The recently concluded festival of Onam led me to reflect on a unique species of Indians – the Malayali male. Being one myself, I believe I bear a special bond with fellow Malayali men, and can speak with some authority on their distinctiveness and inevitable eccentricities. Please note that I use the word Malayali and not the derogatory “Mallu”, which is more of a convenient invention by non-Malayalees, who are either too lazy to speak the whole word out, or (most likely) embarrassed at their own mispronunciation of the word. The special treatment accorded to the “L” and the emphasis in “M”, in the palindrome is singular not just to this word but to the Malayalam language in general.

A Malayali male has been traditionally pictured as a swarthy guy, with coconut oil dripping from his thick curly locks, with a ridiculously over-sized moustache, garishly gaudy clothes adorning his portly body mass, speaking English (or Hindi) in an accent, which by itself could give birth to a whole new patois. Fortunately this is not the case anymore. The modern Malayali male is reasonably well-groomed, can be sartorially savvy and in most cases can speak with the least bit of accent, but alas the love affair with facial hair remains. I am yet to fathom the obsession that many Malayali men have with a moustache, even when its visibility is scarcer than the hits given by Tushar Kapoor. They groom and take pride in their hirsute upper lips as if their lives depended on it – the closest explanation that I have gleaned is that maybe it acts as a gatekeeper and filters food for them.

If curiosity killed the cat, then that cat surely would be a Malayali. Curiosity is ingrained in the Malayali gene, and is remarkably not biased by gender. In fact, a Malayalee male is infinitely more curious than his female counterpart. When it comes to curiosity and inquisitiveness, a Malayali male can beat any own woman at the game. Get introduced to a Malayali and within a matter of few minutes he would know everything about your history, your great grandfather’s ancestral origins, your detailed family tree, your profession, your financial status, et al, in the course of a perfectly normal (to you) conversation. When two Malayali men meet, then this epic encounter has all the potential of being made into an engrossing spy thriller, with the two protagonists trying to outdo each other in squeezing out information, and that too without resorting to torture. Spooks and investigators all over the world can learn a thing or two on extracting information from these Malayali colloquial gems.

A Malayali male is actually a very active human being, till he is asked to do some constructive work. Don’t get me wrong, but he is very good at his job, but only when it suits him. The moment a Malayali male joins an organization, like his investigative work with fellow workers, he will gather all possible information on the company rules and his role in the organization. All this to help him to work better and make the organization a better place for… you guessed it right – himself. A Malayali male can also be an extremely jolly fellow, again, whenever convenient to him. And this also includes those rare occasions when there is no free-flowing liquor around. Somehow, the presence of alcohol greatly enhances a Malayali’s entertainment skills and takes it to levels that you would never have imagined existed in a sober Malayali. His artistic skills come to the fore and the art of dancing (along with singing) is heightened to such unprecedented levels that it would put a famed choreographer to shame. The dance moves are matchless and the delicate steps are an epitome of daintiness, reserved only for such extraordinarily inebriated occasions.

But jokes apart, a Malayali man is a very hard worker, especially when he is not based in Kerala. For proof, look no further than the shores of Dubai (or Thubai, where Malayalam is the unofficially accepted primary language), and you will find the legendary hard-working Malayali male. He is the one who toils in the unbearably harsh and exceedingly inhospitable conditions of that region, just to ensure that his family resides comfortably in his native land. This is limited to not just blue collar workers, but also to white-collar and of course all other collarless jobs. Regrettably, within his own state the wiles of politics, distracts our man from finding time to do anything closely resembling work. Undoubtedly, dissecting, analysing and discussing national politics in general and Kerala politics in particular is the global pastime of a Malayali male. And when it comes to argumentative discussions on politics, a Malayali can put our parliamentarians to shame by verbally outdoing anyone who has opposing political views, with alarmingly screeching squabbles. Lamentably, Kerala also remains the only other state (along with West Bengal) where trade unionism is given more precedence over humanism.

But make no mistake, that when push comes to shove, a Malayali male can be a valuable friend. His preparedness, loquaciousness and belligerent skills in presenting facts vocally (and physically when needed) would be an asset in any kind of “misunderstandings”. If nothing, just the sheer ability to deliberate and debate will naturally tire the opponent out! Even as an employee, he can be an invaluable resource in terms of his ability to work hard and help people around (himself included) and a Malayali male’s partying skills have already been enumerated above. Overall not a bad guy to hang around with, but one who comes with a genetically in-built “handle with care” warning tag.

Of course, just as in life, there are exceptions to the above-mentioned character traits, and most of my relatives and Malayali friends are going to bad-mouth me for generalising. But I have always been of the opinion that your ability to laugh at yourself is a sure sign of maturity, and doing a bit of mental spring cleaning once in a while does not hurt. So enjoy reading this and maybe introspect too…


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