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Thinnai, Arattai

Thinai and Thinnai sound so similar, yet they are very different. For a start, both are Tamil words and the 'n' in both words are pronounced a deep 'NN' - not from the tip of the tongue but with great emphasis,  the tongue firmly interacting with the roof of the mouth.

 In classical Tamil literature, Thinai refers to the genre or theme in which a literary work is set. Wiki describes the word as "a complete poetical landscape - a definite time, place, season in which the poem is set - and background elements characteristic of that landscape - including flora and fauna, inhabitants, deities and social organisation. These collectively provide imagery for extended poetic metaphors ("ullurai", literally "inner meaning"), which set the mood of the poem".

Thinai can be "Agam" (internal) or "Puram" (external) but going deeper here would be a grave digression.

Thinai is therefore a well defined boundary to which the writer sticks religiously.

Contrast that with the Thinnai - a concrete structure or a raised concrete platform found in front of houses in rural Tamil Nadu, the best of translations define it as a kind of verandah or porch or, as R.K.Narayan loved to call it, a Pyol.  The Thinnai is a default reception room for the house where visitors not yet eligible to be invited inside are met.  It is also the place where milkmen, vendors of vegetables and assorted merchandise set their wares down, called out to the lady of the house and waited for her to emerge for transacting business.

The Thinnai is also the kingdom of the patriarch of the house at certain times of the day, notably evenings stretching late into the night. A patriarch,  past working age, perched cross legged and watching the world go by. Occassionally he would hail an aquaintance passing by and exchange pleasantries. Their Vetrilai Petti would always be at hand - a rectangular metal box filled with betel leaves, betel nuts and lime, sometimes with chewing tobacco.

Come evenings and the patriarch holds court on the Thinnai. Privileged friends share seating space with him while the riff-raff stand close by, maintaining a respectful distance but close enough to have an ear open for pearls of wisdom emanating from the "court".  The king of the Thinnai and his group of faithfuls discuss anything and everything under the sun and pass their judgement with gay abandon. The local Panchayat leader, the Chief Minister of the state, why even the Prime Minister are not spared. Their statesmanship is discussed and analysed threadbare and often dismissed with great disdain. Opinions are passed not on politics alone. Business men, movie stars, cricketers, Godmen, the weather, GST, petrol prices, global warming - nothing and noone is spared. It is a democratic autocracy where everyone is entitled to express an opinion but the final verdict always comes from the presiding king of the Thinnai.

It is therefore safe to say that there is no Thinai for the discussions and debates that take place on the Thinnai.

This blog of mine is a bit of both. I will stick to Thinai in some posts where my words are grist to the mill, either mine, yours or someone else's.  Otherwise this will degenerate into a Thinnai, filled with random musings, of this and that, and generally anything and everything. And, I am the patriarch of this Thinnai and my verdict is Final  😊😊😊😊

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