The opinion of ‘other’ people were the most important guidelines my mother used when she raised us. We were not allowed to do anything that gave “others” a chance to disparage us.
We had to study and get good marks, if not we were told that vallorum kurakkum.
We had to wear itchy dresses with ugly frills, socks and ill fitting shoes and not to forget the gold chains on our neck ( which was secured to our dress with innumerable safety pins)..kochintey thala poyalum vendiyilla, vallorum kurakkathirunnal mathi ( between the chance of the child getting decapitated and ‘others’ thinking that we have no gold therefor their opinion of us might suffer, Amma picked the former)
When we visited friends/relatives, we were only allowed to take small nibbles of the food offered even if we were starving because Amma didn’t want the ‘others’ to think that we had no food at home. ( And the opinion/impression of the ‘others’ mattered much more than our empty stomach)
I never understood the need to leave a bit of coffee/tea in the cup after we drank from it. It was good manners.
Even if I only got mottas (zero marks), I was warned in advance to say that I was the topper in my class when ‘others’ asked.
My mother wrote my compositions, my speech and my cousin, the painter drew all the things that had to be drawn in the botany record book. ( actually, to this day, I have no idea what was actually drawn in my book. Amma dealt with all that. My job was to submit it on time).
Amma told me what I must draw and paint for the annual painting competition held at the Kottayam YMCA and then she used to get all mad when I didn’t win and told me how useless I am, because I couldn’t even follow her ‘winning ideas’ and win the competition. If someone we knew won, then all hell will break lose at home and then Amma would resort to various spying technics to find out where the winner went for painting lessons..In between all these, she would accuse the winner, for he/she has no talent and won because they knew the judge.
The crux of the matter was, you could never do anything that was slightly off the norm. At the same time, we had to be better in everything we do. We had to confirm to this imaginary high standards set by the great mallu society. In truth, Mallu parents created clones. If the neighbour’s child got more marks, then they send their child to the same tuition center where the other child went..It was a constant battle to create equality at the same time being the best. ( Do I make any sense?)
This was a Birthday party invitation Yaya received.
I would have never been allowed to write something like this, let alone print it on ordinary paper.
But don’t you agree, the inviation was really awesome? Doesn’t it show the individuality and the creativity in the child who wrote it?