A true-blood Tamilian male (or even a MBCM* like myself) would take offense at a comedy routine by Aziz Ansari where he calls our language “obscure”. But only for a second. Ansari goes on to say that if he ever decided to employ Tamil to hit on SriLankan rapper M.I.A, his pick-up line of choice could be the Tamil interpretation of a never fail classic – You have nice breasts . But Ansari’s Tamil, being of the Udit Narayanan variety, takes a hit in translation and fizzles out into an innocent Tarzan-fascinated-by-Jane’s-anatomy observation. He points to his chest area and says..
Unakku, Inge, Romba Nalla Irukkudhu (For you, right here, it’s awesome)
Obviously Ansari is only kidding to draw a laugh, but if he were truly serious in his endeavour, then boy! could he use our inherent linguistic prowess to help refine that line. If only he knew that as classic a language Tamil was, it was not uptight enough to disallow the mandatory 25 variants of the word used to describe what he saw “right there”. And in typical colloquial Tamil, all it would require was three words – Unakku Semma ___1 of 25 options___ .
I’ve spent 17 years of my life in Madras and four more in Salem, and have been continually amused by the myriad breast references I have picked up. And sometimes the lessons were learnt the hard way.
As a member of a performing troupe, rather absurdly called ABaSVRaM (I was the M), I once represented my college at a cultural festival in Coimbatore. And on the afternoon of the second day, we found ourselves huddled together, engaged in animated discussion while throwing at each other “funny” premises for the Ad-Mad event. Now, setting all modesty aside, I have to say that we were reasonably good at delivering goofball performances on stage. But as we eventually discovered that day, not really good at spontaneous comedy writing. For those unfamiliar with Ad-Mad, it’s an event where you come up with a set of advertisements for a fictitious product which is then enacted on stage, preferably with humor. And we had three minutes to come up with atleast 5 ads for a product called Sushmita Bags.
Sadly enough, in the heat of competition, every member of ABaSVRaM blanked out on the fact that the event organizers were not geriatric professors, but our student peers who relished juvenile sexual innuendos as much as any other 19 year old. So when they had other products like Ramba Buns and Divya Lodge, which were ideas that begged to be had pun with, how could Sushmita Bags be any different?
I’m sure the twisted minds that came up with the product names never did expect to see sketches based on schoolbags, handbags and gunnybags. Never did expect to see me strike a Hanuman pose for another failed joke. Never did expect to see acts bordering on homo-eroticism where one guy acted as a “bag” and the other had to carry him on his back (the closest I’ve come to watching gay porn). In fact, our Coimbatore brothers probably realized only then that ‘bags’ could also be interpreted this way. For in Coimbatore, Sushmita meant Sushmita Sen, and bags meant pai**, a word that doubled as a popular local reference to tatas.
Needless to say, we were booed at, constantly and loudly, for the last 4.5 mins of our allowed 5 minutes. I think even my parents would have booed. Not because they approved of double-entendred jokes, but because they had discovered their son was an idiot and he had idiot friends.
And so all these years later, and with all that experience behind me, I think my lookup table is more complete. Which means I can be a fantastic wingman to anyone willing to use such brave pickup lines on Tamil women. I might not be around to see if it worked, but hey! I can atleast get you started, Ansari.
Aziz Ansari at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, NY.
(If impatience is your virtue, then click right in the middle of the progress bar to get to the M.I.A. bit)
* Madras Born Confused Mallu
** Pronounced PI (as in = 3.14)