Wednesday, April 29, 2009


'Kollai' in Palagattan, being discussed here, is distinctly different from the Tamizh 'Kolai' (which means murder) and the Malayalam 'kolay' (which means a sheaf of coconut palm or bunch of bananas).

'Kollai' in Palagattan means the back area of a house. It is the area that traditionally housed the dishwashing area, the well, the washing stone (on which clothes were beaten to pulp to make them come clean!), the bathroom and the toilets (squatting, Indian style).

So, if you wanted a rat trap (the wooden trap cage of yore, remember?) and asked someone in the household, you would be told, 'kollaila irrukku'. "It is in the back of the house".

However, for reasons best known to long lost Palagattans, 'Kollai' soon assumed a connotation and context that it could not get rid off. Which is, when someone went to the back of the house to use the toilet, the factual Palagattan statement was 'kollaiku poyirkkan'. Which is, "he has gone to the back of the house", almost covering up the 'mission' and clothing it in a euphemism such as 'back of the house'.

But, both bad intent and unjustified euphemisms can never stay suppressed for too long. Hence over a period of time, 'kollai' came to refer to the act of doing the 'Big Dump', the 'Big Job' or 'passing stools' (sic!).

But unfortunately, 'kollai' as the back of the house and 'kollai' as an act have both lost relevance in a modern day context. This blog wants Palagattan readers to try using this really loaded word whenever referring to the wash areas of their homes or substitute the rather stylish 'he's in the loo!' with 'kollaiku poyirkkan'! Cool?

Monday, April 27, 2009


'Pandaram' (pronounced pundarum) is not an expletive though it sounds periliously close to one.

'Pandaram' is Palagattan for moron.

Usually used in utter exasperation to condemn someone who's behavior has been outrageously silly or comically destructive. If someone added more salt than was necessary in 'molagootal' a Palagattan would remark 'Pandaram, Keduthutaan' (Moron, he messed it up). Or if someone did not show up for a movie on time and she had the tickets, the family waiting impatiently is prone to conclude 'Seriyana Pandarum akkum' ('an absolutely perfect moron!'__if there was ever an oxymoron like that!!!).

When a Palagattan is really, really angry with the moron in question, the disgust is, at times, emphasized thus: 'Pandaram! Chavutuven!!!' [Moron I will stamp (sic!) you!!]. Here the word 'Chavutuven' is Palagattan for 'kick your arse'. The Tamizh word is 'medhipen' as far as the purists are concerned or 'othaipen' when speaking colloquially. As you can see, 'Chavutuven' adds a dramatic effect to 'Pandaram' and reflects a poetic justice, at least in thought and word, being meted out to the perpetrator of silliness.

As an avid Tintin fan, especially idolizing Captain Haddock, I am reasonably sure Herge had Palagattan links. Because it is the 'Pandaram Chavutuven' impact that one senses when the livid Captain cuts loose and often exclaims 'Bashibazouks!' whenever he is a victim of a wicked design.

Curiously, 'Pandaram' is never used for serious offenders like those who indulge in betrayal or embezzlement or theft. Perhaps, the Palagattan premise is that morons can harm but cannot be serious!!!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Disclaimer: 'Chanachoranai' is not a Palagattan obscenity, though it sounds obscenely like one!!!

'Chanachoranai' is Palagattan for a kitchen mop cloth.

In the good old days, most Palagattans, like other races or clans in the subcontinent, used to eat seated on the ground in their kitchens. Most kitchen floors were just cement surfaces or at best coated with red-oxide. And families, in the absence of 'Easy-Off Bang' or 'Wipe Clean' or 'Savlon' used small quantities of cow dung (called 'chanam' in Palagattan and a common disinfectant/antiseptic) to disinfect the kitchen floor. 'Chanachoranai', therefore, was a kitchen mop cloth that wiped the 'chanam'-(cow dung)-tinged kitchen floor.

Those were days of the License Raj and 'Liberalization' was unheard of. Palagattans, like most other clans and communities, were by and large leading an existence plagued with scarcity thinking. So, men's undergarments__like banians or underwears__after they had worn out, were recycled as 'chanachoranai' in the kitchen. After a few uses, these 'truly makeshift, stopgap' mop cloths, were further worn out. And had more holes than cloth in them. But families went on using them until a generous or adventurous (depends on how you looked at it) male member of the family volunteered to part with his next wornout undergarment. Resultantly, a 'chanachoranai' in a Palagattan family was the most used, abused, recycled and stinking piece of fabric you could ever find.

