the language, the people and blogs.

Spoken Tamil is very different compared to written tamil.“Madras baashai” is a very popular variant that has an ever growing vocabulary as it borrows words from English day after day after day. For example: “Peter” means a guy well versed in English and “Mary” is his female counterpart. Note that both “Peter” and “Mary” are Tamil words in this context.

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0 Responses to Tamil Blogs roundup at Global Voices

  1. LUCKY says:

    There is a hillarious collection of ‘Madras Bashai’ and its meanings on Wikipedia. A must read for every ‘Madarasi’



  2. km says:

    “Peter” means a guy well versed in English and “Mary” is his female counterpart.

    And I’m told “Paul” means a folk-singing milkman?

    Come on, Neha, you know that’s the most brilliant double-bilingual pun you’ve heard this year 😀


  3. Venkatesh says:

    Peter” means a guy well versed in English – NOT.

    Peter means a tamilian who tries really hard to appear Western. He replies in English when asked questions in Tamil. He has a pretentious English accent when voicing Tamil words. In other words, a Peter is trying to transcend from Tamilish to English but is stuck in first gear. Peter viduradhu means to say “Hai Myaaaan” after watching some second show of popular English movie in Sathyam Talkies without understanding head or tail of the dialog.

    Peter is not a compliment, it is a pejorative. Idea is that Peter is a show-off , a despo, a firang, someone who despite hailing from TamilNadu thinks TamilNadu is a pattikaad full of Ramasamy-Kuppusamy, so Peter will get a visa and take off to London and start writing angst-filled blogs….oops have we offended some Marys here 🙂

    Though I’m a regular reader of your blog out of habit, I found it funny that you missed the irony in highlighting a para about Peter & Mary. Otherwise why invent your whole vocabulary scheme ( kadai for kadhai ), criticize popular films like Thiruttu Payale, 7GRC etc for their misogynism ( what is that anyway ? some Western concept. Most if not all girls in TamilNadu expect to be relentlessly courted until they give in – that is the prevailing mindset, and unless it very rarely crosses some limits of indecency, it is just harmless flirting, it is quite fine, in fact charmingly oldfashioned practice in this hip sms generation ).

    In fact, most of the Peters and Marys are southie transplants to north & west ie. they are people of Tamil origin whose parents settled in metros like Bombay Delhi so they think they are somehow better than the country mice back in chennai. Ofcourse this is a generalization, but like all other stereotypes, it has validity only because it is common currency.

    btw no offence meant, I just find these things rather interesting. If they did a Tamil film based on the Oscar winner Crash, they will have tons of material to choose from. India and especially TN is just so much more diverse & mixed up than LA. You have Nayakkars, Vanniyars, Reddiars, Iyengars, Palghat-Iyers, Vadagalais, your Solomon Papiahs and your tirunelveli thoothkudi sivagangai Cheran-type rural guys, its a potent mix ripe for full scale disaster. Except that we Indians generally detest conflict, so we sort things out after minor kolai-adi sandai and get back to filling our plastic kodams with municipalty water supply.


  4. LUCKY: Oh yes! Seen that!

    km: Paal! 🙂 Oh yes, brilliant!

    Venkatesh: The words Peter and Mary I always thought had an element of ridiculing the Anglo-Indian crowd. Unfortunate – but it extended to the idea of a “Westernized” person. It could be a label for a wannabe, but it also is to put-down somebody based on their identity or comfort with English. It definitely is not a compliment.

    I am not offended by your comment, because this particular Mary blogged long before moving to London. You see, I’ve always held that when a person calls someone else a Peter or Mary – it speaks far more about the person who makes the comment than who it is made on. My life is out here on my blog, it’s really easy to make a comment on my life right now. You however, are well shielded by the lack of a URL. So it’s really not an equal relationship then is it? I cannot pick on your identity as you can pick on mine. I cannot generalize about your upbringing, family background, taste in movies or schooling. For all I know, you could be a woman. I didn’t miss the irony in it Venkatesh. Instead I see a cultural struggle emerging. Between the custodians of certain values, the baggage of supposed wannabes, assumed superiority and the ownership of identities.

    The kadai-kadhai thing has been discussed at length. I am comfortable in more than one language, and use a different system to transliterate. End of Story. The idea is to communicate and I think I did that reasonably well.

