South Indian Relationships – of chithis perrippas and athays

Once again it’s that time of the year when quite a few people seem to getting married… Marriages are quite fun in many ways especially because this is mostly the time when u actually meet many of you relatives (though of course we live in the same town). But being from a south Indian family, this is probably closest to the worst times you can go through…

We reached the marriage hall and I did the thing I do most times, look for someone who I know very well and settle down next to them… and then there’s mom who (I have no clue how) apparently seems to know every single person in the hall (yeah not only the bride’s side who we’re related to but even the groom’s side)… I watch as she goes round talking to everybody…

Then it happens…”Roopak, look who it is!” That’s the line I was dreading, the very line I hoped would never come up. I quickly got up and walked toward the water stall pretending not to hear that. Obviously she asks the person next to me to call me, and he does… “Oh, mom you called?” and I walk over…

The lady talking to my mom then says “Oh my god, look how big you’ve grown!” and I’m thinking to myself “No aunty, I was planning to stay a midget all my life”.

Before I get down to narrating the next bit, there’s something you should know about south Indian families (atleast the ones from Tamil Nadu)… The relationships aren’t that easy… In English, any man in your family is your uncle, and woman is your aunt… Now this is completely different in our relationships… Mom’s younger sister & her husband are your “chithi & chithappa” while mom’s older sister & her husband are your “perrima & perrippa”. Now that’s just two of them. The whole screwed up part is it ain’t even symmetric…

My dad’s sister & her husband would be my “athay & attimber.” This far it’s pretty easy to understand right? Well it can get very complicated… First, I Have to address dad’s uncles and aunts the same way he addresses them (like dad’s chithi is my chithi)…

Second, if dad has cousin (1st cousin, 2nd cousin or I think even nth cousin) if he’s older to my dad he’s a “perrippa” otherwise a “chithappa”…

Well what makes this worse is sometimes our families have loops, which I wasn’t aware of. And so one day an uncle says “hey, how u doing?” and I say “hi perrippa”… OOPS… I should have stuck with “heyyyy”. He is my mom’s co-brother’s brother, whereas he’s my dad’s co-brother (god damn that took me long to figure out)… So apparently he’s an “attimber”… They get soo sensitive about it… Geez for god’s sake I know who you are, I just don’t know how to address you!

Getting back, mom now says the words I’ve been hoping I wouldn’t hear tonight “Do you remember who this aunty is?” and I’m thinking “Why mom, why??? If you’re so pissed at me for not cleaning my room, this is a very unfair way to get back at me!” So now I’m supposed to figure out who this is. I quickly try to recollect to who this “aunty” was talking to before mom… Maybe it’s a “chithi”. No wait she looks older than mom, “that makes her a perimma right?” Thing is I have to figure out, before the lady in front of me finds out I’m going to take a wild guess. I feel like a basketballer, who’s been blind-folded and thrown in to the court and asked to shoot a basket… And I suddenly out of nowhere I decide to take a shot… I say “of course I remember you athay! How could I forget?”

Time slows down, I wait and watch both my mom’s face and lady’s face for some reaction… was I right or wrong? Then after a second or two (at which point my heart virtually stopped) she smiles… “Oh thank god, I was right” I breathe a sigh of relief. From here on it’s pretty simple if you stick by the rules…

  • Don’t ask about family (unless you know them very well)
  • Don’t mention any previous functions or family get-togethers
  • Jus stick with “I’m in second year of college” and you’ll do great.

I walked away with the feeling of success… “I’ve done it!!!” I look up to search for mum, and tell her to stop doing that… “Roopak, come here and say hi!”


14 thoughts on “South Indian Relationships – of chithis perrippas and athays

  1. dei super da. Its great especially the midget part that was hilarious.
    Congo dude..this one’s super,the same thing happens to me,and i just what to call them by..
    Literary genius.. Overall great read

  2. I can totally relate to this. But you have my sympathies since you have to go through this a lot more than I have to.

    Nice article! 🙂

  3. Macha serious..can you please eloborate on all the relationships..Education to the young dudes in chennai 🙂

    …But it was good pick and great flow of evens and I ENJOYED reading it ..BEEN THERE DONE THAT !!

  4. Hey,

    Nice post man. I attended four marriages in the last 1 year alone. And almost everytime i guessed it wrong. So i think it would be better if you just stick around the groom. That way you don’t get disturbed often!!!

  5. Pingback: Sud des relations Inde - des perrippas chithis et athays

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