parties and tambrahms…


I love get-togethers. Not the flashy-poolside-party where my-clothes/trinkets-are-superior-to-yours kind, but the informal meeting-up-in-a-friend’s -place-for-a-meal types. I enjoy the sense of bonhomie which comes when you totally relax with a group of good friends.

I recently organised an informal cake-cutting for my spouse’s parent. I invited all the aunts & uncles living nearby and a whole load of cousins…

All of us had a great time. The cousins got together to rag the younger ones. The kids fought over toys.

The older generation enjoyed it too. They bonded together over Kolangal or some such melodramatic serial and sang “Happy Birthday to you” heartily and had a great time chatting up with each other, enjoyed the meal and waved goodnight and drove away to their various homes.

A month later, a friend asked why I did not organise the same thing for my own father whose birthday happened to be round the corner.

Coming from a non-tambrahm culture, she just didn’t get it.

Tambrahms are not the partying kind. Formal or informal. (This is my inference from all the tambrahms I’ve observed during my growing up years. There may be exceptions!)

Especially in my family circle, affection is generally expressed by shouting at each other.

Having married into a non-tambrahm family, the peace the house exuded hit me like a thunderbolt during the first few days of my marriage. No one shouted at anyone. No one called anyone names. Everyone wanted to live peacefully with each other.

Light years away from my own cantakerous home.

So a small birthday party was openly welcomed in my husband’s household.

But my friend’s query set me thinking.

I just imagined the same scenario in my parents’.

The images which popped up were downright comical.

My father would have been extremely self-conscious and would have masked this by being grumpy and barking at anyone who happened be within a 5 feet radius.

Any two of my aunts would be bellowing at each other about something as inane as the recipe for a dish being served.

Someone’s son-in-law would be sulking because he did not get the respect due to him.

His wife would be stage-whispering to someone how badly he was treated by the hostess (that’d be moi) by not saying”Vaango!” the proper way.

My brother would have shut himself in his room because he hates all the drama and hates polite conversation with anyone who’s not his colleague.

And I’ll be caught right in the middle of the fireworks, trying to please everyone around, including the birthday boy…

And various members of the older generation would constantly interrupt my juggling of egos by asking me “Where’s your brother?” or “Why is your father so rude to us?”

There might not be a cake-cutting after all.

Oh, I forgot! I’d have got scathing asides from various people present about serving something made with eggs in a shuddh, brahmin household.

And after everyone has gone home in various stages of sulking, I’d have had an earful from my brother about how unnecessary the whole thing was and how it ruined his peace.

Thanks, but no thanks! I’ll probably need weeks of therapy to get over the trauma…

I’ll just make do with a breezy “Happy Birthday” to my father on the phone interjected with my query on a recipe of pacchaimavupodi upma!

Peace unto the tambrahm household!!



  1. 10yearslate said,

    February 5, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Agree fully. We are not into bday celebrations period. Bdays never moved either my parents, me or my brother. It was only when my kid sister kicked up a tantrum that we organised a cake, candles and other bells and whistles for her. It was also so unnatural and against the grain that she never pestered us for one ever after!

    I still remember the look on the face of the girl at the gym when I checked in of a morning. She went ‘Happy Birthday Mr..’ after swiping my card and I responded with a blank look.

    Her expression in turn could have meant many things….

    Yup, that was the case with my brother too! But as a kid, I used to organise my own birthday parties with biscuits & Goldspot. No cakes!! Just an occasion to call my friends over and have fun!

  2. maami said,

    February 5, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Saniyane, peedai, mundam, daridram, yeppa paaru partynu, kasai kariyaakindu, yaaruku veenam partyaam kirtiyaam, birthdayvaam. Podi vaya moodindu, vendaada velaiyellam.Whatay cultured peoples we are huh?
    Many of our tribespeople have displaced concern with worry;duty over love;cohabiting over bonding;criticism over encouragement, responsibility over civility.
    So true!!

