“ I speak tamil at home… it is actually ‘Talayalam’. But my native place is kerala!!” Does it quiet ring a bell??? Having told this over and over again and confused friends over this annoying identity… I belong to the supposed elite class of palakkad iyers. I have heard that my great-great-great-….. Grandpa lived in palakkad (town in Kerala). Technically I belong to Trivandrum, but that has never changed to ‘trivandrum iyer’… ‘Palakkad iyer’ remains! I speak a language that irks the tamilians and malayalees alike. It is a hybrid language not just mixing the words from the two languages, but combining them, making it look like ‘oh! We have the best of both sides!’ [the word ‘understand’ in malayalam is “manasulayo” and tamil is “purinjacha”.. I say “manasulacha”??] Surprisingly, I can handle Tamil, malaylam and talayalam with careful ease, which leaves me as a jack of all trades and master of none!
Anecdotes of mis-interpreted words, which have different repercussions when spoken in Tamil and Malayalam, have been the family’s source of jokes told at every family get-together. I must admit that many a times, even I have laughed over them n re-told them!
Jokes apart, I have always wondered where this misconstrued identity leaves the Palakkad iyres. Is it possible that the generations to come will transform into the original natives and forget talayalam all-together… OR will talayalam transcend into another language with its own identity? (Considering that there is no dearth of dialects or languages in India, as long as talayalam doesn’t call for another talyangana state, it should work fine!)
Firstly, I see very little of the language surviving in my family itself. My cousins in kerala speak more or Malayalam, ones in tamilnadu speak more of tamil and the ones abroad or in northern India scarcely understand either and may be speak ‘talayanglish’?! Secondly, hardly any of my cousins has married a palakkad iyer, or even an iyer to say the least! Thirdly, talayalam cannot be spoken or recognized anywhere other than family circles and not an easy language to pick up, unless you are born with it.
Amidst all this, what I do observe is the metamorphosis of the language over generations. Additions and deletions of words or changing words back to native languages; each generation has produced a new version. It reminds of the scene at the software industry where no version of the software is ever perfect and there is no such defined version that would outshine the rest. Are, we changing the face of talayalam into a sparsely debugging mode, not knowing what to debug? Is talayalam here to stay or is the original dialect being lost in the myriad of its versions?? I am just left with a bunch of unanswered questions and a sense of belonging to my dear old mother tongue that I call ‘talayalam’!