These days, the 'chanachoranai' has almost become extinct. Modern day floor cleaners and disinfectants, elevated (on to dining tables) eating habits and simple, mop cloths available even in the neighborhood kirana stores for under Rs.5.00 a piece, have caused this exquisite aspect of Palagattan culture to disappear.

This blog does not champion its return. It only reminds Palagattans of its once-upon-a-time existence. The author wonders, risking his popularity with the secret (female) followers of this blog, why Palagattan women were not as giving or adventurous as their men in offering their undergarments for such a noble 'clean-up' act!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

'Kushu Vitta Mathiri Irrukku!'

'Kushu' is Tamizh for fart.

But 'Kushu Vitta Mathiri Irrukku' is Palagattan for 'it is lousy or below par or mediocre'.

Tamizhs in general never use this phenomenally loaded phrase. When Tamizhs find something that doesn't meet their expectations or is losuy, they are normally wont to declaring, "Moonji Mathiri Irrukku' which literally means 'it is like (your) face'. I guess both phrases are crude, silly and pervertedly acerbic in their own way. But the Palagattan phraseology is more dignified. Because by referring to a lousy act, event or object and comparing it to someone's face is outright rude and insulting. Whereas comparing such a lousy act, event or object to fart (can be anyone's not necessarily to one of the conversationalists') is very dignified, neutral and never humiliating. A principal reason for my conclusion is that fart always connotes something 'eek', 'stinky', 'smelly' and 'avoidable'. Whereas, 'moonji' or face always refers to something desirable.

When Palagattan people come out of a movie (like Kamal Hassan's 'Dasavatharam' or RGV's 'Aag') they are prone to saying 'Kushu Vitta Mathiri Irrukku'. Or they may say that after polishing off all 'bajjis' and 'sojjis' (snacks) at an engagement ceremony. They even use this unceremonious phrase to review a music concert by an upstart singer or to rate someone's new house, whose 'gruhapravesham' they may have just attended.

My father used to freely say 'Kushu Vitta Mathiri Irrukku' after seeing my progress (or the lack of it!) reports when I was in school. He used the phrase particularly in the context of my Math scores. They really used to stink!

But the usage of this phrase is losing prominence in a world where most Palagattans are turning yuppie. So, 'It's like SHIT' or 'Tis' YUK' or 'It SUCKS', and more abrasive, but less pungent, phrases, have consigned this profound phrase to the history bin. This blog and its author have no intent to revive its usage. But its poetic construct and its inimitable impact is what is worth celebrating.

Perhaps, 'Kushu Vitta Mathiri Irrukku' can now be KVMI. In an SMS era, the next gen of Palagattans may find KVMI less stinky and less perverted to use. (And, besides, those unfamiliar with the Palagattan mind, may even regard KVMI to be the next KJo movie!) What an IDEA, Saar? 'Bheiysh, Bheiysh, romba nanna irrukku!'

Friday, April 24, 2009

Of 'Chattuvams', 'Aapais' and 'Praanthus'

The 'chattuvam' is a muti-purpose utensil in a Palagattan home. It is a device with which you can turn a 'doshai' or an 'ommlette' (shiva shiva!!) or even a 'chapatti' so that they cook well. You can also use it to serve rice from a dish to your plate. The more enterpising Palagattans may also use it to scrape__and spoil__their sinks of stains. It has a flat, thin base normally, about the size of a child's palm and a long stem about half an arm's length. More innovative designers, next gen folks from Ratna Stores or Saravana Stores (leading vessel merchants), have made the docile 'chattuvam' come alive with designs ranging from the inside of a palm (with grooves) to one that resembles a flag or a kite.

An 'aapai' on the other hand is another serving utensil but has a round, cup-like base with which you serve any liquid__like 'rasam', 'sambar', the famous 'molagootal', buttermilk, curd and such.

All Palagattan homes have these two devices, if I may call them. And there is no noise about them.

