- Maybe quiet isn’t so bad. I asked Ammaa whether there’s ever been a time in her life when she has felt particularly quiet. “Q-u-i-e-t, quiet?” She asked. I nodded, feeling like I might cry at any moment. “I feel quiet always. At peace and not bothered. The only time I didn’t feel quiet was when my daughter fell very ill – than I was uneasy, scared, not at peace. But I prayed, and she finally recovered, and now she is happily married with two children. I am quiet again.” And I had been thinking that feeling silent all the time was terrible!
- Watch out for the littlest bones. “Munch well,” Ammaa told me when I picked up a piece of fish. “You don’t want to swallow any of the small bones.”
- The power of a sniff. She took me to a flower market today, which is a street of very poor people selling mounds of jasmine, roses, lotuses, and many others I didn’t recognize. I brought I flower to my nose and my host mother gasped and then explained that I should never do that. “Smelling the flower ruins its purity – the vendor cannot sell it now because it is no longer a fit offering for the gods. You must save the smell for the gods.”
- Give way for grief. Appaa returned from a funeral today, of a friend who passed away two days ago. “The talk at the funeral was how mourning rituals have been shortened so much in recent times, because people don’t have the time and means to stay at home for days, to drop everything to give way for grief. Many of us elders are very sad about this.”
- Don’t fall in love too young. Refrain. “Annie’s heart and Annie’s mind need to devise a plan for the betterment of Annie. But carry on, do your homework; I fear I am becoming too philosophical.” –Appaa
- Watch out: knowledge is certainty. I’ve noticed in Tanglish (Tamil-influenced English) a tendency to say “I have a doubt” instead of “I have a question.” I just find this so interesting I’m not even sure why!
- The difference between a love marriage and an arranged marriage, in the words of a school of social work student: Falling in a well versus jumping in. Another student mentioned she was happy to hear that Americans look for similar qualities in a partner that she looks for: equality, respect, love.
- I can make anyone laugh by saying anything in Tamil. I can also make them love me more this way.