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Things a non-malayali understands about Malayalis!


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I am not a Malayali. I am Ankita Sunil Joshi. It can’t get more Maharashtrian than this! Starting from my name to my accent, my native place is somewhere in Konkan and I have a problem with 95% people in the world because they pronounce JOSHI in a wrong way! So, there you go!

But, I married a Malayali. Even though I knew, from their language to their cooking oil, everything is different! After almost 3 years of marriage, I am still trying to understand their culture, habits, lifestyle, and language! Sometimes, I am super proud of myself that I understand some things but sometimes I am as dumb as a rock and then Chetan gets a chance to make fun of me even more! Let me enlighten you about the few things I learned about Malayalis, shall we? Now, some of these things you must be already knowing, some might come to you as a surprise!

They have different types of Lungis

In my family, there are roughly 3 uses of lungis. One, where dad wears it after coming back from office, two where mother hates it and starts threatening dad that she will tear it one day and use it as a window cleaning cloth and then three, where she actually makes a cleaning cloth out of it! So, when our families met for the first time to talk about the wedding, few of Chetan’s uncles wore a Mundu (remember, different types of lungis, so this one is used for special occasions). My sister went bizarre by seeing them, my mother couldn’t say anything about future window cleaning clothes (as it’s Chetan’s family) and my dad couldn’t be more proud of his choice!

So, there are 2-3 types of lungis with different names and purposes. Vella mundu – Off-white with a golden border for auspicious functions and going to temple. Kaavi Mundu (black and orange color), again to go to temples or to look cool. Checkered pattern – Old school lungis for when you are at home.

Dictionary meaning of Chetta is a brother but Malayali women use it to call their husbands

Now, because I wanted to know what Chetan’s family thinks of me, I learnt Malayalam for around 6-7 months (Yes, I can read, write and understand Malayalam provided you speak extremely slow and keep a dictionary next to me when I am going to read). But sometimes, I feel, they have invented things for a textbook purpose and then they have invented a ‘different way of using it for confusing non-mallus like me’ purpose! All Chetan’s aunties call their husbands ‘Chetta’ or personal my favorite ‘Etta’. I know in some cultures, it’s common to marry in the same family but I was shocked to see all the marriages like that. The explanation and teasing followed by laughter came later!

They don’t believe in bowls, pots while dining!

Even though Kerala meals are divine and to die for, they don’t give bowls to serve their sambar and rasam and payasam. They like the flavors getting mixed with each other and frankly, I don’t like that! I want to taste them individually and make that taste stay there for a long time. Once I attended a wedding in Kerala when I didn’t know the language at all. (actually, it doesn’t matter whether I know the language or no, in Kerala, I don’t dare to speak or try to understand Malayalam, defense mechanism you see).

After the wedding, lunch – (sadhya) was about to start. (Sadhya means a traditional feast on a banana leaf with more than 275 different types of food that I can never finish in my life). A group of uncles started serving and within 2 minutes my banana leaf was full! Full with different flavors and I didn’t know where to start from! They all look the same as they had gotten mixed up with each other. It was a tough lunch indeed!

They think all Bollywood films are copied versions of Malayali films (specially made by Priyadarshan)
I understand few comedy scenes must have been taken directly, without using any brains from Malayali films, but all? I don’t think so! In case you prove otherwise!

They make one saree out of two sarees

Isn’t surprising it? Yes, but they have sorted lives of their women, Here, girls like me are thinking of wearing 6 yards or 9 yards and why do we need so many yards to begin with, I am such a tiny woman! Mallu women are smart. They use one small piece to circle around the waist and one small piece to cover the chest and blouse. Tie it up gracefully and you are good to go!

They don’t like their babies, I think!

Now hear me out before you call me heartless! Have you seen Malayali babies? Probably not, because most of them are covered in Kajal. Kajal so thick that the eyes, eyebrows, and cheeks of the babies get hidden! I understand the scientific purpose of it and it’s smart but don’t make your babies look so different that they no longer fit in the categories of cute babies (sugarcoating this statement so much!)

Contrary to popular belief, they DON’T put coconut in all their recipes

Yes, you read it right! They really don’t. I have been in their kitchens and almost run my kitchen in the same manner now. Did you know, they make sambar exclusively when they are out of a coconut? In veg meal itself there are tons of recipes where coconut is not used and yet, they make it so delicious! Ahhh!

I don’t intend to start any commotion through this blog post because these are just some innocent observations from a non-Malayali who is still trying to fit in! I love Kerala, Malayalis, how talented they are. the food, OMG! (Sadhya and Dosas – I think that’s the reason I married Chetan), rounded beautiful looking alphabets, hairstyles, Dance forms, quick weddings, big royal yet welcoming houses, coconut oil, boat races, temples, Pookalam (rangoli made of flowers), gold, elephants, how politically aware are they, literacy rate, music, Dulquer Salmaan, Nivin Pauly and of course, Chetan Warrier, my mallu man!

Also, don’t forget to watch a video that we created about Malayalis and Aiyo. The most common word in the world for Mallus! even I use it very frequently now! It’s kind of addictive, isn’t it?

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