You know the good thing about father-in-laws? Once you are married to their daughters you don’t need to impress them. And, do you know the bad thing about wives? They understand the son-in-law vs father-in-law undercurrents, and thus force you to respect him.
I am a better person early in the morning, so when I saw my father-in-law in just his lungi…I didn’t feel upset that this was the image I would be carrying with me the whole day – an old man in a lungi.
Out of concern for him, I said: “Acha, this is not Kerala. Delhi winter is known to be cruel…please wear a shirt.”
*Acha means father in Malayalam. Of all the ironies, In Hindi it almost means ‘Yes’….
“Ahh! You Tamilians born and brought in 35-40 degree Celsius are really scared of the cold huh?”
“Acha, why are you bringing in the regional angle…as if it snows in Kerala?”
“Well we don’t have snow…but the lowest temperature in Kerala is around 15 degree Celsius. That’s pretty cold I would say.” I knew he was proud of being a Malayali and was looking down upon me – as we always do to the guy from the neighboring state.
“Acha, in Delhi it goes down to 2 degree Celsius.”
“That’s not much. If we can manage 15 degrees we can manage 2 degrees – after all, it is only less…not more.”
I couldn’t see his shirtless torso any more, so congratulated him for his bravado hoping that soon he will catch a cold and start respecting my views. Obviously, I didn’t reveal my plan of doing the traditional karagatam dance around his bed while he will be recuperating.
Just in case you didn’t know…. I have bought him a new pair of bathroom slippers so that he doesn’t feel the cold of the vitrified tiles, and I have also bought him a jacket for the early morning chill. He is yet to use both of them.
I left for office thinking that the evening could only be better than the morning.
At about 6 p.m. I rang the bell of my house and my father in law opened the door – still standing in just his lungi.
As if to tease me, he said: “By the way, I am yet to catch a cold.”
The house was cold. My father in law’s behaviour was making it colder. I immediately rushed to my room at the far end of the house and shouted to Rekha on the way: “Do you know where my tracks are? And that blue sweatshirt?”
I didn’t get a response. Instead, all I heard was laughter. Pity laughter. Sympathy laughter. Jeering laughing. I-knew-this-guy-would-ask-for-his-sweatshirt laughter.
I found my tracks & my blue sweatshirt….but didn’t have the heart to wear that and enter the drawing room where all three – my father-in-law, my mother-in-law and my wife were sitting and having tea. I wore my T-shirt and shorts instead. WTF….didn’t know Delhi could be so cold in early November.
Made a mental note: No sweatshirts and tracks for me till the old man starts wearing at least a T-shirt.
If you are a guy and are planning to marry somebody from another State, I would suggest you select a State that’s similar in climatic conditions as yours. Read on to see how the three Malayalis at the table tortured this Tamilian.
“Aren’t you feeling too cold too soon?” My mother in law joined in.
“He always does. Last year he started wearing the winter jackets by mid-October itself.” My wife gave her stamp of approval.
“We Malayalis don’t feel as cold.” My father-in-law generalized.
At that point, I so wanted all the three of them to catch a cold and be bed-ridden for a few days…just to prove a point. I remained quite.
“Is that why you Tamilians try to avoid taking bath?” It was my father-in-law.
“No we don’t.” I insisted.
“Yes, you do…that’s why we in Kerala even have a nickname for Tamilians. We call them ‘Pandi’ – the one that didn’t take bath.” My father-in-law insisted too.
“No Acha, people in Kerala call Tamilians ‘Pandi’ because we were ruled by the Pandyas, the most powerful kings ever in Southern region of India.”
“OK fine….leave the nickname aside. But don’t you guys avoid baths?” Now I knew from where my wife got her ability to nag.
“Acha, it was just one day….I felt as if I was about to catch a cold and decided to NOT take bath.” Defending oneself against generalized attacks is difficult.
“No, you did it once when you were in Kerala too.” My mother in law chipped in.
*Amme in Malayalam means Mother.
“Amme, that was one day. Besides, if it weren’t for the Tamil men like me you won’t have anybody to marry off your girls to.”
“What do you mean?” My mother-in-law looked confused.
“Yeah, all the men in Kerala have gone to work in the Gelf & marry the Sheik.”
(If you are a non-Malayali, you should read Gelf as the Gulf)
This touched a nerve amongst the three Malayalis in my house. If I were to include my three and a half year old daughter, that would be four Malayalis in the house – she also roams around the house in her cotton vest.
Needless to say, it was an all out war. Thank God I didn’t marry a Muslim girl…my house then would have been a hot-spot for communal riots – Dr Manmohan Singh would have had to come and addressed the Rajans just before the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Masjid decision. And we would have had a three-day curfew – no getting out of your bedrooms before the Supreme Court announced its decision.
Anyway, now they are taunting me to join them in a round-table Tamil Nadu vs Kerala war….so need to finish this article soon.
Like I have said so many times before…we Rajans are made of sterner stuff…we fight it out and fight hard. Maybe, that’s why I have bought Mother Dairy’s 2 Kg Casata ice-cream pack. I won’t be eating it….but the plan is to encourage the three Malayalis in my house to eat ice-cream on chilly winter evenings and get them bed-ridden. Just to prove a point.