The issue comes when a Palagattan marries a non-Palagattan. And any reference to 'chattuvams' and 'aapai' by the Palagattan among them leads the other to laugh, giggle, mimic and at times, pass a sarcastic remark. In non-Palagattan Tam Bram families, both forms of this utensil are called 'karandis'. So you use a 'karandi' for turning a 'dosai' (notice the missing 'h') and you use a 'karandi' (with the cup-like base) for serving 'sambar'.

Most self-respecting, in fact all, Palagattans don't quite relish such rib-tickling. In fact, they go red, they see red and they tell their soulmate-turned-momentary-foe what's on their mind. And invariably, they conclude that their spouse is a 'praanthu'. 'Praanthu' is Palagattan for mad or loony. In Chennai Tamizh, they say 'cracku' or 'loosu' (sic!). In Tamizh they call such people 'payithiyam'. But 'Praanthu' is chaste Palagattan.

''Ooooh! Onga aathule karandi na, athayye vechuchukonggo na. Praanthu akkum ellarum. 'Chattuvam' verai, 'Aapai' verai. Eppidi rendum 'Karandi' agum? Praanthu..." is an invariable response from a livid Palagattan at such times or moments.

Be sure, the debate will continue. But I guess there needs to be a new post for 'aam', 'aathule' and the Palagattan 'Oooooh!'.

Coming soon. Don't go away!!!!

The Life, the Times and Resurgence of the First Palagattan

The first Palagattan, according to various records available with some families in Palakkad, to settle in Palakkad, was a man called 'Vilvam' Sheshappa Iyer. The date on the land records is of October 5, 1484 A.D. This is the date when a small plot of land (with an area of about 3000 sq ft) was transferred in Sheshappa Iyer's name in a small 'kukgramam' called Noorani. This piece of land was barren, as was most of Noorani, at the time of purchase and had just one 'Vilva' ('Bel' in Hindi) tree. Hence Sheshappa Iyer got the nickname 'Vilvam' prefixed to his own given name. To this day, the tree stands at the corner of New Street in Noorani, just outside the Sastha Temple.

As Sheshappa Iyer settled down with his wife Rajalakshmi Ammal, little did he know that his 'kukgramam', his grandson in particular, and several thousands of great, great grandchildren will go on to make him and his humble origins memorable. So much so, that more that 525 years later, a blog has now appeared to celebrate his legacy. It is a world-famous blog, befitting a world-famous clan__Palagattans__and is called

This Mrs. & Mr.Iyer had 13 children. Two of them died at child birth. And of the 11 remaining, 10 decided to procreate__a process of sleeping, eating and reproducing__while the 11th, a boy, 'Vilvam' Sheshappa Pathmanapha Iyer, decided to puruse education at the local Hindu College. The young boy completed his Matric equivalent and eloped (blasphemously) with a girl who was visiting India from a faraway land called England__possibly on a pilot mission to study which was the best location for East India Company to set up a small 'potti kadai'.

Not much details are available of this story after Pathmanaphan eloped with his lady love. The Sheshappa Iyer family, in the absence of such bare necessities like Facebook in those days, could not locate there boy or their 'vellakari' daughter-in-law. And, in fact, giving in to popular rumor, they considered that their son and his lady had perished in trying to violate a basic norm of Palagattan existence which was never to cross the 'ezhu kadal' (seven seas).

Unconfirmed reports though suggest that in the records of a local prepartory school in the Warwickshire county of Stratford-Upon-Avon, the original entry for admission of a child, by the name William Shakespeare (1564 A.D to 1616 A.D), is purported to have read as 'Vilvam' Sheshappa Iyer. Palagattans of all shapes and sizes and domiciles believe that this act of suppressing the origins of the Bard of Avon was a sinister and cheap ploy of the Raj to deny the First Palagattan's family a place in the sun. In any case, thanks, mercifully, to the glorious Palagattan custom to name grandchildren after grandparents, and because names like 'Vilvam' Sheshappa Iyer and William Shakespeare are both uncommon and unputdownable, this blog has let the truth be told.

In any case, what was Noorani's loss has been, historically, Stratford-Upon-Avon's gain.

And the enigmas of the lesser-known Palagattans and the Bard of Avon endure. Only to be told today on the best blog for Palagattans to be.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


'Thorthamundu' or 'Thorthu' for short, is a thin, white cotton towel, which has amazing drying and soaking properties. This is a Palagattan's must-have asset for good, clean, hygienic living.

