Putting kadalai is one of my favourite hobbies (a close second to a most favourite hobby, which is receiving kadalai). The etymology of “kadalai podrathu” is probably from the Marina Beach romance culture, which made the too-healthy-to-be-sexy sundal an aphrodisiac.
Kadalai is not kaadhal, kadalai is not a commitment. Kadalai is just flirtation. Kadalai is repartee and possibility. The best thing about kadalai is that it’s very uncomplicated. So you can share a cone with anyone, metaphorically speaking, and usually be perfectly satisfied with just that. But no less than Rumi is credited with a poem on the chickpea, which includes these zesty lines: “Grace first. Sexual pleasure, then a boiling new life begins, and the Friend has something good to eat.”
I recently discussed this while in the midst of another favourite activity, procrastination (also fun to do with another person). “I wonder what sundal would be, then,” I procrastinated with my friend Sukanya. She expanded the Tanglish lexicon of lust and love immediately: “Sundal would be a booty call text. It’s quite spicy and it’s been cooked – by then some process has happened.” Kadalai progression.
Sukanya lives in an exotic foreign country known as Mumbai and when I visited her once, she asked me to bring a certain local delight – rose milk from the airport Krishna Sweets. Thankfully, it did not bukkake in my luggage. Rose milk would be “final achievement unlocked” she winkyfaced. Except, of course, it turns bad the next day. A comparison I am, sadly, very familiar with.
Chicken 65 is obviously what happens when a height-disproportionate couple tries to have an egalitarian oral experience (quite overrated anyway; in fact, we could say it’s only semiprime). A karuvadu situation might generally mean something dried up beyond redemption, but do you have any idea how tasty karuvadu actually is, after days in the sun? Heat plus anticipation equals much deliciousness. Slow burn. Keep it roasting.
A vengayam, to misquote a famous politician, would be a dudebro who seems complex and deep at first (you know, listens to Cohen and always meant to listen to Mitchell too, takes long solo bike rides to brood in scenic settings, maybe reads a little Zizek – or just reads a little at all), but once everything’s peeled off there’s nothing there. Oh, and he also makes you cry.
Speaking of when everything’s been peeled off, a pachaimolaga is a thing that looks disappointingly small but is capable of imparting much fieriness. Or maybe you’d prefer the pappadum or appalam – the hotter it gets, the more it expands. Apropos which, long before the eggplant emoji, we were already saying “oru kathrikai kooda ille”. Sigh.
Which brings me to how, in these days of both grocery apps and dating apps delivering juicy convenience to our doorsteps, some of us still thiruvify the thenga ourselves. The good old-fashioned way. By hand, the way God and Dr. Ruth told us to. If you don’t think this analogy applies to your anatomy, it’s quite possible that too many already do. And if all this Tanglish has been lost on you, let’s just say the last word is simply: ladies finger.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on November 30th 2017. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.