Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Thank you for the A2A.
There are actually two schools of thought among Keralites when it comes to what they think about Tamil people – the majority (who have very stereotyped notions about Tamil people) and then the minority (like me, who have actually lived with/among Tamil people for a considerable length of time to know that those notions are not entirely true all the time).
For the average Malayali who has not traveled much in and around Tamil Nadu or mingled much with the urban crowd, when he is told (for instance) that a Thamizhan had come to see him, this is the immediate mental image that pops up in his mind…
Or it could be that of a daily wages worker. Or a lorry driver. It totally misses their mind that a Thamizhan could mean just about anybody. This is largely because of the huge influx of migrant workers from the border areas between Tamil Nadu and Kerala since ages. Many of them set up colonies and have settled in Kerala permanently. They offer cheaper labor and are available in droves. They are not affiliated to the powerful labor unions of Kerala and hence, could be made to work without much complaining and without the fear of them calling a hartal or bandh.
On any given day, if you drive through Kadavanthra bus stop in Ernakulam at around 6:30 in the morning, you would be able to see hundreds of Tamil workers waiting on the road for some mason to come along and take them to work sites for daily labor. There are even mini temporary businesses that pop up on upturned fruit crates to cater to this waiting lot – jasmine flower sellers, people selling checkered cotton towels, and other trinkets that are typical of Tamil Nadu. It is only recently that migrant workers from other states (West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh & Odisha) have started to flood the migrant worker market. But even today, for most Malayalis, a Tamil worker is always more trustworthy than any other state worker, especially after the recent spate of crimes committed by the new crop in the state ().
That said, Malayalis love Tamil cinema, as it is one of the few languages that they completely understand besides their own native language, Malayalam. The presence of Tamil Brahmins (Palakkad Iyers) across the state is an additional factor to remain in touch with Tamil constantly. But it more or less ends there.
Then comes the minority crowd, and that includes people like me. I studied in Tamil Nadu for four years and I love the state and its culture and traditions like my own. My closest friends are Tamil people. I learnt the language by myself…to read and to write. Having lived there, I connect with the people there at a much deeper level. And it’s not just the urban crowd…even the completely rural ones. I understand them a lot better than many fellow Malayalis. I know the reasons why they do certain things the way they do them. I know what ticks them off and what pleases them. I know that many of them do not think too highly of Malayalis (yes, I know they call us kanjis). I have always admired the passion Tamil people attach with just about everything they do. They love and hate with equal passion. They do not mind laying down their lives for something or someone that they have pledged their allegiance to. Oh and the unconditional love for their native language! I am yet to come across any other state in India that practically worships their language like the way Tamil people do. It is because of this pure undying love that Tamil, as a language, has survived through centuries. I love the food of Tamil Nadu and I will remain indebted to it for making me fall in love with pongal and paruppu podi and thakkali saadam! 😀 Like me, there are many Malayalis who think likewise. They are usually people who have settled down in Tamil Nadu or have lived there for some time. I keep telling people that you cannot understand a place and its people unless you have lived there as one of them. I have done it and that’s why I am able to appreciate it so much 🙂