The Ascent of the Maami

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The terror of being accosted by the TamBrahm Maami at family functions has persisted right from the dawn of the Madisaar Ages to the times of the Churidaar (aka. Punjaabi dress) to the Jeans era. When Darwin said, ‘it is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent but it is the one that is the most adaptable to change’; he was alluding to the TamBrahm Maami.Not unlike Jane Goodall who spent decades studying her subject in the forests of Tanzania, this seminal work on the TamBrahm Maami is a result of years of keen observations at countless Kalyanams, Seemanthams, Nischayathaarthams, Poonals, Valaikaapu, Shashtiyaptapoortis, Sadabhishekams and Punyajanam functions. Much knowledge of the various types has been gathered by silently observing Maamis over yellai saapaadu, lots of patient listening and steadying twitching nerves with tumblers of piping hot Kumbakonam degree coffee. The TamBrahm Maami, scientific name; genus maamium mylapoorum; can now be seen across the world – from the narrow lanes of Mylapore to Australia to both sides of the Atlantic. Irrespective of where you are accosted by her, a quick study of this treatise will help you understand the consequences of such an encounter, help you take precautionary measures – like running away – far away – from the TamBrahm Maami.
The Visa Maami is one of the most commonly found maamis. Just say ‘Boston’ or the name of any American city within this Maami’s earshot and be prepared for a long discourse from this walking Lonely Planet America edition. The Visa Maami is a resident expert on all things American – from Visas to getting a Green Card to American Universities to American geography to Indian stores in any part of the States. Owner of a 1,000-page passport, a true citizen of the world, when she bumps into other Visa Maamis in India she fixes her next meeting at ‘Frisco or LA. Try inviting her to a Ganapathi Hoomam next week; chances are that she will decline as she has to catch a flight to visit her son in Texas. Nine out of ten Visa Maamis have a Hotmail email account and most definitely have a Skype id – they are always the early adopters of technology and in the future when teleporting becomes a reality – this clan is the best segment for tech companies to target. Boredom with the unsolicited America cram session or teeth-gnashing due to the late realization of being the only TamBrahm left behind in India are the usual effects of an encounter with the Visa Maami.
The Pin-code Maami is a study in contrast to the Visa Maami. She is only aware of the streets, shops and temples within her pin-code. So for example, if she is from 600004 (that’s Mylapore’s pin-code) this Maami will only know East Mada Street, Kapaleeswarar Temple, Tank and Luz Corner. And if you dare compare her locality with another – you will be assaulted with so much tripe that if Copernicus were alive he would willingly admit that the sun indeed revolves around Mylapore. The Pin-code Maami is always accompanied by a family member to functions – she simply can’t get back to her pin-code by herself.

Let’s say you cracked the JEE, you ooze confidence and walk six-inches above the ground. Avoid the encounter with the Centum Maami at the Shashtiyaptapoorti. She will wrestle you to the ground – slam dunk, coz, she is the Centum Maami. She is the one who’s children have scored centum right through school or have cracked a first rank at JEE or have passed through MIT (with straight As). Studying at REC are you? That’s no good – it’s IIT Madras or nothing. Studying at XLRI are you, its IIM – Ahmedabad or nothing – you get the drift? Encounters over lunch with this kind will instantly curdle your paal-payasam, force you to rush through straight from the first course of sambar rice and escape without eating curd rice.

Mother-of-black-sheep Maamis are the tragi-comedy of the clan. Until a few decades ago, mothers of TamBrahm boys who married Russian girls or mothers of thirty-one year old single TamBrahm girls would be classified as such. But times have changed, these days, parents are grateful that at least their sons are getting married to a girl and have not run off with another boy. Mothers of TamBrahm sons or daughters who-have-done-what-cannot-be-said are called mother-of-black-sheep Maami. They skulk into family functions, look furtively, stare at the groom or bride wistfully and sniffle despondently into their sari paalu. This Maami stays normally aloof, but in case she accosts you the music in the background instantly changes to a 60’s Sivaji Ganesan tragedy.
And then there is Interrogation Maami. This one is the T-Rex of her kind. For her, nothing is kosher. If you are her unfortunate prey, she will ask a zillion questions – loudly – for the benefit of everybody within a 20-mile radius. Weren’t you hugging (katti pudichifying) that Christian girl – Lisa – in Coffee Day yesterday? Abishtoo. Why did you hide behind the car and pretend you didn’t see me when I saw you smoking last Monday? What were you carrying in black plastic bags I saw you hauling near the TASMAC shop last night? Be very afraid of the Interrogation Maami – if she is at the function you are in, run for cover – to the farthest other Punyajanam or don’t-care-what-function there is.
And then there is the Temple Run Maami who either runs off visiting temples or talks about her visits to them. Delhi or Wisconsin or Toronto or Alaska or even the moon – it really does not matter where or who she is visiting. With MS’ Suprabhatam the most commonly used mobile ring tone this maami has an innate ability to discover temples you didn’t know existed. Severe boredom or sheer exhaustion from visiting temples or listening about temples or a sudden surge of bhakti is the effect of an encounter with the Temple Run Maami.
The Google Maami always has her search mode on – for a bride or a groom for her son or daughter. Settled in America is a constant in her search algorithm. She looks at every eligible boy or girl in the Poonal function with her search function on, enquires about their background, discusses nakshatrams, raasis, gothrams and candidates rejected in the match-making sessions. If you are married and have been caught by a Google Maami, you can escape her clutches by providing references of unmarried friends or cousins but in case you are unmarried – there is nothing else but getti melam in store for you.

The Aadi-Sale Maami. normally found feverishly shopping wherever the word ‘discount’ is seen, is single handedly responsible for the economic fortunes of T-Nagar – from Pothys to Chennai Silks to Nallis. She drops into Seemanthams usually on her way for shopping. If you are her unfortunate prey, you will have to drive her to Renganathan Street, become a coolie and carry her shopping bags. Caution, avoid accompanying her and make excuses about needing to check on the Caterers or whip out your phone, yell ‘Hello. Hello’ and walk away muttering about the poor quality of the mobile signal inside the Hall.
And finally there is the mmm…Mmmmaami – the TamBrahm edition of the yummy-mummy is an extremely rare kind. Think of her as Simran and Shobhana kneaded into one. Seen with a fat balding potbellied Maama – who is usually taken to be her father but turns out to be her husband. Encounters with this kind of Maami are extremely pleasant, laced with the fragrance of malli poo and end with you imagining how she may have looked during her college days or salivate imagining what did they wear to college in those days – paavaadai-daavini? This is the only kind of TamBrahm Maami you really look forward bumping into. But the odds of this encounter are as bright as the odds of seeing butter-chicken on the Kalyanam lunch menu.
Grave doubts are being cast on the ability of the TamBrahm Maami to survive the current age. After all, when Tamil boys are marrying Harpreets or Janets how will the next generation find TamBrahm Maamis? But hope and the taste of vaddu maanga are eternal. The TamBrahm Maamis are a hardy lot; they will persist and continue to evolve. After all the hand that mashes the thaiyir saadam rules the world.