There comes a time in almost every Trivandrum kid’s childhood when we do a double take mentally, physically and spiritually as we get adorably addressed as ‘Appi’ for the very first time in our lives. For most of us it will be our first tryst with the concept of duality and the sheer force with which it hits us will blow a series of fuses and rearrange a few synapses in our minds. Did that person just endearingly address me as a piece of shit, you will wonder.
To the uninitiated, Appi the homonym occupies a curious space, colloquially and kaliaakkal-ly, in Trivandrum-Malayalam. It is a gender-neutral term of endearment usually directed at a younger person. However in broader Malayalam, it means shit. I still remember the first time the shit proverbially hit the fan for me. I wasn’t alone. Within five seconds of each other, Bhargavi the neighbourhood valiyamma hit Gingi with Valiya Appi (Elder Shit/Dear) and me, with Kochu Appi (Little Shit/Dear). It changed us and brought both of us closer as siblings and as Appis.
In a Piku-esque country it is not surprising that a word can represent two extremes of two entirely different spectrums. We discuss shit mostly with our closest family members, right? Something along the lines of blood is thicker than water is coming to my mind but I am not going to pen it down.
The other day, my fellow traveller and I were standing in front of a teashop, passionately talking about shit at a rate of three Appi per sentence because we were in another state and thought no one would understand us. But like in all undesirably ideal situations, the teashop chettan interjected in Malayalam and we were unpleasantly surprised.
Speaking of being in another state, at a particular point in my life I had a certain pair of shoes that could boast of having stepped in shit across at least four different states. The first time I jumped into a mustard field in full bloom was also the time I painfully realized our fascination or helplessness as a nation with defecating in open scenic spaces. As a toilet thinker who thought walls were essential for un-constipated thought process, it affected me at that time. And as time passed, I realized that there was something about beautiful landscapes, desolate piers and beaches, abandoned monuments, and busy ghats with iconic bridge views that brought us closer to nature to answer its calls.
On that note and in other news, I will now retreat to my shell and ponder on the potential duality or possible synonymy of bullshit and cow dung and what they mean to me as an individual.