These are terms and images that came to my mind reading the previous piece. Certainly several of these are dated and no more en vogue. May be they were just terms used by my contemporaries. But 1990 not being very far from 1989, some of you will connect – I am sure about that.
Kazhakootam : The centre of the universe that incidentally doubled as the point of intersection of prime meridien and equator. A place where time stands frozen the day you graduate. Considering everything else was down hill from there, there is good reason to suspect it was atop Everest too. Did someone mention Greenwich, geography, Einstein etc? So enamoured were the Central Asians by this spot that a warrior tribe called Cossacks and a country is named after it!
Headma/ Quarterma : The cadets surely missed their mommies, hence the suffix ‘ster’ were conveniently knocked off by Kazhaks and these chieftains were endearingly addressed so. As in ‘the Princi told Headma to call the Quarterma ‘. Inspired, Javed Akhtar immortalised this on silver screen with the now famous dialogue ‘mera paas ma hein‘ in Deewar (1975).
You don’t believe me, do you?
Sambhavam : Strictly translated it would read a ‘phenomenon’, but at school in the late 80’s it could dextrously allude to a person, a movie or even an incident. Just that it had to be out of the ordinary and provide excitement disproportinate to its face value. For eg; ‘So-and-so Cadet of Class X is a Sambhavam, or So-and-so movie is a Sambhavam‘ and so on.
Paattakkaran: The hub of the Axis of Evil. Enemy Number One of the sons of soil. A marauder of inherited wealth that was legitimately ours. Maintainer of a private army against whom every Kazhak was honour bound to fight and thereby deny him the use of own land for nefarious purposes. It is also believed that these denial efforts were the real inspiration behind Comrade Sergei Gorshkov‘s “Sea denial strategy” of the USSR Navy in the Cold War.
Paattam: The unholy copper plate that mandated rights to the above mentioned marauder. Legitimised plunder, and not even remotely linked to Shri Thanupillai Sir’s place of birth.
Private Khakis: Polyester mix khakis that the sartorially inclined chose to wear ( to whom the ubiquitous run-of the-mill school issue cotton variety khakis were infradig. Usually with obliging parents employed in the Gelf.)
Paara : Strictly a simple machine that efficiently dehusked coconut in Kerala. Unaware of the prestigious regiment in our beloved army in the 1980s it was just a term of endearment ( as them being from the Parachute Regiment) for the two odd Army Jawan Instructors attached with the school NCC.
Bunk : No, not where one sleeps on submarine/ship/train, but the act of emancipating oneself from the shackles of school preferably at night to stroll along the characterless NH 47/watch a movie/patronise a thattukada /seek blessings from presiding deity during temple festivities. Definitely illegal. You but had to do it to be ‘in’.
Thattukada : A nocturnal highway eatery consisting of a cart/petromax/stove and some frugal utensils that caught the imagination of the Kazhak. Like monsoon spread in 1980s from south to north Kerala, some served dunlop dosas submerged in liberally watered coconut chutney and the ones with Michelin stars served Beef that rivaled the House of Stroganoff.
Ammummakkada. Possible inspiration for Kishore Biyani, Carrefour, and Sam Walton. A Start up kiosk by an entrepreneurial grandmom at the strategic eastern corner of school estate.
Safely outside school jurisdiction, yet close enough to connect with clientele. She also dabbled as an agony aunt to many a Kazhak. Love lorn cadets got a beedi free – the legend goes.
Read a delightful article on Ammumma here.
Shyamala : Again, not a village lass, but a cordon blu deli right across the Kazhakkuttom bustop. Served wafer thin beef chilly for a Fiver, the bourgeoisie could upgrade to chicken chilly for a Tenner, and wash down the spices with the just reappeared Coke devoid of the current Plachimada guilt. The ‘haves’ could also order a sweet savory of Dilkush. Legend has it that Queen Marie Antoinette whilst on a visit to school famously said to our Princi “Cest la vie, ente ponnu saare so what if there is no dal and chapatis, give them porotta, beef chilly and dilkush from Shyamala sil vous plait mon amour”
Katori. Not a Japanese war vessel but the contraption which housed the customary yellow liquid labelled dal and sambar for commoners. As one rose in rank be to a School/House captain or his crony, the liquid was upgraded to an oily gravy wherein pork/beef/chicken chunks gently bobbed and said hello to the privileged and sayanora to the rest.
Dhobi ghat : Just like south of France or Sochi , a place to unwind when sick of the urbane and erudite school environs. Thomas Cook usually arranged a visit to the piggery enroute for free. Aamir Khan has even named a movie after this lovely locale recently.
Chanthavila : Urbs prima in indis. The one-bus-hamlet that owed it to us for our place in the sun. It also epitomised everything rustic to the Kazhak from language to style ( the source of every single ‘enthirappi‘ that falls from a cadet’s lips) . Fount of grace and Trivandramese just as Stratford-upon-avon is to English.
