Now, here’s the thing, not so long ago, I thought I’ll survive North India like a pro and I’ll jot down a few points to justify my stance
- I could read and write Hindi, studied Hindi until class 12.
- I could even write essays and comprehensions *show off alert*
- I knew a fair bit of Hindi and could hold a decent conversation with a handful of people who spoke the language.
- I spent way too much time watching useless Hindi movies and serials.
- I was sometimes the only one who understood most of the dialogues in these movies, songs and serials.
- I also learnt Sanskrit in school.
Ok, the last point was completely irrelevant. I wasn’t really worried about communicating with people until I moved to Delhi. Apart from the usual suspects like; culture shock, homesickness, sheep in the big city syndrome, missing my friends back home, the fear factor associated with Delhi, there was one thing that stood apart – the language barrier.
Coming to the point in focus, a week after I moved cities with my in-laws in the tow, I faced my first household challenge. The house was barren except for two cots and a sofa thrown in for good measure. The walls were bare, there were no shelves in place, the doors needed repairing, and you get the picture right? So, I was in charge of helping the in-laws set up the place. Thus, I went to the watchman and asked him for a carpenter, wait, it’s not as simple as that, the complaint book had stuff written in Hindi, I had to muster my long lost knowledge and write something. And this was just the beginning of a never ending ordeal.
The carpenter came home, looked around the place and whilst I was trying to explain what I wanted, he suddenly started speaking Greek, or it sounded like that. He was asking me for Kheel*, hathodi* and a drilling machine in Hindi, and this was despite telling him, I don’t understand a word of what he was saying. The best part was when he looked at the door and told me – iskeliye toh kundi badalna padega, I burst out laughing, because Kundi in Tamil means something entirely different!
After a while, there was no water supply, which I couldn’t rectify, so here is the Plumber or Pilambarr in Hindi. My first conversation with him was something like this: “Unga eerugal la vali iruka?? Unga toothpaste la uppu iruka?? / Aapke nall mein paani nahi aa rha hai?? Aapke tanki mein paani hai?? I was taken aback for obvious reasons; a) he was speaking too fast, b) my brain kept telling me, no match found! So after asking him to repeat the entire thing slowly and steadily, I figured that he was asking me if the *tank* was full. Now I dint know that my apartment had an individual tank, also, Delhi apartments are notorious for having multiple taps and each of these taps serve different purposes; one is for regular paani, the other one is for saaf paani (corporation / metro water). If you think that’s simple, let me elaborate, my bathroom has 4 taps and two of them don’t work. My cousin’s kitchen has three taps for God knows what! Okay, I digressed, the pilambarr looked at taps, told me that bohot saari gandagi hai like he was Abbas in a Harpic Ad, and that my tank is desperately in need of bileeching powder wali wash. All this happened while trying to communicate in my best Hindi and it was depressing to watch all my efforts go down the bloody drain, literally.
Now, apply the same concept to customer care executives from Tata Sky and Airtel; I find it really difficult to answer most of their questions, and they refuse to speak to me to English even when I request them to effing switch languages. And so on and so forth with people I meet on a regular basis; auto drivers who piss me off, my maid who thinks I’m a pushover because I’m a madrasi, to servers at takeaway joints, shop owners and delivery guys! I’m at a loss of words when it comes to expressing and explaining what I need.
So much for knowing a language! Hindi isn’t an alien language, but it isn’t a language I’m comfortable with. Honestly, I don’t think in Hindi, it’s either English or Tamil, so responding in either of these languages comes naturally to me. What pisses me off the most about Hindi is that I can't come up with instant rebuttals, and it’s really irritating when I cannot say what I really want to say. And when I want to say something, I’m kind of worried that I may say something that means something very different. For instance if a shopkeeper tries to cheat me back home, I’d simply ask him – enna anna, kaadhula poo sutharengala? Or when an auto driver over charges me, I’d say – idhu porum! See, articulating in Hindi my biggest problem, because I know for a fact that am taken for a ride, they’re taking advantage of my lack of knowledge and every time I can’t place a word or a phrase, I feel like Alia Bhatt!
So, if you’re somebody who is fluent in Hindi and can come up with awesome sarcastic comebacks, get in touch. I’m looking for something on the lines of – poi saavu da thanni lorry yethi!
PS: Kheel – nails, Hathodi – hammer, nall – tap, Tanki – Tank. Kundi – latch (Go figure :P)
PS1: This happens when I blog after ages, I write so much that it might just sound like blubbering.
PS2: thank you for reading.
PS3: Ok, Now I’m going to play Pistah and piss off my neighbours.