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West coast Brahmins.

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I received this e-mail from my friend.
I thought it was worth sharing on this site.

West Coast Brahmins (non residents)

"Do you know about your family, your clan?" my uncle demanded. Indian? Tamil? I thought, dimly. He continued, "We are Vadama Iyers from Thanjavur district, our ancestors flourished as scholars and priests at court while kings came and went, we have sipped from the Kaveri river for generations". Sure enough, my older relatives proudly carried place names that reflected this geographic clustering, towns like Melakaveri, Sirkazhi and Kumbakonam starting off the multisyllabic chant of their full names.

We have dispersed across the globe since then, but one place has become the new Thanjavur. Within 30 miles of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco lives one of the densest populations of Iyers outside India. The Bay Area Brahmins.

The southern sect, the Silicon Valley Iyers, is mainstream. They are the fierce guardians of Iyer culture, keeping alive the language, music, dance and festivals. Their children attend Tamil school on Saturdays, Gita classes on Sundays, Carnatic music lessons during the week, and plan for their bharatanatyam arangetrams before the all-important junior year of high school. They score perfect 2400s on SATs and 12+ APs on their path to Ivy league programs, and play flute or violin for their school orchestra in their spare time. Some parents are eminent scholars in the fiefdoms of Cisco, IBM, Oracle and Google. Others are fanatics, priests at the temples of Zuckerberg, Jobs and Pincus. And yet, when Avani Avittam arrives, the men troop to Komala Vilas at 5 am, where they can switch into pristine poonal, eat madi samayal, and drink filter kapi, all the while watching a live cricket test match. The women do no less. Navaratri is ushered in with elaborate golus and extravagant kanchipurams. Dressed to kill and armed with visit schedules, yummy maamis jump in and out of Maybachs and Cayennes for rounds of speed socializing. Even sunbird grandparents contribute their bit, flocking to the ICC to argue about presidential primaries or bemoan the rising land prices in Los Altos.

The northern sect, the San Francisco Iyers, is the reform movement. They relocate to places like Burlingame, Mill Valley or Danville. Close enough to grab dosas on Fillmore or shop for appalam and vadam at Coconut Hill, but far enough to escape the intense pace of valley life. They enjoy sushi and dimsum, watch Andaz and MTV India, and send their children to Montessori or Waldorf or any school with a laidback attitude and a good sports program. Their offspring speak halting Tamil with an accent, play football and basketball, and pursue passions in unbrahminly professions like art or social work or architecture. Rumor has it that one actually went away to culinary school, ayyo paavam. Parents have likely used up their spare poonal to truss up the blue lake beans in their organic garden, and they invariably panic when the Livermore priest prompts them for their first-born's nakshatram. Um, rohiniaa, revathiaa? And yet they organize Diwali festivals with zeal, so that the kids can get their annual dose of desi culture. No Thyagaraja music festivals here. If they are lucky, they will hear (or better yet, sing) Kolaveri di on stage. But every other year without fail, they return to their Mambalam mothership to savor the joys of eating kalyaana sapaadu off a banana leaf, and to pay homage at their family temple in some obscure dusty village in Thanjavur district.

I can imagine the future. "Do you know about your family, your clan? Our ancestors were managers and engineers in Silicon Valley as IPOs came and went. Our family has run marathons across bridges, hiked the open space ridges and surfed these beaches for generations. We are Bay Area Iyers."
Well written article. Do you have a contemporary one (article) for Tamil Iyers living in Tanjavur.? [for the second para]. I would like to compare their position in India.
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Good post and no doubt true. I had heard about the term Boston Brahmin, but that I think has a different connotation.
I disagree with this part though:

yummy maamis jump in and out of Maybachs and Cayennes for rounds of speed socializing.

Yummy or not, I think vehicle of choice for the maamis is either a Toyota Camry or Honda Odyssey. Thankfully ostentation is not a way of life for the TBs, yet.

Yummy or not, I think vehicle of choice for the maamis is either a Toyota Camry or Honda Odyssey. Thankfully ostentation is not a way of life for the TBs, yet.

That's becos, after tax, school district rents or day-care, organic foods, business clothes, gas, mortagages, college fees etc., you can't be ostentatious ;) Glory to the 'Cost of Living' ;) wherever you are ! But, Tanjavur Brahmins may be displaying their wealth back at home ;)
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