Vetturoad : The offically designated alighting point to our universe. Also housed the Single plex Srikala – 70mm.
Chirayankil : The convenient alighting point for smart alecs if they arrived by rail and wanted to be the first in school post vacation, and desired the last bed in the dorm. It would be the furthest away from Housemaster and the prefect.
Trivandrum Central: The place to alight on the southward migration if you wanted to see a movie legitimately and breathe that last whiff of freedom, and didn’t bother about that last bed.
Outpass : A piece of paper duly stamped ‘Liberty, Equality and Trivandrum city‘ !
Messduty: An occasion for the hoi polloi to usurp the aforesaid katoris of the privileged class.
Trunk : A place where memories of home (such as the odd polythene bag that wrapped the lunch send by Amma for your train journey post vacation, to school, a faded Ernakulam city edition news paper) rested as you restlessly ran the term. Sadly deposited in that dark room between bathrooms. Happily taken back when it was time to go home. A part of us was always in that trunk, locked and in darkness.
Twin tunnels of Kottayam. Momentary periods of darkness and reason interspersed with light where one could scream the heck out anonymously irrespective of age. More on the lines of , God said ‘Let there be darkness…but oops I didn’t ask them to shout!’. (And finally Kottayam fellows will alight and rest can stretch and sleep! Happy holidays)
Parasuram Express: Sad when its engine was in the South. Happy when engine in the North. On second thoughts, it also depends which class you belonged to, at school.
Twenty Rupees : Two rupees one way to Trivandrum (Rs 4/-). Two movies that cost ten Rupees, Rs 5 a piece. Cold dosa at Indian Coffee House or a beef chilly porotta pack from Shyamala for the rest. Bliss.
Tuckout : A retrospectively ridiculous style statement that told the world ‘I don’t care‘ or j’arrive. A defiant act of letting your vest or shirt lie outside the waistband of the trouser/shorts. Sacrilege within the tribe !
Pyjamas/Mosquito netting : Irritating routine utilities meant for the ‘boys’.
le’ Lungi. Six feet of Versace that separated the Men from the boys. Even applied to ‘Andhra’ and ‘Bihar’ boys.
Serving boys : No surprises. They just served. Not to be confused with Kerala boys, Bihar boys and Andhra boys. Transported aforesaid Katoris, Bigger Katoras of Rice and Daal etc to feed the masses at table. Later, one heard of whipping boys.
Silvergrey: The strange and surreal color of the sneeze-inducing woollen pair of socks, worn closest to the equator.
Dhobiclothes: A session in the studyhall which reminded one of an auction house. “Two shorts -white, kerchief – hand-white-3, Shirt-khaki-2, Towel-bathing-1 !” went the screaming, with a desperate piping in between that sounded like “Sir, I can’t find my Briefs-white -3-Tantex !”
Rollcall : A mechanism where one had to count no of heads (or count no of hands and divide by two). Exercised as a deterrent by the House master to sabotage the bunk bid. The aim could be innocuous as Dhobi clothes too..
Parapet : A Trojan door in dorm to check out incognito at night. Legend has it that it even inspired Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed to leave through the rear door to avoid the papparazzi.
Pazham : Anyone who didn’t fit the ‘tribal’ definitions of a Kazhak. A sensitive fellow, a wet blanket and bloody damp squib. Overall utility to tribe – nil !Â Oru imminibalya shoonyam. An omnibus title. A Kazhak’s daughter chips in to say that the right angrezi equivalent is ‘dork‘.
Hero pen : A Chinese writing instrument that distinguished the the ‘haves’ from ‘have-nots’ in that universe much before Deng Xiao Peng signalled left , turned right and made everything from China cheap, unfashionable and available to proletariats of developing countries.
After ! : A Kazhak war cry, which when psychoanalysed indicated, “Look comrade, I am After You in that damn queue ! Better remember this and stand byÂ me if any controversy erupts” Used as a verb, noun,adjective etc, at the barber shop, clothing store, NCC Supplies store, the bathroom, at the only working tap, the only clean loo, etc. Closest equivalent one ever heard later is Kto pasli in Russian or “who’s last?”. Communities used to queuing develop cryptic calls such as these.
One day plant : Branches of crotons and such garden plants which were implanted few hours before the Annual House Cleanliness Competition judges acme around for inspection, for a feel good factor and a near terrific landscape. Cadets have a great green thumb and we have SUPW too as a core subject !
Prasad House. Center of Kazhakootam – therefore center of universe and everything else. Best House ever ! Oh, Yeah !
1989 : The year a bunch of folks flew out of their universe at Kazhakootam to kiss the world and greet the aliens. Yes, it is heard some Wall in Berlin or Brandenburg Gate or some thing broke down somewhere that year, which will be again fixed by Prasad Juniors – get my drift?
Related : Deciphering the Sainik Lexicon | Part One