Thursday, September 07, 2006

Billetta Rani Vilikkunnu

Disclaimer: Non-Mallu readers please excusez moi as a good part of this post will only make sense to the Mallu speaking world though I am going to try to explain stuff here and there. I wrote this down orginally as an email to Anoop with almost all of the conversation in Mallu[1], but then Bill wanted to understand what was going on and I had to translate anyway, so figured might as well spread the joy to the entire world.

Title: The title of this post literally translates to "Billetta, Rani calling you". A rip off from a superhit Mallu movie from the 80s with Mohanlal in the lead role - "Mukkunetta Sumithra Vilikkunnu".

Billettan = Bill + Chettan. Chettan is a sort of endearment in Mallu which is appended to a brother's, cousin's, boyfriend's or a husband's name, literally means brother. If you would like to know how exactly one is supposed to figure out whether the person being addressed is a random guy on the street, brother or husband, please to check with Anoop. Depending on the tone, pitch and other such characteristics of the addressor, apparently you can figure out the exact relationship between the two people - Anoop has a journal paper on this topic that will be published soon.

Introducing Rani: The quitessential Mallu fishmonger, Rani is everywhere, and she knows everything about everyone. She goes to the kadavu before the sun rises, loads up her basket with the freshest catch of the day, and walks a good 7 km to my neighbourhood to sell the fish. I can't remember a time when Rani wasn't around, I can't remember a day at home when I hadn't heard Rani shout 'Chechi, Meen venno?' (Sister, do you want fish?) Rani quotes some exorbitant prices but everyone loves her as she will come down to a fair price finally, and she always has the freshest fish. My knowledge of the fish world I owe it to Rani who over the years taught me to identify the different kinds of fish, their ages, and how to find out whether it is a fresh catch or not. Fish and Rani are so intricately tied together in my mind that every time I walk over to the fresh fish counter at Whole Foods, its Rani I am reminded of and its Rani I miss.

Incidentally, Rani is also the name of an actress who happens to be number 3 on Bill's list of hot women[2]

Scene: 8 AM. Don's getting ready to leave for work, glaces at newspaper. Jobless me hovering around doing nothing. Rani is talking to Amma.

Rani: The para is 80 rupees. It is real fresh.

Amma: 80 rupees. Everywhere in the city they have one price, Rani has another. Rani special - triple the real price.

Rani: Chechi, Jesus promise, I got this para for 70 rupees. Why would I lie to you chechi? (Sees me walking up to her) Idhu arra? (Who is this?) When did the Americakkari come?

Me: A couple of days ago

Rani: Your mother did not tell me at all. Chechi, how dare you not tell me? No wonder you have been buying so much fish over the last couple of days

Me: Yeah, what do you have today?

Rani: Para and Konji. Your mother thinks I am cheating her.

Amma: Whatever! I will pay 50 rupees for this para. Here, cut it for me.

Rani: No way chechi. Now that mol is here, you have to pay even more. Mol special - 100 rupees

Amma: Yes, now you will quote prices in dollars only.

Rani: (to me) Chettan vanno? (Did Chettan come?)

(Take a moment to realise who she is talking about)

Me: No, just me.

Rani: Why just you?

Me: Why, I can't come by myself?

Rani: Of course you can. These men need to be kept in their places once in a while.

Me: Indeed.

Rani: But your Chettan is so sweet. He was here no for the wedding? I saw him then.

Me: Huh

Rani: Amma told me he likes fish. You should bring him no, then we can feed him fish.

Me: Yes

Rani: I will show him that Rani has the best fish in the world. Way better than all the river fish he is used to.

Me: Of course

Rani: You ask him to come okay?

Me: Okay Rani

Rani: Why aren't you wearing anything on your neck?

No answer

Rani: You don't wear anything, you know what people here will say? I remember your wedding - even my daughter will wear more jewelry than that!

Moi: With the prices you quote, that isn't surprising Rani

Rani: Now you also shout at me. For years and years, I bring fish just for you, and look at you complaining. Sar!

Don: Yes Rani

Rani: Sar, Onam is on Tuesday

Don: I know

Rani: Haven't received anything yet

Don: You ask your chechi. Why are you asking me?

Rani: Chechi will give. But still, its Onam Sar. You also have to give something.

Don: I am the poor man in the family. You ask your Americakkari.

Rani: Of course Sar. I have been telling her to take me to America and she isn't listening. I can't deal with all the bargaining here. People have no respect.

Don: So you are going to America now?

Rani: Mol is not taking me, so I am going to ask Chettan when he comes here. I will feed him the best fish in the world, and he will take me to America. There I will be treated with more respect.

Amma: I am sure you will be. Here's your money, if you will still accept rupees that is!

[1] As part of our email series on Mallu dialogues so as to ensure that both of us do not forget the language of our childhood. Years of Malluland schooling and more years of watching Mohanlal movies made sure that we speak better Mallu than the Mallus (especially the ones from Greater Malluland of the Gelf) but over the past few years we have been discovering that we cannot speak a sentence in Mallu anymore without using any English or Tamil words. Losing a language, I have been brought up to believe, is akin to losing oneself and this email series is an attempt to make sure that we don't lose ourselves.

[2] Based on a conversation that Bill and BM had one day long years ago when BM asked Bill for his list of hot women. (Yeah, BM is that way sometimes, no one knows why.) Bill complied, and BM diligently took notes, and as she got down to number fourteen she started to notice a disturbing pattern - she had yet to write down a non-Bong name. There were some women who were 50% Bong but that pretty much seemed to be the cut off.


ggop said...

This was a great exchange! I feel sad too - cannot speak Tamil without lapsing into English when I don't know a word.


Ludwig said...

I'm thinking... If you're logically minded, and if Bill (as Bongs are wont to) is a lover of fish, in addition to being a discreet worshipper of Ranis (as are some of us who will remain unnamed), you'd better not let him within a mile of a Rani who vends fish and is a power salesperson, neh?

The Black Mamba said...

isn't a sequel in order here -

"Heylow! Billetta Veena Vilikkunnu?"

please do write more.

Ravages said...

LOL! This the funny you write in long time. I like much. Is Rani now flying back with you? (And BTW - you have a tag yet to fulfil)

Veena said...

ggop: Thanks.

Luddo: You do realise that you are making the assumption that I, for some reason, actually want to keep Bill?

BM: Yeah, BM. Coming up next: Bill-nnu Oru Mukkuthi :)

Ravages: Thanks. What tag?!

Ravages said...

An old spread-it-among-your-favourite-bloggers meme I tagged you on. But nevermind.

Lambuchops said...

Billetta.. dont let go of Rani.. She's a real firebrand!! How bout naming a sequel.. Ezuthu-ariyaathe-kaaran.. or.. summer in Las Vegas.