(The fantastic image used here was graciously provided by the awesome artist, Rangeen Makhee.)
On the first day of Onam my true love gave to me, a green and purple striped lungi!
Happy Onam ladies and queer brothers. I consider this to be an inclusive sort of festival for queer people. You will see vibrant shades of food on the banana leaf; white olan, brown elishery, yellow mango curry, red achaar, green upperi. Everything is so colourful! How can we not be rainbow friendly? Kerala is where every legitimate male comedian has had a tryst with drag, and some are known by their female alter egos. So this must be a place where trans* folk are cut some slack right? In the same vein of blindingly sunshiney optimism, I imagine I stand a good chance at being the first openly LGBT politician from Kerala.
There are some rumours floating around about Malayalis so let me bust them right now. Who says we are conservative? Two words: Idukki Gold(the weed, not the movie). We do not hate North Indians nor Hindi, although we may practice throwing darts on Akshay Kumar posters, but that should be a pan-Indian tradition, amirite? Three words: Tees Maar Khan. There is another poisonous one doing the rounds that all Mallu men are horny. Female erasure much? All Mallu men and women are horny. I don’t even protest too much when I’m dragged to temples. Waiting in those long lines, while you see beads of sweat trickling down shapely brown backs. Just kidding, just kidding… Still, those women with white saris and golden borders, long plaited hair that teasingly end at the small of their backs and big kohl-lined eyes, or the men with the ‘tache and white mundu- damn…
To that sistah from my hostel who casually commented about how I don’t speak English like a Malayali, and who was consequently subjected to three pages of “Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban” read out in wonderful Lola kutty-style: Happy Onam! *insert trite proverb about bygones as appropriate*
The “motherland connect” is why we get excited when we meet Malayalis outside Kerala, and we excitedly start conversing in Malayalam, enquiring about where the other person is from. Look around close by; if there is a non Malayali around, he is surely lying bleeding on the ground from beating his head against the wall with repeated requests for translation and then just giving up.
Some handy tips to discern the real Mallus from the fraud ones:
Real Malayali parents think that the best solution for every problem in the world is hard work, discipline and intense prayer. There is no person from Kerala who can claim dislike for Michael Jackson and is unable to sing “Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein” at any party. The Big, Fat, Malayali Wedding is the best place for a robbery; the gold from the bride’s neck alone would easily pay for three world tours. The fraud ones may convince you with their act; speak the language, dress the part and even sing Malayali songs. They may conjure pretty images of the pastoral with talk usually involving the fields, temple ponds and growing up around cows with names like Bhanu and Sheela. They may even know every single line of dialogue of every single Mohanlal movie from the ‘90s, but be warned. This is the most important aspect about being a Malayali; if you don’t have any direct or even distant relatives settled in the Gulf, you do not qualify as a true Malayali. No, no, end of discussion.
Snark apart, I don’t know if many people know that the Kochin Pride Parade was held over a month ago. Even a cynic like me could note that this is quite unlike any other celebration of minority identity. Stakes are high and opposition is harsh, but they marched anyways. For sure, the words queer, pride and Malayali can be strung together in the same sentence. To quote my friend, “We shall overcome someday, maybe after a bottle of kallu*.” Till then, keep the toddy flowing.
*Kallu= meaning the good ol’ toddy my friend!