'Those pork chops were made of soya’: When Tambrahms on Zoom toasted their very own Kamala Harris

‘Yeah! The Blacks and the Tamil Brahmins indeed share very similar history.’

WrittenBy:Rajesh Rajamani
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Lakshmi Maami: Namaskaram and welcome everyone! If you are all ready, we can start. The viewers also might be waiting, I guess.

Vembu Maama: Maami! We are ready only.

Lakshmi Maami: So yeah! Good evening, viewers. In today’s episode of Zoom During Gloom, we are going to deliberate on the multiple layers of “Black and Brahmin intersectionality”. We have with us the young and the brilliant Devi. But before I tell you who Devi is, I would like to take a moment to congratulate our very own Kamala Harris on being chosen as the Democratic Party’s candidate for vice president of the United States.

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Vembu Maama: Yes! Yes! Proud moment for each one of us!

Dr Swami: Sorry to interrupt! But isn’t her name pronounced as Ko-ma-la and not Ka-ma-la? I wanted to bring this up because the Americans always mispronounce Indian names. I don’t think we should make the same mistake. So, I was...

Lakshmi Maami: Ahh! Sir. I think it is Ka only. So moving on…

Dr Swami: But then, isn’t the famous Singapore restaurant too called Ko-ma-la Vilas. They too have their roots in the Cauvery Delta, just like Ms Harris.

Lakshmi Maami: (Clears throat) That’s interesting. But moving further…

Dr Swami: Even Mr Narendra Modi visited the restaurant in 2015. In fact, it was reported that he had a “vegetarian” dosa with the Singap...

Lakshmi Maami: (Mutes Dr Swami) Ahh! That’s an interesting anecdote, sir. But where were we! Yes! It’s time to introduce our guest to the viewers. Welcome Ms Devi!

Devi: Hello, ma’am. And congratulations again to Kamala aunty. Or should I say Kamala chithi?

Lakshmi Maami: Devi here is Kamala Harris’s niece from the town of Srirangam. In fact, Devi got her name from Kamala Harris’s middle name.

Vembu Maama: Which is also Devi.

Lakshmi Maami: Obviously.

Devi: Ma’am, I’m actually her mom’s cousin’s mother-in-law’s neighbour’s schoolmate’s grand-daughter. But yeah, am sure Kamala aunty thinks of me as her own niece. So you can say that!

Lakshmi Maami: Yeah! That’s exactly what I was saying. So, am sure you must be very proud of your aunt. Tell us something about your first memory of her.

Devi: Well, the thing is I have never really met her.

Lakshmi Maami: Yeah! But you know, that doesn’t really matter. Am sure you would have heard several stories about her at home. Tell us about one such story. Am sure our viewers would be delighted to know.

Devi: Well, my mom told me that in spite of living in the US all her life, Kamala aunty has remained the quintessential Tambrahm woman.

Vembu Maama: Yes. Yes. Even the BBC reported how she still loves her yoghurt with rice.

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Dr Swami: Sorry to be interrupting again! But this is the problem with our Tambrahm women. They go to the US and decide to call thachi mammu yoghurt and rice. Can’t they at least call it curd rice? What is yoghurt for heaven’s sake?

Lakshmi Maami: Sir! I think it doesn’t matter. The fact that she still enjoys her curd rice is enough proof that she hasn’t forgotten her Tamil roots.

Vembu Maama: Fair enough, Maami! But I also read some report about her enjoying pork chops. At some Iowa State Fair or something.

Devi: Ahem! I just want to add this here. My mom told me that the pork chops were made of soya. And that Kamala aunty had to eat it only because of political reasons. But otherwise, she is supposed to be 100 percent vegetarian at home.

Lakshmi Maami: Am sure she is. Even in the Kandy Mingling episode, she said that…

Vembu Maama: Maami, I think you meant the Mindy Kaling episode.

Lakshmi Maami: Yes! Yes! Same thing. In that show, she proudly and clearly asserted how South Indian food is primarily vegetarian.

Dr Swami: But I don’t think you can make pork using soya.

Devi: It is possible, sir. My mom said so. And my mom never lies.

Vembu Maama: Also, most Hindus are anyway vegetarians, no? So much so that even the Hindu is vegetarian!

Devi: In fact, Kamala aunty has always asked one of us to break a coconut at a nearby temple for luck. She is as Tambrahm as anyone can be.

Lakshmi Maami: Yes! Of course! But coming back to where we were. Devi, tell us more about how you feel about your aunt’s nomination. And what do your friends at PSBB (Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan) say about it?

Devi: Ma’am, actually I go to DAV (Dayanand Anglo Vedic) Gopalpuram and not PSBB.

Lakshmi Maami: Yes, yes. Of course! Same thing. So what do they say?

Devi: They are all excited, of course. They keep Whatsapping me images of banners put up in my parents’ neighbouring district Tiruvarur. It’s exciting.

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Dr Swami: I think we also have to understand the fact that Tambrahm women get better treatment than Tambrahm men. Our own boy Sundar Pichai made it to Google. But no one put up his banners.

Lakshmi Maami: Sir! I don’t think it is necessary to make it about men versus women. We are equally proud of all achievers from the community.

