May 02, 2005

You shall hereby be known as...

I started writing something totally different and ended up writing this. I guess I just opted to focus on my silly instead of sane self. Ever noticed how there are some phrases, words that are conceived and concocted and passed on from one filial ear to another until it becomes established enough to transcend generations? I mean words that would mean nada to a stranger would evoke tear-filled laughter, pleasant memories and invite hours of conversation, all springing from this one silly phrase which inturn made its appearance into this world by the quick thinking of a witty mind. I pick a few choice phrases coined by my family at opportune moments, which we still inflict upon unsuspecting relatives and friends before bursting out into bouts of laughter, leaving everyone except a few enlightened souls bewildered...

  • கழுத்துல (read kazhuthula) powder: I vividly recall this aunty coming home to talk endlessly with my mom on matters of varying importance - the color of the saree that her sister-in-law wore to her neighbour's wedding reception, how her mother-in-law always added more sugar to her husband's coffee than her's, how our maid servant was infinitely better than her maid servant and how enchanting her new navaratna necklace looked on her! Anyway, that's besides the point, what made her stand out in a crowd was the fact that she always had clumps of talcum powder glistening in her sweaty neck all around the heavy necklaces she wore! As a kid, it was quite amusing for me to stare at her white neck in direct contrast to her dark complexion. It so happened that a few of my family members found this funny too and the fact that she touched her face often with her handkerchief and then fanned herself all the time but completely avoided the powder patches on her neck amused them as much as it delighted us! The poor lady remains "கழுத்துல powder" till today!

  • Blue Shirt: One of my dad's closest friends since childhood, he is a soft-spoken, shy but very resourceful person. Many years back, when my mom and dad were nothing but friends :), Mani mama would often hang out with both of them, sharing amusing stories, eating icecreams or just talking, my mom noticed that he always wore a blue shirt to all their get-togethers. She was just getting to know my dad's friends and would often forget their names, and it seemed convenient for her to refer to Mani mama as "Blue Shirt". The name amused my dad and he began to refer to Mani mama as "Blue Shirt" and to this day, Mani mama makes appearances in my parents' conversations as "Blue Shirt"!

  • Ramani: All of us at sometimes in our lives have dreaded visits from people who fall into the category of "Onnu vitta onnu vitta...vague-relation". One such unfortunate visitor to our house was Ramani mama. What was slightly irksome for a foppish teenager like me was the fact that he would never wear a shirt ever and he was not old enough to be categorized as a product of the previous generation, but he behaved like one. During our family get-togethers, he would eat with everyone else and would not bat an eyelid before leaving his plate as is and settling down to gossip with a few like-minded men, a bunch of vethalai, sunambu and pakku spread around him. I found it annoying that he would be laughing uproariously, sprinkling betel juice upon everyone, his flabby paunch moving up and down while the women-folk cleaned up after him. Somehow, the mildly disgusting scene stood in my head and today, any male member of the family who shows shades of Ramani mama is said to be a "Ramani" for us! The word actually became an adjective for us!

  • மொந்தம் பழம் (read mondam pazham): I have no idea what this word means, just that its a fruit of some sort, quite unappealing, I would assume. Many years back, when my dad still worked for his old Company (he has changed jobs thrice since and I can boldly reveal this info!), he had an annoying, worthless boss who would take credit for every little thing that my dad achieved. I don't recall the series of events that led to this name but it does have a nice ring to it, "மொந்தம் பழம்"! but that's what we now call all bosses in general who give us a hard time!

  • கோம்ப (read kombai) Krishnan, Gate, சகலகலா வள்ளி (read sakalakala valli), Wounded Soldiers are some of the more innovative ones, though one might wonder what faux pas these colorful people must have committed to be christened with these amusing appellations.

Did not mean to inflict such a length post on everyone, but as P put it, jotting down notes for posterity, since I don't completely trust my memory!


subramoni said...


Don;t we all have Ramani mama in some form or the other? :). I did not understand the last one as I can't read tamil. Care to translate? Thanks.

subramoni said...

Ramani mama in our households is what I meant

Anonymous said...

I assume u meant betel and not beetle although the latter would be far more disgusting. :)

RS said...

To Subramoni, sorry, my bad, edited my post as needed.

To anonymous: Correct assumption. Thanks. Any reason why this comment was anonymous? I am not that averse to criticisms or critics, you know :) ?

Anonymous said...

ramya, are you not worried that words would reach the particular person in the fast net world? anyway, the names and your way of explaining in detail its origin were quite amusing:). kudos to you!!!!.

dinesh said...

The kazhuthula powder mami cracked me up ! And the rest of the characters were funny too.

And just you know, the post didn't feel long at all ! I was confused why you were apologizing. :)


subramoni said...

Now it makes a lot more sense. My dad used to call some people that and I never understood what that meant. Never realized it was tamil. Thought it was malayalam :).

Zeppelin said...


very cute post... i have been feeling blue for a while now and although this sort of added to it... really enjoyed reading this one, made me remember lots of my childhood.. ;)

keep up the good work... like u mentioned for posterity's sake..

cheers !

RS said...

To anon, dinu, subramoni: Thanks :)

To phil: "and although this sort of added to it... "

I hope "I" and "Me" get out of the blue mood real soon :)

...and I decided to write also for posterity's sake, like you told me to!

Zeppelin said...


yes, I hope too... and thanks for the posterity thing... :)

cheers !

Anonymous said...

Ramya, very good ones... nice relief during the finals week...thought only my parents and I used to give funny titles to weird characters...we are not alone...:)
Do share more if you remember without being
concerned about the length of the blog.


RS said...

To KP - Thank you :)

rajesh said...

How come u never mentioned the names that got stuck from engg yrs?
not sure abt the gals..but guys usually had so many such funny generic names devised,to be used for the entire life...

RS said...

To Rajesh - I would need a whole new post to cover that arena, even my blog url is one such remnant (my unfortunate Bitsian nickname)!

RTD2 said...

My dad had a friend called "1.5" creatively, because he was cross-eyed, which, in Tamil is "Ondara-kannu"..Your post reminded me of that!

Prabu Karthik said...


Thanks for visiting my blog.

The latest version of 'mondham pazham' is 'vennai' i believe.

'vennai' can used to refer a person who is stupid and also to someone who thinks big of himself.

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