Naan Avanillai!

I can spot a non-resident tambrahm (born & brought up in a distant state), miles away. Their Tamil is so pure, without any local flavour.

But it took me awhile to recognise this one. He was the receptionist in a hospital, where I waited patiently with a patient for our turn to see the doctor.

He was very helpful to us when he saw the patient with me was still a bit weak and recovering. He assisted us in all possible ways, directed us to the canteen for lunch and insisted we don’t wait around on empty stomachs and promised not to call our numbers while we were at lunch.

He spoke only in English which did not betray  his regionality. Since I didn’t spot any different accent, I just assumed he was a hard-core Madarasi like me.

We got back from lunch and flopped into the waiting room chairs, far away from him. There were about  30 to 40 people in the room, either swatting flies or trying not to fall asleep while waiting for the doctor.

I tried reading a book, but I was nodding off after the lunch.

“M’am!” His voice broke into my reverie.

I looked up.

He was indeed calling me. Frantically.

“M’am! Doctor vandhuttaan! Ullethaan Ukkandrikkan. Wait panraan… Seekrama pongo!”

To this day I have no idea how I went through the motions of  taking my companion inside, consulted the doctor and came back home without collapsing on the waiting room floor, laughing!


PS: It is very difficult for me to translate this for those who don’t know Tamil or the intricacies of the language. I’ll give it my best effort. But let me warn you,  it may just about go above your head.

In Tamil ‘he’ can be translated as ‘avar‘ or ‘avan‘. The former is for someone older to you or someone who commands respect. The latter is either someone younger or someone who really doesn’t deserve any respect.

We tambrahms use ‘avan‘ pretty liberally. We use it on anyone who’s outside the immediate circle of family & friends. It could be a politician, actor, sportsman or a even friend of a friend. But we don’t use this in public so we don’t offend the other tamils’ sensibilities. This receptionist, in all his innocence did not know the difference. Hence he called the Doctor – the presiding deity of the room, whose presence was patiently awaited by 40 patients and in all probabilities was providing him with his bread and butter – avan.


  1. Gradwolf said,

    January 6, 2010 at 10:44 am

    lol awesome title for the post!

    🙂 thanx!

  2. Praveen said,

    January 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Sorry, donno what I am missing here, but how did you know he was a Tambrahm…brahm rather. I thought most brams will know when to use “avan” (be it resident Madrasi or other state).

    i knew it when he spoke tamil with a pure brahm accent! like ‘Ukkanthindrikkan’, for instance! 🙂

  3. deethi said,

    January 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    that would also be me.I am married to a tamilian and whenever I my in laws i tend to make words sound like the guy you mentioned. for e.g i looked at my patti in law one day and said “enna di,apidi irkum nee and then even before she responded i said.”podi poyi coffee vangu”.

    hahahah!!! lol!!! 😀 that was even better than that guy!!!

  4. Biswa said,

    January 7, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Me, I detect Tam-Brahms by their English. They have the best English in the land (aside from us Bengalis of course 🙂 ).

    But when in doubt, I just double check their math. Pretty much any TamBrahm worth his/her thayyir saadam can solve a quadratic equation in their head.

    hehehe.. then, i guess i’m a major exception to the rule! even simple multiplication gives me a minor heart attack!!!

  5. Divya said,

    January 7, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    i think the tam-brams who with the palakkad origins are worse in the ‘avan’ ‘avar’ area. We even refer to gods as ‘avan’! nice post

    😀 thanx!

  6. maami said,

    January 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm


    kandippa not ‘unnai pol oruvan!’

  7. maxdavinci said,

    January 9, 2010 at 3:08 am

    aye whoyitees telling wrong wrong things about the plkkds?

    we are the epitome of tambramness

    😀 hehe

  8. buddy said,

    January 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    apt title

    i have been known to use ‘adhu’ at times 😛


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: