For the uninitiated, Marumakkathayam is the practice of passing on ones wealth to their nephews rather than their own offspring. This practice was noted in ancient Kerala and similar practices are noted in other parts of the worlds as well.
I don’t remember how we got into this discussion that night. A few of us mallu friends got together for dinner that night and was trying to solve the world’s problem over a beer when we stumbled up on this discussion. One question that came up that we couldn’t find a satisfactory answer was how does Marumakkathayam make sense genetically? Your immediate offspring is 50% related to you where as a nephew is only 25% related to you. Wouldn’t the selfish gene in you prefer your direct offspring over your nephew? Has our ancestors been making a genetic mistake by passing on all the riches to their nephews instead of their sons?
I had to sleep over it before I came up with an answer that I think is right. You know for sure that your nephew share 25% (this could be 12.5%, if the sister is only a half sister) of the DNA with you. However, in the case of your son, he may be 50% related to you. Notice the “may be” I used in the previous sentence. This is one of the basic differences between a man and a woman. For the woman, if the offspring comes from her womb, she knows that it is her baby and that the baby share 50% of her genes. For the man, he just has to believe in the woman that the baby share 50 % of DNA with him! Would he believe enough to bet his farm on that belief? Apparently not in those days! So those ancestors were smart to say, sorry son, I love you but the farm goes to your cousin!
Now why didn’t they do it on a case by case basis? That is, if one is sure his son is really his son, wouldn’t they want to just pass on the farm/kingdom to the son instead of giving to the nephew? Well, my thinking is, if this is how it was done, some of them will have to have an argument with their wife to explain why her son is not getting the major part of the farm/kingdom. Now that wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation, would it? How would one explain this to everyone else in the village/kingdom? It was just easier to make a social contract to have everyone have their nephew inherit their wealth.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts?