SOME GUYS JUST AREN'T CUT OUT FOR A 9 TO 5…
For those of you that are new to the site or just haven’t read ‘the Lead’, I’m Tamil (Sri Lankan). Why is this relevant?
Well a reader from Canada said that I looked like a tanned white boy so I wanted to clear that up for starters. But it also relates to my upbringing and perhaps, explains why I’ve turned out the way I have.
Actually that’s bollocks, it won’t shed any light on that but a lot of people who know me in real life have suggested I try a piece about my background so y’all can better understand my character. So here goes nothing.
Before I get to the (hopefully) good stuff, in a nutshell; Sri Lanka’s a tiny island below India. The natives are predominantly either Sinhala or Tamil and these are also the country’s two official languages.
Fearing that if Tamil was spoken at home, we may develop an accent when speaking English, our parents never taught us how to speak the language.
Though I have no doubt that if I sounded like Apu from The Simpsons, my life would have been VERY different.
So I for one am grateful to my folks (dad) for making that call. Just FYI ladies, a girl I met in Miami told me I sounded like Hugh Grant. Moving on…
Unfortunately mum had other ideas and we were forcibly enrolled into a Saturday school when I was around six. Her aim? That we’d pick up the language and some understanding about our religion.
In short, this was a fairly amateur operation. After five years at school, I was able to have reasonably fluent conversations in French. But over the same period at Saturday school, I picked up these three sentences:
1. My name is Sean – en-athe pear Sean
2. A cow eats grass – passu pull thinnum
3. A cow produces milk – passu parl tharrum
Now admittedly I wasn’t the best student but what was the deal with this cow?
Only until my teens did I realise that this was related to our religion. You see, my family, like many Tamils are Hindu and the cow is considered to be a sacred animal. So it stands to reason that they’d cover this.
But as a child with no clue, I used to imagine ridiculous scenarios where these sentences may have actually been useful e.g. upon arrival at the airport:
Passport control: “What’s the purpose of your visit to SL?” (Tamil equivalent)
Me: “Erm… sorry I don’t speak Tamil.”
Passport control: “I said. What’s the purpose of your visit to SL?”
Me: “Hmm… A… Cow… Eats grass?”
Passport control: “Oh my god. Why didn’t you say so earlier sir. Thems are the magic words; you can by-pass this queue and I’ll arrange for a limo to pick you up out front.”
Would you say that Sean can hold a basic conversation in Tamil? “Not even close. And furthermore, I think he may be retarded. As he just sits there looking at pictures of cows laughing to himself.”
Now I’ve always been suspicious about religion as I figured, so long as you know the difference between right and wrong, that’s all that really matters. Of course my ‘wrong barometer’ has been known to play up on occasion. However I was forced to reassess my principles in ’98.
I’m not sure how it works elsewhere but in the UK, your first major exams are your GCSEs (sat at 16 generally). And at 18, you sit your A-Levels, which are essentially university entrance exams.
There are two years between me and the Surgeon. So in the summer of ’98, exactly a week after he would receive his A-Level results, I would be picking up my GCSE results.
As had become our modus operandi by then, we would only visit the Temple voluntarily if we needed something. So the Surgeon, wanting a helping hand decided to throw his only £2 into the donation box the night before his results came out.
Results day came and went and he bagged 2 As and 2 Bs. Brilliant achievement don’t get me wrong (especially as this was at a time when colouring-in wasn’t on the syllabus like it is now) but I couldn’t help wondering if he’d have received straight As if he’d put £4 into the box.
Fast forward a week. And the night before I collected my results I placed £10 into the box. What did I get? 10 As.
Hmmm. Maybe I was wrong about this religion stuff.
Fast forward two years and it was my turn with A-Levels. Now I left nothing to chance and even adjusted for inflation over the previous two years, so ended up putting £6 into the box (for my three subjects).
Results day – 1 A, 1 B, 1 C
Balls! It is a load of crap after all.
Would you say that Sean clearly understands the principles and philosophies of Hinduism? “Nope. That boy’s going to get reincarnated as toilet roll.”
Language – Take Two
There are three things I’ll say about Tamils with some certainty;
1. Only the Greeks or the Russians can rival them in terms of surname length;
2. These names invariably start with letters toward the end of the alphabet (like mine); and
3. If you go into any petrol station in London at night, the man behind the counter WILL be Tamil. This is relevant as I’m convinced that once a shopkeeper realises I’m not just a regular drunk (with the late night munchies) but a Tamil drunk; this will carry goodwill and I shall leave said store with some freebie or at least a discounted item.
During our final year of school, home-room was assigned alphabetically. Now as fate would have it, both Unit and Poitier were in that class too. So buoyed by their enthusiasm, I decided to give the language thing another go.
Unfortunately I picked up nothing further. But the boys ‘appeared’ to have mastered my name is – en-athe pear.
My petrol station theory was common knowledge so some years later when the Surgeon, Poitier and I were returning home from a bender we thought we’d test it out.
Poitier: “Don’t worry chaps, I’ve got this one in the bag… END OF THE PIER, POITIER.”
The Surgeon: “Quick Sean, use the cow line.”
Me: “Erm… A… cow… eats grass?”
So it turns out that this phrase really is as bloody useless as it sounds. And other than an out-of-date packet of crisps, I have received jack from my brethren.
Before I go, I just wanted to say thanks to New Mumma, who recently nominated me for a blogging award. Though given the title is the ‘Super Sweet Blog’, I’m still trying to figure out if she was taking the piss or not.
Unfortunately I’m unable to openly accept the award as I fear that being associated with such a mushy accolade may harm my chances of becoming a rapper; a project that I am undertaking on the side.
It’s more ‘middle class’ than ‘gangster’ and I don’t yet have a stage name but I still think I might be onto something. Current working titles include:
L.W.A (Lankans with Attitude) – ‘Straight outta Tooting’
MC Spanner – ‘You most certainly CAN touch this’
50 pence – ‘Please make me rich or I’ll start crying’
That is all.
If you liked this then I suspect you might also enjoy my book. Or not.
Either way, thanks for reading; particularly to those of you who share these stories and/or leave comments.