Tam Brahm, Thank you Ma’am by Prathyusha


Toastmasters Project 5 Speech : Your Body Speaks

Speech Title : Tam Brahm, Thank you Ma'am


Prathyusha Narayanan


Before I start this speech, none of the ideas expressed here are meant to demean or mock the Tam Brahm community. A proud Tam Brahm myself, everything I say is aimed at giving you a sneak peak into my clan, in a fun way.

How many of you'll know of Tam Brahms? Tamil Brahmins or Tam Brahms, are well, Tamilians with our own peculiar little niche. The peculiar aspect of being us, comes from a number of attributes that are probably earned prejudices of being born as a tam brahm. 

There are two broad categories of Tam Brahms; the Vishnu followers or Iyengars and the Shiva worshippers or Iyers.  And across both of these categories, we typically love math, filter kaapi and firmly believe in the power of curd-rice. 

We are expected to follow a ‘pure’ vegetarian diet. Dosa and idly are important characters in the story of our lives.
Alcohol and other intoxicants are officially taboo, so we have spent several generations guzzling gallons of Horlicks and Boost apart from Kaapi of course. And we ideally do not sip any liquid directly from the glass it comes in. Pour the liquid straight into ones mouth and mind you, there will certainly be no slip between the cup and the lip.

The newer generations in most cases don't quite follow these rules and that makes for the older generation to say 'Abhishtooo' meaning someone with no sense. 

Our English grammar we believe is perfect and our vocabulary extensive, there are also certain big sounding words that we love to sprinkle in our conversation. And to demonstrate our linguistic skills, we repeat every sentence uttered in Tamil again in English. Helps in our own understanding even if it doesn't help those around us:)
As for our Tamil, we speak an unconventional dialect of Tamil. This also includes a sing-song way of speaking, words that will be understood only by us and also a few words that can potentially nullify every other word uttered. Know how we say 'U wish'?? Ashai Doshai Appalam Vadai. Some instances from the Palakkad Iyer lingo which qualify as strong contenders here are (Eh-eh to dismiss something / Emmm when you wanna ask someone who has come home for the purpose of their visit). 

With being born a tam-brahm, come mornings that start off with M.S.Subbalakshmi's rendition of the Suprabhatam as an alarm, with the waft of strong and fresh filter kaapi to kick sleep out of you. Step out of your threshold to find the days copy of The Hindu alongside a kolam or a rangoli.  If any Tam Brahm family has ever made the bigg move of subscribing to any newspaper apart from the Hindu, rest be assured that it has gone through numerous iterations of discussions, fights and finally compromise by the head of the family. 'This generation', I'm sure would have been one of the driving factors.

Children in most cases learn slokas like the Gayathri mantra/Guru Brahma before learning their nursery rhymes. And once they start schooling, comes one question they find themselves answering numerous times through their entire education, especially when ever they meet a fellow tam brahm uncle/aunty – 
How much did you score in Maths in the last exam??? , remember, we love Math – everyone is 'Little Ramanujam'. And science comes a close second…so now you know what the next question will be:)
And if the course he/she is doing does not have math? How much did you score?? is still a question we love.

Along with this comes the talent of being good carnatic singers for surprisingly most Tam Brahms are blessed with a beautiful voice. It's almost like – slit open the throat of Tam Brahms around you and you'll find Sa Re Ga Ma pa engraved on most of their vocal chords. Those insignificant pieces of matter whose vocal chords aren't engraved, like me, manage to learn the lyrics of atleast 1 keerthanam and lip sync the song when everyone in the group sings. 

There is almost a cosmic connection between Tam Brahms and places abroad – specifically Uncle Sam: Every Tam Brahm has atleast one cousin who is US with a brilliant academic record – 10+2+IIT+US with Masters/MBA. The one who has created enough havoc in your life through every year of school and college. 

Tam Brahm weddings apart from the wonderful customs is also one place where our tech savvy aunties and uncles ensure they don't leave any stone in finding a groom/bride for the next one in line. Along with it comes moments where you are stuck when your father's cousin's sister's husband's brothers sisters son, asks you if you know who he is. Enna theriyuma?? meaning do you know me? is one dreaded question we would have certainly faced atleast once.

There will also be aunties and uncles sharing details of their travels abroad along with pictures of the uncles in shorts and aunties in salwars/jeans. A day's travel is generally with a picnic basket complete with idly n molagapodi and curd rice. Need I mention the ones who pride on their very sensitive tastebuds and who have an opinion on how good the food is. Brahmana Bhojana Priya applies to us 100%.

I read somewhere that Tam Brahms are like computer processors – constantly ticking and processing 24 hours a day. Hence, the name i-Pod, i-Phone, i-Yer and i-Yengar.
In fact, we take pride in gathering as much information as possible about everything. Many a times we read information about everything mentioned in medical reports on google, to tell the doctors how the medical report should be interpreted. 

Some pretty famous Tam Brams have graced the earth. Sir CV Raman, Vishwanathan Anand, TN Seshan come as no surprise. We also have produced some pretty formidable sportsmen like Krishnamachari Srikanth who have fought the shackles of a steak-less diet and put us on the map. Jayalalitha is unforgettable and Mani Ratnam is our stellar contribution to the tinsel world. And how can I not mention Sundar Pichai.

Quoting Quick Gun Murugan, We are like this wonly!! 
We love our culture, our heritage and we take pride in them and try to uphold each one of them as much as we can. Anywhere we go, even if we have an anglicised version of our name as our identity, the Tam Brahm within us does not die down. Even if we do not conform to the characteristics mentioned above completely, we try our best to cling onto as much of it as possible. 

As I continue to stay clam and be a Tam Brahm, if any of you do spot anyone with the characteristics I mentioned, do stop by and enquire about them. Say "Enna, Soukyama??" " 😀


Prathyusha Narayanan is a member of IBC Titans Toastmasters

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