While the 'Turkey' towel is thick and comes in multiple colors and textures, the original 'Thorthu' is just the same. Over years. Across generations. The only innovations, if you can call them, have been the 'karais' or the borders that may come as streaks of color (like a crayon stroke) or as a small flag-like insignia or just a simple, straight lined, single colored border. Since all 'Thorthus' looked alike, for reasons of personal hygiene, members of large Palagattan families, distinguished their 'Thorthus' from those of others in the family, with the 'karais'. Penny-wise, pound-foolish Palagattans who applied oil on their hair, used the 'Thorthu' inventively, on pillows that already had pillow covers, under an illusion that the cost of changing and washing a pillow cover weekly (to remove oil stains) was more than ridding a 'Thorthu' of them daily. In fact, having observed both my grandfather's and grandmother's usage of the 'Thorthu' secretively, I don't think they ever washed it. By using it, drying it, and re-using it, I think, they thought, they were washing it.

Senior Palagattans, at least those over 50, used the thin 'Thorthus' to clear their noses. It was the Palagattan equivalent of the Great Indian Rope Trick. You took your 'Thorthu', twisted its thin end to become a soft, straight 'device' that you inserted into your nostril, and the soft thread at the tip would tickle you no end. And then, achoo, you sneezed. Repeating this action just five times, daily, kept common colds and 'jaladosham' (should be a separate post!) away. That your horrific sneezing bout would scare cats in the neighborhood and ruin a fellow Palagattan's siesta or even mid-afternoon moment of 'love-making' was never seriously seen poor etiquette.

In fact, Palagattans and etiquette were and continue to remain estranged.

But all this critique and celebration of the humble 'Thorthu' hasn't even remotely affected its demand. My brother-in-law who lives in Pune, invested serious business hours last month in pursuit of picking up the perfect 'Thorthu' for his wife from Mylapore when he was on a day-trip to Chennai. My wife and daughter, both, continue to use a 'Thorthu' for drying their hair.

In fact, Tamizh heroines, at the behest of their directors, in Kollywood cinema, have plagiriazed the utility, look and feel of Palagattan women using the 'Thorthu' as an inexpensive and light device to hold their wet hair till they finish their pujas/cooking schedules.

But the most significant imitation in recent times, which has sadly gone unnoticed, and so this blog takes pride and credit for reporting this fact, has been Ranbir Kapoor's much talked about blue towel scene in the box-office failure 'Saawariya'. Those who thought Sanjay Leela Bhansali's idea of the towel as a seductive prop and those that admired Ranbir's guts to do the scene, must see any self-respecting Palagattan emerging from the bath. The 'Thorthu' at that moment will appear to be insufficient to hide anything that it remotely purports to. In fact, at those times, I have always felt Palagattans__of either sex and of all shapes and sizes__were being deliberately promiscuous. With limited or no success!

Disclaimer: Since this is a blog on Palagattans, we will respectfully abstain from discussing the usage of the 'Thorthu' by Malayalis, especially, the women. Any dissatisfaction caused to readers of this blog by this abstinence is deeply regretted and purely unintentional.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Palagattan's Confusion: Resolved

One of the true blueblood (non-resident) Palagattans we know who is holding the Palagattan flag high in Austin, TX, wrote me a query in response to this outstanding, provocative blog. She wanted to know what was the difference between 'Molaguttal' and 'Poricha (Poritha) Kozhambu'. She conceded that she was often confused between the two. And perhaps used one to describe the other.

Well, the answer is simple. They are as different as chalk and cheese. Or Royal Challenge whisky and McDowell's No. 1 whisky.

'Molaguttal' is Palagattan. 'Poricha Kozhambu' is Thanjavur Tam Bram cuisine. The latter contains asafoetida (peringayam), dry dhaniya tamarind (puli) which are spoilers as far as 'Molaguttal' is concerned.

Besides, 'Molaguttal' is classy, aristocratic dish while and 'PK' is just another gruel.

Hail 'Molaguttal'.

Bheiysh, Bheiysh.....

