November 2015

Image from https://twitter.com/e_of_blandings

If someone had told me at the age of ten that one day I would write a bestselling book in English, I would have been completely surprised. English and I were not on the best of terms, since I was doing my schooling entirely in Malayalam, my mother tongue. Not only the sciences and social studies, even English language was taught in Malayalam by our well-meaning teachers. Moreover, like any staunch Communist, as most Malayalis were, I abhorred English as the language of capitalist imperialist pigs. Thus, I would have been wandering through life quoting Malayalam poets at the drop of a hat and drawing myself up indignantly at the mere sight of anyone speaking in English, had it not been for P.G. Wodehouse.

Yes, yes, I can imagine the perplexed looks on your faces. ‘PG Wodehouse is English personified’, you must be thinking. So how did this Anglophobe gain from the great man?

Well, the story goes as follows. I used to love reading. Apart from reading mythologies  of every conceivable country– Indian, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Mexican, Nordic, Celtic etc. translated into Malayalam, I would also read translations of classics such as the Three Musketeers or Bram stoker’s Dracula. (not a very wise move, considering I used to stay awake many nights, clutching on to a pod of garlic, staring at my brother’s face to see if his fangs were growing). But my mind was always on an enormous tome at home with the title ‘Most of P. G. Wodehouse’. One night, after my brother BalG, our cat Namu and I pestered my dad relentlessly, he picked up this volume and narrated to us ‘Monkey Business’, the gripping story of Montrose Mulliner, who ‘overcame’ an 800 pound gorilla to win the hand of the girl he loved – all in chaste Malayalam. He managed to retain most of the original humour in the translation, and we were hooked on to PGW. Over the next couple of years, we learned how Wilfred Mulliner rescued his lady love from the vile clutches of Jasper ffinch ffaromere; how Adrian smiled his way through to victory; how George sizzled like a cockroach when he should have been crooning sweet nothings etc. among other assorted Mulliner stories. Golf stories, Blandings stories and Jeeves stories followed in quick succession.

I realized two very important things in life 1. Reading English books can be really fun and 2. Pigs are noble creatures.

Over the next couple of years, starting with Enid Blyton and swiftly working my way up, I managed to improve my English vocabulary sufficiently to be able to read the great man for myself. There were, of course, words that completely stumped me at first – such as ‘imbecile’ and ‘predicament’. However, I gamely plodded on and over time, as I devoured every one of those 952 pages, my grasp and love for the English language grew by leaps and bounds. English language was great – and one that could express humour so well. And with my newfound chummy disposition towards pigs, even being a capitalist, imperialist pig was not so bad. Sad to say that my yearning for a porcine companion remains unfulfilled to this day.

It is not surprising then, that when I wrote my first book, ‘Oops the Mighty Gurgle’, it bordered on the absurd, being sprinkled with situations that could remind one of Bertie Wooster’s predicaments. The greatest compliment I received was when someone told me that the book was a perfect blend of PG Wodehouse and Isaac Asimov. You see, the book was an attempt at marrying science fiction with absurd humour – and I must confess with all humility that I have had many a fan mail, blaming me for causing the reader to look like an imbecile for giggling inanely on a flight. Not surprising, considering that the Darth Vader equivalent in the book is an evolved future-pig called Napoleon and that the most interesting chapter of the book is based on a planet called Holibutt that is inhabited by a species called Cerebums- whose brains are strategically located in a more central part of the body.

And then I wrote my second book, the one that went on to become a bestseller, titled ‘From Ouch to Oops’. This time the challenge was even more – to marry humour and inspiration. It narrated my own life story through its various ups and downs, culminating in the story of how I was crippled by an autoimmune disorder at the height of my career and then reinvented myself as an author, writing my first book using a voice to text software. Thanks to PGW, even this story – which people have found inspiring- was told in a lighthearted, humorous and extremely positive vein.

I guess I can never write a book that is completely serious. But then, I ask you, why should one tell a story as if one has a stick firmly shoved up one’s posterior, when one has the ability to make readers laugh their posteriors off!!

To read ‘Oops the Mighty Gurgle’, click here OMG!

And to read ‘From Ouch to Oops’, click here FOTO

( Image courtesy Aswajith Online )

We Mallayalis are a strange breed indeed. I have always known that. I was reminded of it this time when I visited Kerala. I had gone there to address two groups of English teachers – in Kottayam and Cochin. Driving from Cochin airport to Kottayam, I was once again struck by the incredible beauty of this land and by the amazing contradictions in the people there.  You see, apart from being born and brought up there, I have had the ‘experience’ of a lifetime spending couple of years of my adult life in Kerala. In terms of excitement, that experience falls somewhere between being bludgeoned continuously every 30 seconds with a blunt object and having 220 volts of electricity being applied intermittently to your backside every five minutes. Massive ups and downs if you get my drift. I often ask myself why this is so. The answer always comes back to ‘The Fundamental Rights of a Malayali’.

