Mood: Oh! Pune
Song: Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya (Will You Come To Me Across The Sky)
Quote: There Is No Distance On This Earth As Far Away As Yesterday. Live in The Present.
The roads are quite narrow. As with most of India, two lane roads are conveniently used as 4/5/6 lane ones. The roads are dominated by cycles, autos and TVS mopeds/bikes. Cars are still a luxury here. For the people here ‘Lexus, Skoda and Daimler’ are Latin translations of ‘Love, Sex and Dhokha’ (Ok, that was for exaggeration; but did you remotely hope that Tamils understand Love, Sex or Dhokha any better?) The electricity wires zigzagging around the city totally ruin whatever traces of landscaping existed in the first place. Houses are unorganized in construction with most buildings being 1/2/3 storeys tall. Cut-outs of politicians and film stars (only males) lace the nook and corner of the city. Roadside Idli shops make up for 33.33% of all shops in Madurai. The other 66.67% are equally divided between Jewellery shops and Silk Saree shops.
The normal Tamil housewife wakes up early in the morning, sprinkles the place outside the main door, casually makes a highly ornamental rangoli as if making it is comes naturally to everyone from birth, sends off her hubby and children, and then makes sure her day begins at 11am. From 11am to 11pm, begin the ultra-mega serials of the Tamil television. Our housewife will follow every character across every serial, across every channel religiously, and relate to the stories as if they are happening in her own life. Majority of people in TN have shifted to Sun Direct (DTH Service) which provides 55 Tamil channels (who watches news/sports/hindi/cartoons/edutainment channels anyway?) for a monthly rate of Rs.75 which directly targets this type of households.
Films constitute a huge proportion of the very little fun quotient in Madurai. The release of a Rajnikant/Kamal/Vijay/Ajit/Surya movie is a day of festivity throughout the city. A first day first show of these movies is an experience in itself. The movie halls conveniently hire goons with lathis to manage the testosterone-only crowd. 80% of the halls still do not have an AC and the tickets are Rs.30 for stall and Rs.40 for balcony. Multiplexes are unheard of in the city. Heroes are dark, fat and sometimes even bald, and always from this state, while the heroines are fair, slim and sexy and often imported from the north. Such is the culture here. My own girl will not be allowed to go out of home, but I will fantasize the ones thrown to me from outside.
Tamil Brahmins are a different species in themselves. Even though they constituted just 3% of the total state population, till the 1980s/90s they dominated everything from education, arts, politics, government, business, everything. Society was heavily influenced by the caste system and Brahmins suppressed others across all fields. Today, obviously they have opened up, but their networking skills till date are mind-blowing. On the train to Madurai, I met this 60 year old man, who had 2 children working in Infy, now settled in the US, having a million relatives in every country across the world. He has been to 5 IITs himself, knows a 100 other people who have passed from these IITs/IIMs, knows people from the place we lived in, knows people from my Dad’s workplace, knows about my school, knows my Principal, studied in my Junior College, knows my Engg college, has stayed in Pune, knows every lane and by-lane in Madurai/Mumbai/Pune. In short he knows about every god-damn thing that I talk about! Brahmins occupy the top posts across business, politics and anything related to money and power. As from ‘Two States’, music and dance forms are very important to them. Some of my Brahmin friends have now learnt singing for 20 years non-stop now. Every Brahmin child will be trained in atleast one of classical/carnatic singing and dancing.
The idiosyncrasies of the Tamil wedding are as intricate as the handiwork on the Kancheepuram silks adorned by the female clan at the wedding. A woman gains an average of 8-10 kgs once she dresses up for a wedding. Two kilos of Gold (3-4 Necklaces, 2-3 chains, 4-5 pairs of bangles, 3cm long earrings, 6/8 rings, all purposely made in 20carat gold so that it gives an at-your-face kinda color of yellow), 6-7 kilos of pure Kancheepuram silk draped around her body and one kilo of talcum to give a make believe tint of fairness to the tanned dark skin. On the other hand, the husband and her son can be expected to wear anything from a shirt costing Rs.180 (Rs.100 for the material and Rs.80 for the tailor) to a silk shirt costing thousands. But the point is, they will just not be noticed at all, whatever be the case. The man can as well walk naked to the wedding along with his heavily clad wife, and yet everyone will inquire about the wife's sari and jewelery!
Quick Note: This is a highly subjective analysis of my native state. This post at best describes just the lower 80% of the state. In a way, I have played 'Slumdog Millionaire' with the state by not portraying the upper 20% which is better than most other Indian states!