Uslimani is a famous, rotund, Tamizh comedian. He is credited with making the Palagattan usage of the phrase 'Bheiysh Bheiysh...' popular. And this happened through a phenomenally successful, yet simple, TV commercial for Narasu's Coffee.

'Bheiysh Bheiysh...' is Palagattan for 'Awesome', 'Exemplary', 'Outstanding'. The context in which Palagattans normally use it is when they are appreciating someone's culinary efforts. After a sumptuous meal, a true blueblood Palagattan is and must wont to say, "Bheiysh, Bheiysh...rombha nanna irunthathu".

In my opinion and experience, though the 'Bheiysh Bheiysh' usage is applicable and possible in other contexts, no Palagattan is even remotely adventurous with it. For example, I don't think Palagattan men ever use this phrase after making love!!!

Those who love good coffee and those who are Palagattan can still picture Uslimani with his pattai vibhuthi, thondhi, poonal and big expressive eyes, exclaiming, "Kaapi na Narasu's Kaapi thaan! Bheiysh, Bheiysh, rombha nanna irrukku".


My son loves this. And my wife makes this the best.

I love it too.

Don't ask me how it is made or what it contains. But ask me its significance in the lives of Palagattans and I can write reams about it.

For one, the true identity of a Palagattan family stems from the household's (I am assuming other husbands, unlike me, can cook) ability to make 'Molaguttal'. In fact, if a household makes 'Molaguttal', good or bad is irrelevant, they gotta be Palagattans.

Marriages are decided__and presumably called off or even broken__on the ability to make/serve 'Molaguttal'. My wife's only worldly advice to our now 19-year-old son is, "Marry whoever you want, even an eskimo, but make sure she makes 'Molaguttal'". So, in effect, if Palakkad Tamizhs had a country called Palagattan, and President Obama and Michelle came on a State visit, the humble 'Molaguttal' would be their First Serving.

On a bed of fresh, fluffy, white rice, with some 'Thogaiyal' and 'Appalam' for company, and some 'Manga Curry' to add sex appeal, the 'Molaguttal' takes Sunday meal times to a new high! Purists will swear that the 'Molaguttal' shall not be made without adding coconut, but health conscious diabetics like me differ. It is not the coconut that elevates the 'Molaguttal' but it is the 'Molaguttal' that allows the coconut an opportunity. Or simply, coconut-less 'Molaguttal' has all is properties intact.

This Sunday, if you have not had 'Molaguttal' in a long time, 'request' for it to be made at home. And if you are not a Palagattan, phone the one in the neighborhood and invite yourself over. And if you live away from home and from Palagattans__for whatever reasons__salivate.


Friday, April 17, 2009

The meaning of Palagattan

The acerbic and combative former Chief Election Commissioner, the venerable and revered Shri.T.N.Seshan is once famously believed to have remarked, "Palagattans are Cooks, Crooks, Musicians and Geniuses." The reference to Palagattan from that rather aggressive confession, coming from a fellow Palagattan, leads us to conclude that Palagattan as a word, a concept, an institution, refers to the quirky, murky, clumsy world of Tamzih Brahmins who have origins in Palakkad, Kerala.

That is only a geographical connection.

Lingusitically, Palagattans are a class apart. They are distinguished by their ability to use new, invented usages of common Tamizh phrases. Consider these:

1. 'Karandi' in Tamizh means ladle. In Palagattan Tamizh it is called 'Aapai'.
2. 'Orasinduirrukai' is Tamizh for rubbing against, in Palagattan Tamizh, they say, 'eishunduirrukkai' (which when transliterated means smeared against). So when two human beings 'rub against each other' (sic!) as in Kamal's movie MMKR, the average Tamilian will view it as 'they are orasinduirukka', while a Palagattan will consider it as 'eishunduirukka'. The context and interpretation change dramatically when you subsitute rub with smear!!! Try it.
3. 'Sapittengala' is Tamizh for 'Have you eaten?' 'Chapteya?' is Palagattan.

This blog is dedicated to discovering and celebrating Palagattan Tamizh. Long live Tamizh. Long live Palagattan.

Disclaimer: This blog is open to all Palagattans and non-Palagattans and does not purport to be a mouthpiece for the already much confused Tamizh/Palagattan Brahmin community. Any such interpretation or conclusion is perilous and injurious to the reader's spiritual health!!