Malayalis find their accent mocked at ‘simbly’ because they do not find it ‘eassy’ to pronounce certain words, which is why Lola Kutty became a hit with her ‘zilk’ saris, ‘jaismin’ and her coconut offering at the end of every show!
The stereotype of the heavily accented Malayali simpleton with oiled hair has been done to death. But Malayalis educated outside Kerala or living abroad are not particularly amused, for they do not see themselves thus. A Malayali born and brought up outside Kerala turns out to be highly successful, erudite and respected all over the globe.
V.K. Krishna Menon, Defense Minister during Nehru’s reign.
Shashi Tharoor, a close contender for UN Secretary General, a well known novelist.
Kamala Das, controversial writer who converted to Islam.
K.R. Narayanan, Indian President who made all his country cousins proud.
The mellifluous Hariharan, who sings ghazals and film songs with élan.
Just a few names, but obviously there is something that sets Malayalis apart!
Malayalis in Kerala are poles apart from those abroad, the differences so marked that it is almost laughable!
A Malayali at home argues about issues that may not even concern him/her. S/he picks up a red flag and agitates, to fit in with the crowd. A Malayali abroad minds his/her own business, smiles away from issues and keeps his/her nose clean.
A Malayali in Kerala scoffs at English speakers, calling them show-offs, looking down upon English medium schools, which are ‘mummy-daddy’ schools to him/her. When abroad, s/he cultivates a decent accent, trying to fit in with people, making sure that his/her children too do their best to speak English well.
A Malayali back home does not lift a finger at home as he feels the woman should slave at home, while he sits back and gives orders. After all, his friends would sneer if he helped out, male chauvinists all the way. The moment he sets foot on foreign soil, he learns to clean, cook and even change nappies.
It is not surprising that Malayalis have been doing well for themselves outside, and maybe it is time for their counterparts back home to get rid of their ‘frog-in-the well’ attitudes and turn into men of the world instead!
What do you think makes the Malayali NRI so different from his/her kin back home in India? Is the Malayali NRI also a cliché? What can NRIs do to help change the attitude in their home states?