    I am a feminist, and use the feminist framework to grasp the world around me. This extends to movies in all languages (including silent ones) and anything that draws from culture or vice verca. I find most structures misogynstic. Including the culture and cultural artefacts of UK or US. However, I am most familiar with my own culture(s), hence it’s easier for me to critique that which I grew up in, or that which I interacted with. I have a higher stake in pointing out the inequities in the cultures where I make claims of belonging. It is the “known turf“. (To borrow a phrase from Annie.)

    To claim that women from Tamil Nadu find sexual harassment on the street and abuse as old-fashioned charm is akin to insensitivity of the highest order. I am not even going to take that comment of yours seriously. Learn to take criticism – fact of the matter is that Tamil culture is highly misogynistic. Saying so doesn’t take away any of its glory. Doesn’t make it any less. But to admit to that flaw and to work towards patching up that gap is likely to make that culture far more relevant and wonderful. Are you a custodian of Tamil culture btw? Or do you just consider that your turf?

    When you have nothing to lose, the movie Crash won’t make any sense to you. While we make assumptions and have neat little stereotypes for everyone, some assumptions are more damaging than others. So what you see as a minor fight, is a crucial battle for someone to highlight the anguish of their identity. The point is – what do you lose?


  5. Venkatesh says:

    This is not some Mahabharatha where you are Arjuna and I am Karna and I want to participate in archery contest and you are asking me what is my parentage, where is my URL, where is my blog, what is my email etc. It is just a blog you are indulging in your spare time and I choose to participate for timepass because both of us are tamilians so occasionally some common topics will come up in your blog which I can relate to, thats all. Everybody in your audience is not expected to host a blog and keep URL and so on, we have other interests ie. I don’t mind sending a Letters to Editor, but I don’t have time to publish The Hindu.

    If you start looking at India thru a Western framework, which you implicitly deem more superior/objective/scientific than the Indian one, you will instantly see a host of flaws where there really are none.
    You will see guys with their hands on each others shoulders and interpret that as latent homosexuality, like our veteran gay activist Ashok Row Kavi, who thinks Sholay and Deewar and other fun Bollywood flicks are homosexual films!
    You will find that just because majority of women in TN voluntarily CHOOSE to be engaged in feminine chores ie. become housewives, it can be interpreted by the West as though men are engaging in some patriarchy business & women are submissive. Similarly, you see 7GRC and say, here is a guy chasing a girl. She obviously doesn’t like him. So why does he not leave her alone ? Instead he persists until she relents and they have sex and so on. Why ? Therefore Misogynism. Actually speaking, 9 out of 10 love marriages in TN happen just like 7GRC. In most magazines in TN, it was characterised as the most accurate film in a very long time. I myself have met so many girls in love marriages – The girls will happily tell you how they were relentlessly courted even though they were initially angry, until they finally realized the guy liked them & so they got married! You may hate all this nonsense rituals, but that is the prevailing culture. It is not wrong or right, it is just what happens. So there is no point in saying Tamil is glorious culture except for misogynism – because Tamilians don’t look at Tamil culture that way. They are neither getting up early morning at 5am and reading Tirukkural, nor are they beating their womenfolk into submission. They are just living mundane lives. For them Tamil is neither glorious nor misogynistic, it is just a part and parcel of their life. So learning to take compliment or criticism doesn’t arise – it is a non-issue. In fact if you walk up to a Tamilian in Chennai and start praising Tamil’s glory, he will assume you are doing some PhD from Annamalai University ( pejorative again, since thats the only uni that offers Tamil PhDs on all topics under the sun ). Same time if you tell him he is misogynist because his wife is wearing pattu podavai and sitting at home listening to Kollywood songs on Ilangai Shortwave Radio instead of writing an English blog on VSNL broadband, he will think you are some NRI loosu who understands neither Tamilnadu nor Tamil culture. In both cases, he is right and you are wrong – simply because he is born as Tamil and raised as Tamil and living as a Tamil in TamilNadu, whereas you are a transplant wrestling with Tamil while raised in Gurgaon and Mumbai and now living in London. So you are the one with anguish over identity. For a Tamil in TamilNadu, such a issue doesn’t even exist – he is simply living what he assumes is a natural life. You are the one with these prejudices and stereotypes. You need to choose a feminist framework or whatever else, you need your Harvard GVOs and your Desipundits and your archetypes and your known and unknown turfs. Otherwise how else will you show that you are unique, you are Indian and yet not really Indian, you are Tamil and yet not really Tamil, you are feminist, so on… You need all this – you have to build it yourself. Why ? This is your support structure. So you will guard it zealously and fend off any attacks on your pet fortress of ideas, otherwise you have so much to lose, your anguish over lost identities being one such casualty. I on the other hand am some rural Tamilian, what do I have to lose ? Absolutely nothing. My support structure is free. It is there for the asking. It has existed for centuries. It is the temples, the carnatic gaana sabhas, the Tamil radio stations, the Kollywood industry, the Kumudams and Vigadans, the gossiping maamis and toothless Taathathas sitting in their agraharams chewing veththalais – all of that is my support structure. I didn’t build it painstakingly like you. It was handed to me on a platter. So yes, I have absolutely nothing to lose. I am neither a custodian of Tamil culture, nor do I consider it my turf, or find glory in it, or see its flaws. It is just me, and I am just it. I am a Tamil. So there is no confusion. Yes, I eat curd rice and dab coconut oil in my head and wear a veshti and go to work, without thinking what all that means, because that is what everybody else in my culture is doing around me. Sp I am blindly aping their behavior, because I am part of them and they me. So in a way, I have a huge family, but it is a restricted family – that of Tamilians in TamilNadu. You, on the other hand, try to be all-inclusive – you are Tamil, but also Delhi-ite, also from Mumbai, also Londonvaasi, also South Asian, also feminist, so many other families – you want to be part of everything and everything to be part of you, but on YOUR terms – so Kathai cannot be just Kathai, it has to be a Kadai because Kathai reminds you of your northern pots and pans! In this manner, trying to be super-inclusive of all cultures, worldviews and identities, you end up being part of a very large family – a true geocitizen! That is your perception. In reality, you are an orphan. You have nothing. All your identities exist in your mind, as ideas. They have no basis in reality. Their is no south asia, there is only India, and Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and whatever else. Nobody from GVO is going to buy you a morsel of food if you are hungry. Whereas I can happily walk into any house in my agraharam and they will know my lineage, parentage, whatnot and insist that I eat lunch and chat with them and tell them everything. Yes, I have nothing to lose – but that is because you have taken on my burden – you have everything to lose!