Vembu Maama: We also have to remember that Pepsico’s CEO Indra Nooyi too never got any such banners. So it can’t be about being a man or woman.

Lakshmi Maami: Exactly. We should just be proud of all of them instead of just nitpicking.

Dr Swami: Well, nothing to nitpick about Indra Nooyi. Because she clearly was more proud of her Tambrahm vegetarian roots.

Lakshmi Maami: Sir! This was supposed to be a moment to celebrate a brown woman breaking the glass ceiling in a white man’s world. And not about pitting one woman against another.

Dr Swami: Oh, no! Am not doing that. But just trying to make sure that we don’t forget the facts in this fleeting moment of jubilation.

Devi: I just want to say that Kamala aunty has always been proud of both her South Indian and Jamaican roots.

Lakshmi Maami: Yes! In this day of globalisation, it is important to embrace the fact that future generations are going to have multiple roots.

Vembu Maama: True. But it also reminds of the backlash that Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan received when her daughter married an African American.

Dr Swami: This is what I was trying to say. This almost seems like some sort of Black love jihad against our women.

Lakshmi Maami: Sir! Please calm down.

Dr Swami: I wonder if ‘Black Lives Matter’ should be renamed ‘Black Loves Matter’!

Lakshmi Maami: Sir! That might be a racist thing to say.

Dr Swami: How can I be racist when am already brown. America is not our own Music Academy or Narada Gana Sabha. We get treated as third world citizens there.

Lakshmi Maami: (Takes a deep breath and mutes everyone) So coming back to our discussion. Devi, how do you see this intersectionality of Black and Tambrahm sensibilities?

Devi: Ma’am! I think they are almost one and the same. Just like how the Blacks are marginalised in the US, the Tambrahms are ostracised in Tamil Nadu because of the Dravidian movement and such.

Lakshmi Maami: You have a point there, Devi! Go on!

Devi: Also, rasam rice with potato fry is as soul food as it can get.

Lakshmi Maami: Totally! Who would not love it!

Devi: Also, if the Blacks have Jazz, then we have Carnatic music.

Vembu Maama: That’s so true!

Lakshmi Maami: Yeah! That’s an interesting comparison. The Blacks and the Tamil Brahmins indeed share very similar history.

Devi: Yes, ma’am.

Dr Swami: Except some fringe elements in Tamil Nadu are hoping she should lose the election only because she is Tambrahm. Tamil Nadu, I tell you. They won’t have problems siding with Trump just to see a Tambrahm lose.

Lakshmi Maami: Well, that might indeed be true. But let’s not get into such negative thoughts now.

Vembu Maama: But the AIADMK seems to be proud of her nomination. Their deputy CM put out a tweet.

Lakshmi Maami: Yes. They have always been supportive of women. They have, in fact, exhibited an intense form of non-toxic masculinity. And been open to fall at our Jaya ma’am’s feet on a regular basis.

Devi: Yes! She smashed brahmanical patriarchy. And how!

Lakshmi Maami: Ah! Well, am not sure if that is exactly smashing brahmanical patriarchy. But yeah, she sure smashed something.

Dr Swami: I hope Kamala Harris too would smash black patriarchy.

Lakshmi Maami: Sir, you are getting it all mixed up. She shall in fact be smashing white patriarchy.

Dr Swami: But Joe Biden is a white man.

Lakshmi Maami: (Mutes everyone) Shhh! So Devi, tell me this: do you have plans to meet your Kamala aunty any time soon?

Devi: Yes! Of course! But not immediately. Once I crack IIT-JEE and then GRE, I shall totally meet her in the US.

Lakshmi Maami: That’s lovely to know!

Dr Swami: But even if she wins this time around she might not be in power until then.

Lakshmi Maami: Sir! Let’s not be negative now. It is important to stay optimistic and hope for the best.

Dr Swami: But the thing is, even if she loses the US election, she can join the AIADMK and become Tamil Nadu’s CM. AIADMK seems to be existing in a state of leaderless vacuum for long now.

Lakshmi Maami: Sir, that sounds too far-fetched.

Dr Swami: Not at all. She has Jaya ma’am’s blessings. From an Iyengar leader to an Iyer leader. We should be willing to accept all our sub-castes as one.

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Lakshmi Maami: Sir, I wasn’t talking about that.

Dr Swami: Then what?

Lakshmi Maami: (Mutes Dr Swami) Sigh! Anyway, thanks to you Devi for joining us today for this fruitful discussion.

Devi: Thanks for inviting me, ma’am.

Dr Swami: I wonder who might be a better leader, Nirmala Sitharaman or Kamala Harris?

Lakshmi Maami: Sir, we are wrapping up the discussion. Thanks for being here.

Dr Swami: I am not done yet. I was trying to say that...

Lakshmi Maami: (Mutes everyone again) Thank you, Vembu Maama for joining us today. And thank you, viewers! Just remember that in this day and age, cross-national intersectionality shall be the new normal. And it is important for all of us to embrace it. See you soon in another edition of Zoom During Gloom.

Dr Swami is seen making wild hand gestures.


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