To understand the ‘Fundamental Rights of a Malayali’, one has to first understand the psyche of a Malayali. The Mallu is one incredibly sensitive being. I have long pondered on why the good lord made Mallus so fair minded, yet so darned bristly at the same time. Finally, in a moment of inspired insight, the answer came to me. Unlike the rest of humanity, who evolved from mere monkeys, the Mallu has evolved from porcupines. This simple fact, so well hidden from Darwin (possibly because his limited experience never encompassed extreme cases such as meeting a Mallu), explained the bristling behavior of the Mallu. Having laid the foundation, I have taken great pains to put down a comprehensive list of the ‘Fundamental Rights of a Malayali’, a compendium of guiding principles which govern a Mallu’s life, his interaction with other Mallus and with other lower level mortals and why his ‘each particular hair stands on end like the quills upon the fretful porpentine’ (as you can see, Bill Shakespeare on the other hand, has certainly experienced a Mallu to have written these lines so appropriately) when he is affronted (as is his usual wont).

The ‘FRoaM’ reads as follows…

Right to equality – Every Mallu is born a communist unless otherwise specified by his/her parents. They shall continuously strive to create a society of equals by uplifting themselves as much as humanly possible and after that by subtly taking potshots at others who are more equal.

Right to Samaram(strike) – Every Mallu at birth is inculcated with vast knowledge of Satyagraha, which he/she hones by continuous practice of striking at least once every month from grade 1 to the age of 77. During months in which holidays are limited, he/she strikes several times extra to get his/her rightful number of off days.

Right to Flag Hoisting – Every Mallu male is entitled to hoisting his Mundu or his Lungi several inches above his knees and to showing off his hairy legs while pretending  to be Silk Smitha.

Right to Freedom of Spirit – Every Mallu must at all points in time be pickled liberally and should strive for this exalted spiritual state by imbibing from early morning. Even if he has to queue up in front of the Kallu Shaap before it opens at the ridiculously late hour of 8AM.

A corollary to this is Right to Brandy – A true blue Mallu shall only drink Brandy, since he is able to assuage his guilt by pretending that the good spirit is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Right to Red rice & Fish curry – A  Mallu may consume fish curry and red rice any time of the day starting 6AM.

A corollary to this is right to Beef fry and Porotta, right to Appam and Muttakkari and right to Tapioca and Fish curry. (except that Appam and Muttakkri may start at 5 AM.)

Right to Consider Sreesanth as the God of Cricket – The Mallu does not believe in RamG’s epic story on the 10th Avatar of Vishnu being Sachin Tendulkar as given in Oh God!!. In his mind, Sreesanth is the only god of cricket and has been unfairly treated by Krishnamachari Srikanth, a mere jealous Paandi.

Right to Murder English Pronunciation- This is a very Fundamental and inalienable right of a Mallu. Specifically, he may murder all words having an ‘O’ in them or may ‘simbly’ substitute a ‘B’ for a ‘P’ every time it dares to make an appearance after an ‘M’. The same may be said of a ‘K’ or a hard ‘C’ if they so much as try to jump in ahead of an ‘L’ as any of my ‘Ungles’ may agree.

Right to Amazing Names – A  Mallu may be named by clubbing together any set of right sounding syllables as in the case of Jiju, Joji, Shiny, Shiji, Shiju… etc. Siblings may adopt rhyming agglomeration of syllables as in the case of Jincy and Lincy or even Tiju, Liju and Biju.

Right to scoff at Tamilians – A Mallu may at all times treat the Tamilian as an inferior being (Having actually drawn a substantial part of their cultural heritage from Tamil Nadu) and may call them Paandis.

A corollary is that the Mallu has the right to be offended if the Tamilian retailiates by calling him a ‘Malayali Gentleman’ in a sneering fashion. For more on this, you may read up my treatise on the subject as given in Tamil Brahmin Father-in-law

Finally, and most importantly, the Mallu has a Right to Bristle at all insults, real, imagined or not yet imagined.  He has to uphold the traditions of his ancestor, the fretful porpentine. A very very important corollary to this is that all male Mallus must sport some of the quills inherited from their ancestors on their face- namely on their upper lip. This helps them bristle.

That, my friend, completes my well researched document on the Fundamental Rights of a Malayali. Now let me warn you, we Mallus are actually amazing. We have religious harmony, communal harmony, sex ratio, development index, literacy rate, female infant mortality, all to prove that we are a great breed. And we even have the ability to laugh at ourselves. But if you, who is evolved from a mere ape and not an exalted porcupine even so much as dare chuckle at this article, we shall all bristle in indignation, and poke your sorry backside with so many quills that you will never be able to sit again to have your Masal Dosas and your Tandoori Chickens.

For reading more such fun stuff, read my book, ‘From Ouch to Oops’. (be prepared to startle those around you with sudden explosive laughter and at the same time, feel awesomely positive). To but this, click here From Ouch to Oops

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