Relative Discomfort

One of the perils of being a Malayali living and working abroad is that sooner or later, someone boards the nearest ‘Uru’ bound for California and swims ashore to wherever you happen to be staying. It’s inevitable. As far back in history as I can remember we Malayalis have been boarding ships, planes, autos and hiding in cargo holds to go to “foreign” lands.  The network is so widely established now that the average time elapsed before you reach Siberia and your aunt’s father in law’s neighbour’s son calls you up is roughly 24 hours. 
The tragedy is that the two relevant parties in this conversation – you and your aunt’s father in law’s neighbour’s son (henceforth to be referred to as Appunni) won’t have the slightest interest in talking to each other.  But goaded on by parental pressure, Appunni might call you up. In the absence of any mutual points of interest, the conversation might go something like this:
You: “Hello? “
Appunni: “Hello?”
You:” Hello?”
Appunni: “Errm…. Sandeep? I’m Appunni. Vineeta aunty gave me your number”
You: “Who?”
Appunni:” Vineeta aunty? From Kollam?”
You: “Ohh. Yes… Errm, nice. Are you here in Siberia? “
Appunni: “Yes, they asked me to call you “
You: “They would. So, how are you?”
Appunni:” I’m fine. How are you?”
You: “I’m fine too. Errm… so, you are from Kollam?”
And so on it goes. Most of these conversations start from a vague feeling of discomfort and end in a distinct feeling of dislike. And it’s not Appunni’s fault. The poor guy most probably did not have any choice in the matter either.  Based on my personal experience of having fielded such calls in multiple cities across Asia, I’ve developed some tactics which may be of use to the average hapless Malayali.
1. Don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers. This has the added advantage of making sure that your boss cannot reach you on those days when you are out “sick”
2. If by a remote chance you pick up the call and it turns out to be Appunni, tell him it is that day of the year when your college alumni call you up to review the next year’s admission list. It doesn’t matter which college you are from so long as it’s not IIM Ahmedabad. Even Appunni might know that they don’t screen candidates for admission at IIM A.
3. If you don’t follow the above two steps and are forced to talk further, don’t fret. There’s still hope. Tell him you are talking from the All Siberia Malayali samajam annual convention and you are collecting for this year’s awards dinner.
4. If all else fails, there’s the tried and tested way to handle all Malayalis. Just use this script word for word
“ Ahh Appunni, sukhamalle ? Vineeta ammayi told me you would be calling. I’m a bit short on cash right now. She said she’d send some with you…”

There’s a reason why Dasan and Vijayan tried to reach Dubai without paying the full fare.