    btw, again, no offence – in the above para, I does not mean Venkatesh, nor does you mean Neha. I and you are just generic pronouns for the kind of people we represent, I a rooted rural pattikad Tamilian in TamilNadu, you a feminist Mary 🙂


  6. Venkatesh: You have not bothered to go through my reply properly. I said it’s easy to pick on my identity because I am the one with the URL and a blog. I cannot do the same to you. So it’s not an equal relationship. I am not demanding you have one – merely pointing out a factor that automatically tilts any conversation.

    Some of strongest women I have met are housewives. They do their work with much care and passion. Housework is a LOT of work and has a lot of value. If you think feminists think otherwise – I suggest you read a little about feminism first. The fundamental principle of feminism is the concept of choice. Whether you choose to work at home or outside – is it a true choice? What is forced on a person as a role expectation?

    Tamils don’t look at Tamil culture. That’s sad then. Without introspection – anything rots.

    I am equally comfortable in any setting. If you’re able to look beyond your heritage – I feel sad for you. My agraharam has always welcomed me back (especially if a Music festival is on). Rootlessness is nothing to be angsty about – however it must be recognized.

    I really do suggest you take your kind readership elsewhere – because as far as I can tell – you want to indulge in some sort of offensive – which I don’t have time or the patience for. Your world seems to rest on stereotypes. Mine doesn’t. I can speak Hindi and Tamil with equal fluency and earthiness – and I am comfortable with the duality of identity. I am not responsible for the limited nature of your experiences.

    Equality or Equity is not a Western framework. People who suggest so are overlooking real issues. You propose that you alone own the culture – and I do not have the right to question it because I grew up in a different city. It’s far harder to hold on to your culture when you are outside the comfort zone. The idea is not to estrange oneself but to engage oneself.

    This is really the last comment on this issue for me. Any further comments you have will be deleted. It isn’t censorship – but I do not have the time to deal with a very pointless fight. Dialogues are encouraged – senseless attacks are not.

    Btw – You’re the one who assumes the hierarchies here. Not me.


  7. WA says:

    Great responses Neha


  8. shoefiend says:

    wah neha! well said