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Tale of Two Cities

All Characters in this article are purely real and any resemblance to anybody living or dead is definitely not accidental.

Triplicane is a traditionally Iyengar locality ( Vaishnavities) largely due to the beautiful Parthasarathy Temple adorning this place. Mylapore, on the other hand, has large Iyer community ( Saivities) also due to the famous Kapaleeshwarar temple situated here. Iyers and Iynegars are at logger heads in most of the issues but one common thread ( other than the sacred cross belt) that unites these communities is that they are TAMBRAMS( an acronym coined for Tamil Brahmins).

TAMBRAMS are quite unique in their thinking. TAMBRAM kids are raised with an amazing singlemindedness which would put the Al Qaeda terrorists to shame. The first words that a TAMBRAM boy hears as soon as he is out of his mother’s womb is his father commenting ” My Son will go to IIT”. Every TAMBRAM irrespective of his grey matter, is born to become a Engineer, be a successful Engineer and breed a few engineers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the American Governemnt changes their immigration laws for the TAMBRAMS just like they did for the Hispanics due to the contribution of the TAMBRAM community to the silicon valley.

Ask a TAMBRAM schoolgoing kid, his favourite subject.If he says anything other than Mathematics ( Kanakku, as his grandparents would have called it), then it means that in 20 years he will be a social outlaw. Mathematics and Math Tables are fed to him along with his baby foods which includes a daily diet of ladies finger( which exponential increases the retention capacity and makes a TAMBRAM remeber every formula deduced in the time from Pythogoras to Ramanujam). His lullabies go something like this “(a+b) = a2 + 2ab + b2, (a-b) = a2 -2ab + b2” sung in a lyrical fashion. A “CENTUM” in Maths is very important for his parents. A 98 or 99 in the subject even in a monthly test will put them to great shame in a community which soley measures the intelligence of a kid by his marks in Mathematics. Anything less than a centum would push his family into great depression and I have even heard of cases when the parents have put their children to concentration camp like rules so that he bridges the gap with the rest of the students.

The worst time in the life of a TAMBRAM is during his transition from high school to College. The Entrance Exam really takes a toll on him. He would be made to write exams in every nook and corner of this vast country so that he is not left alone and will surely join the herd of engineers produced by his community. Any credit to securing an Engineering admit will go to his parents and all the blame( if he fails to secure an admission) would be directed at the kid, who burnt the midnight oil studying for these exams. Even in Engineering, if he gets into any department other than Computer Science or Electronics, his parents would be considered unfortunate. Chemical Engineering, Production Engineering etc are considered equivalent to nothing more than a 12th Standard pass and his neighbors who end up playing a major role in his life would constantly advise his parents about putting him into NIIT or APTECH so that he works close to software, code and TAMBRAMS ought be the modern day equivalent of Karna and his armor.

After Engineering, the next stop in the TAMBRAM railway has to be a Masters in The United States. San Jose, CA is the dream destination of almost every TAMBRAM older generation. If it is not San Jose, it has to be Seattle or one of the Intel facilities. The application process to the land of fruits and honey evokes a lot of animated conversations. Typically, our next house thatha( old man) would say ” Apply in Stanford, my son lives in Ohio( pronounced o-eee-o) and he will come to pick you up from the Airport”. For a TAMBRAM who is not well versed with geography and is a faithful follower of elder’s words, this would seem like a really good idea. Little would he know that, Stanford and Ohio are thrice as far apart as Delhi and Chennai.

When a TAMBRAM lands in the United States after much hype and hoopla, he will start missing the single best thing that he liked about home – Mom’s home made recipes. Idli with Sambar, Dosa with Millaga Podi( Crounded Chilli Powder mixed with Oil), Curd Rice with Mango Pickle, Adhirasam, Appam, ( traditional TAMBRAM sweets). Not able to get anything close to these, he settles for the next best thing which are Hamburgers with French Fries, Tortillas with Chips, Fried Rice with Lemon Grass Chicken, Brownies and Bagles. For a TAMBRAM family, a boy in the United States is a point of great pride. He is considered to be a few rungs higher in the social ladder than his cousin who might be finishing up his Masters in Economics writing up a good dissertation on ” Poverty and its Effects in India”. An Ecomincs Student is nothing but a COMIC NOSE in the family, a guy who had to settle for something as lowly rated as Economics.

Await more in the journey of a TAMBRAM……

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

January 8, 2004 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. And the maamis and mammas in the neighbourhood going..”Abhistoo amarikka poi poondu ellam saapdaran…hamburger ley vegetable hamburger sapta thevaley ithule kari mamsamna irrukkum!?”Enjoyed your post…just found it …looked for ‘tambram’ on google right after i posted this: not sure if your blog is still active…is it?


    September 8, 2007 at 12:51 am

  2. Hi i just stumbled into your blog. Officially I am a Tamil “Brahmin” as well.Frankly dont you find the term bordering on caste-ism?


    January 15, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  3. this post is about a specific caste. In that way, it is casteist. I am a card carrying memeber of the Tambram society as well and through this post, I wanted to being out the inherent flaws with which the caste perceives Engineering and Medicine as the only ways to attain salvation


    January 15, 2008 at 3:54 pm

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