Standard 10 questions you get before you leave on a long trip. To qualify for these questions, you have to be South Indian and married. Most of these questions are posed by South Indian Mamis. They are an interesting lot from Madras, sporting 9 stone diamond nose rings, bright sarees with gold borders and jasmine flowers. Their biggest recreation is matchmaking for their neighbours grand daughters, cooking home made snacks and visiting the nearest temple. With any spare time and a topic such as ‘Chennai girl leaving her husband to go on a 7 month holiday’, they are highly capable of coming up with the following questions –
1. Oh a 7 month break – You are having a baby aren’t you? (after spending an hour explaining to them about your trip, you may still get this question cause anything with months in it has to do with having a baby)
2. Your husband is not going with you. Will he still be in the same house when you are gone? (Polite way of asking if everything in your marriage is ok)
3. You are going to Latin America. Then, won’t you be visiting California and Niagra falls? (they only catch the America bit.. leaving the Latin out)
4. A 7 month trip costs a lot of money. Oho…. but, your husband works for a bank doesn’t he? (People always assume that your husband is paying for everything)
5. What will you eat over there? Can we pack some Pulikachal and Kothamaalli chutney. (tamarind paste and coriander chutney) Naakusethu poyidum illaya (Your tongue would die otherwise.. translated literally). This is actually one thing I may carry. Coming to think of it, I was dying for Indian food after 25 days in Europe. 7 months, I may most definitely die.
6. I hope you wear your little diamond earings. Makes you look like a nice Indian girl. (Mugging is not a word in their dictionary).
7. Your company has been so wonderful that they are giving you such long leave. You must be a star performer there. So, will you join them at a higher level? (Concept of career breaks don’t exist. And the people asking these questions are definitely far removed from corporate reality)
8. You will keep calling all of us won’t you? (Most south Indians have 1/3rd of their family in the US and the US techie variety spends a lot of money calling their folks – This is the benchmark. With a shoestring budget, I doubt mobile calls to India are possible. I guess Ill have to wait and watch)
9. You are too thin already. You should put on more weight when you travel. (I am not thin by any standard. But, to a South Indian aunty, I always look thin).
10. Pack panniyacha? (Have you packed). Yenna, naa solradhalam marundhudathe (Don’t forget the stuff I am gonna mention). Apart from the regular stuff – Coffee filter (only the 2 piece south Indian one), 2 Thundu towel (light towels for your hair), Chinna kathi (Small knife to cut fruits), Molaga podi (Gun powder to have with food), Crochet needle (If you are bored, you can crochet), Tiffin box (To pack food from restaurants), Mini Iron (Phew imagine ironing out my dirty t shirts)…… more .. more… more… Throw baggage limits, baggage rules out of the window. The South Indian Mami’s pack to shift homes, not go on backpacking trips.
Questions apart, a meeting with a South Indian Mami before your travel can really put many things into perspective. Some of the questions do help you reflect on your life, entertain you, make you burn with rage, make you laugh…. it’s a Chennai experience you should not miss).