How do we relate to our elders
The Malabaris in Malaysia take roots from a region almost as big as Malaysia itself. The diversity of culture and dialect that we see among Malabari here today is partly a reflection of regions our forefathers originated from. This difference is not as marked here as in Kerala because. The local culture admixture made the terms we use in Malaysia more diverse than in Kerala.
The following is the first part of the analysis of the survey we conducted thru the net. The next part will be coming out soon. If you have any comments, Please email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Generally we find that the terms that took origin from Kerala vary from the Northern Kerala (which was for sometime known as Malabar) and southern Kerala. The areas in between seems to be a mixture of both:
The term Uppapa and its variations such as Appupa and Ippapa seems to the most widely used term, cutting across territories from north to south. Some people do use terms like Vellipa to denote the same figure. There seems to be no difference in how you call the paternal and maternal grandfathers. The term Taata is a Tamil word used by some in Malaysia
The term Ummama seems to the most widely used term, though there are many variation. the most common seems to be the terms Uppama and Vaapama to denote mother’s father. The term Pettama seems to be used for either grandmothers and by some for their elder aunties. The term Vellimma also is used for grand mother and elder auntie by some . The Tamil term Paatti is used by some in Malaysia
Uppa and Vaapa are the common terms used to denote father. The term Appa used by some seems to be the influence of Tamil. The term Atthan is used by some Tamil Muslims. the terms abah and ayah are Malay influences
Umma or just Ma is the most common term used. In some areas there are variations like ummachi or imma. The Tamil term is Amma. Ibu is a Malay influence.
Culturally the uncle plays a major role in the family structure especially in the Northern States in Kerala where marumakkathaayam was practiced. This influence has spread to areas in further south where marumakkathaayam is not practiced by Muslims. However there are different terms used for maternal and paternal uncles.
The title for maternal uncle in ammaman. Where marumakkathaayam is practiced the eldest maternal uncle in the family is given the title Karnavar, as the head of the family. The uncles in general are called ikka, or ikkaka as one would refer to and elder brother though some may just call them mama or Amon kaka ( ammaaman kaaka). Some people may add vellika or cerikka to denote their position the family. The maternal uncle plays a major role in the welfare of the family i.e. their sisters and sister’s children in marumakkathaayam system.
The paternal aunties husband also has the title Ammaman and is referred to with variation of Ikka as above
There paternal uncle plays bigger role in the patriarchal system of the southern and central Kerala. The elder uncle is called Moothapa and occasionally aattuppa in the North. The younger paternal uncles are called Elaapa. Other names will be Kunhuppa and Kochuppa (more towards the south).
Similar to uncles, the paternal and maternal auntie are called differently also. Paternal aunty is called ammayi in general. However in the south the term Mamie seems to be preferred. In the North terms like attuma, pettuma and pettaca are preferred. Please note the overlap in the term pettuma as used for grandmother. The wives of Ammaman (maternal uncle )are called similar to the above.
Maternal aunties and wives of the paternal uncles are called similarly. Muthumma is generally used to denote the elder aunt thought the term Vellima( similar term as grandmother ) is sometimes used.
Brothers are called Ikka, or kaaka if they are elder and is usually referred to by name if they are younger. The title however varies. Brother of a sister is called angela whereas a brother of a male is called jyeshTan( if elder) and anujan ( if younger)
The title of an elder sister is jyeshTatthi (aeTatthi) for the an elder sister and anujaththi for a younger sister if the referring person is a female. A male however refers to his sister as pengal. Some do use the term checi for the elder sister which is a Hindu influence.
When addressing a person directly Ittha and thaatha is used to refer to an elder sister. Some, particularly in the north use the term Itthatha to refer to a sister elder than Ittha. A younger sister is referred to by name
Bharthave : Husband. a term universally excepted
mapla: A term for husband mostly used in the the northern Kerala. The word Mapla is also used to be a term to include all Malabar Muslims It was also used ot define Malayalee Christians. The word may have originated from the words Mala Pilla which means big child to welcome a husband to a family
Bhariya:Wife. a term universally excepted
Veedaru: A term used to refer to wife. More used in the northern states in Kerala. May have originated from the term ‘veetu kaar’ which means people of the house
Although in English we lump all cousins together, it is distinctly divided among Malabaris. It is generally accepted that one can marry his /her mother’s brother’s children and his father’s sister’s children. Thus the children of an Alian or Ammayi are considered differently than the other cousins. In the south the terms Machan in used for these male cousins and Madhini for the female cousins. The term machan is similar to that used in Tamil. Indeed the southern area of Kerala has more contact with Tamil Nadu than the north. The spouses of these cousins are also known as machan or madhini depending on gender. The term ikka, ittha are used for elder cousin and names are used for younger cousins if they are not customarily acceptable for marriage. This would include mother’s sister’s children and father’s brother’s children. In the North this distinction is generally not as clear. Elder cousin are called ikka and Ittha while the younger can called by name.
Children are usually called by name. The actual term for son and daughter are magan and magal respectively. The simplified term, mon and mol are used either alone or in combination with their actual name to refer children. In some case the terms mon or mol became part of a persons name.
The term peran is and pethi is used in Tamil to denote grandson and granddaughters. The term perakutti is used similarly in Malayalam. The term is howver not universal as there are regional differences. In the Southern Kerala, the term kochumon and kochumol is preferred. When speaking to a third party they are referred to as cerumakan and cerumakal. In some areas in the north there are no specific terms for grandchildren and terms like magande makkal are used to refer to son’s children and magalude makkal are to refer to the daughter’s children. By far however the children are usually called by their names.
Brother in law
Generally a sister’s husband is called alian. If the person is elder, terms like alianka or aliankaka are used. Vise versa this person would use similar term to call his wife’s brother. In the south the term matcha is used to refer to brother in law, either way.
If two men are married to sisters( ie biras in malay) the elder sister’s husband is referred to as alia/ ikka by the younger sister’s husband. The younger sister’s husband is called elayan or elayaccan by the the elder sister’s husband but is usually addressed by name.
Sister in law
A male would refer to his elder brother’s wife as Ittha and his younger brother’s wife by name. Similarly he would call his wife’s sister as Ittha if elder and by name if younger. On the other hand a lady when referring to her brother’s wife, will call her nathuun and vise versa. However when addressing each other the elder one will be called Ittha and the younger one will be called by name.
Two ladies married to brothers( ie biras in malay), will address each other similar as is sisters addressing one another. There are some areas where the younger lady will be called elayachi.
Parent in law
The term ammayi or ammayimma is used to refer to mother in law but they are called usually in similar ways as mothers are. In the southern areas they are called Mamee. Father in law is called similar to fathers
Son in law
The terms for son in law is maru-makan. They are usually called puthiapla especially in the northern region.
Daughter in law
The terms for daughter in law is maru-magal. They are usually called similar to daughters.
The parents of son or daughter in laws
The Malay term is besan. The terms benthukkar are commonly used. In southern Kerala the term sammanthi is used similar to that used in Tamil