  3. Lakshmi said,

    February 5, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    growing up, mine was in the summer.. so figured no big deal. At least I didn’t have to do the “Today is my happy birthday, please have a chocolate” routine. But your post points some fingers at me.. and my inherent “not wanting to celeb birthdays” attitude – even my kids’ here!
    First it was too much work.. then it was too much presents that I ended up stepping on etc.. Now.. we just buy a cake for the kids’ and call a few of their friends over ad-hoc for pizza, cake and ice-cream -but only once in a birthday while. With my younger one celebrating his in the summer.. figure I can’t make too much of the older one’s.. esp since each year we are either camping/traveling on the younger one’s special day.
    But.. I am going to start to break the trend. consciously celebrating at least the kids’.. hhmmph! so there! 🙂
    Laks! I mean exactly the kind of parties you’ve been organising for your kids! Not too much work for the organiser, simple food, but great fun… My point is just that most tambrahms cannot meet up socially without getting tempers up… They’re not genetically programmed to chill out with each other!!!

  4. lakshmi said,

    February 6, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    hmm. haven’t really seen that.. must be the telugu influence. we had our quirks growing up. no one knew when/where my dad went and who would join us for supper. We were not allowed to ask “enga porai” and he did not deign to tell us. But his telugu friends would always congregate at our house, with my mom playing the magician -pulling food out of a hat at a moment’s notice – in those days when our freezer only produced boatloads of ice no one wanted.

    I do know the no-egg, no nothie masala part.. I make two sets of stuff when my relatives congregate – coffee being the binder. I have two 20 cup coffee pot for these special occasions.

    I bake some super brownies with black beans and flour – of course no one else but moi will touch it -unless we are out in the woods. Scary that I am beginning to get too southie nowadays.. sign of age i’spose.

  5. bombaygirl said,

    February 7, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Okay..that was hysterical. I didn’t realize that that happened in other tambrahm homes! I thought it was just our little family specialty. I feel better now, knowing that others share in the misery. 🙂
    Thanx! Rest assured that you’re definitely not alone! There are millions of us who share your misery!!!

  6. Pradeep said,

    February 29, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Well written, though I would say the whole post is very biased. You have of course tried to be lenient to tam-brahms by talking of a few “exceptions”, but I can see very polished tam-brahm bashing here. You make it sound as if the only thing tam-brahms do is to fight and all other communities adopt global peace as their lives’ primary goal. You would find all kinds of behaviours in all kinds of households. It is only your prejudice which is making you classify all tam-brahms as “Sandai kozhis”.
    Just my 2 cents.

    PS: Nice blog, btw.

    Actually what I’ve written about is just my personal experience with the community through my immediate family and some friends. But You’re right. Each household has a story to tell… I have met some very peaceful tambrahms too. But unfortunately, its one in 20, maybe! But personally I feel tambrahms (not the rich and landed gentry) were a frustrated lot some hundred years ago. Too many children. Too little moneys. Too much brains. Too little opportunities. I guess now its just the left-over anger in the genes which spills over into our day-to-day lives…
    PS: Thanx!

  7. Harish Ramaswamy said,

    March 19, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I totally agree with what maami said!

    three months back, i organised a surprise birthday party for my mom. I didnt call anybody in my family! (sorry padmaja!). yeah, so i just called a bunch of her really close friends and i planned it in my neighbour’s place. they re really close people. my mom didnt have a clue. when i took her in and she was all surprised and yayy, and had an awesome time at the birthday party, she came to me after all that and said,

    “Dai, idhukella thanks! aana edhukku! enakko 50 years aayachu.appram… iva ellarayum kooptu edhukku ivlo kaasu selvazhichi vendadha velai pannara! naa kettena? avlo per. namba rendu per mattum! edhukku? paithyakara loose.”

    all this is enough proof to prove that tambrahms and paaartees do not get along.


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