Monday, July 07, 2008

When I look back now, at my arduous struggle with the national language, I must admit that I still have a long way to go. When in school my understanding of its vocabulary and grammar was so poor that my Hindi teacher labeled me an “Angrezi (Englishman)” and then washed her hands off me. With its complex rules on gender the language never ceased to seem alien to me. Thus each time an occasion rose for me to speak in Hindi I would hesitate before muttering my question or answer undertone. I did not want to come across as rude or just plain retarded.

And then I ended up spending two years in the dusty badlands of Uttar Pradesh and I no longer had any place to hide. I found it hard to fit in with my peers. It didn’t matter that they conversed in English with me. Without Hindi, I could never hope to follow the intricacies of a conversation or understand a joke. Swear words made no sense to me and when insulted I could only smile and nod enthusiastically in response.

It was impossible to talk to the dhobi in English and sign language was prone to misinterpretation. When my pants went missing, I summoned him to my room. I then pointed somewhere towards his zip area, widened my eyes and made vigorous questioning movements with my hands. He left and never returned after that. Looking back I realize he may have misunderstood my intentions.

Even when I did try Hindi my friends would respond with an “Oh! You have a typical Southie accent! What Mr.Rajnikanth? If I did try to neutralize my natural accent they would make a face and tell me I sounded contrived and artificial. There was no way I could please them. When Om Shanti Om released I was tormented in every corner of the campus with jeers like “Bad Cat!” or “Naughty Cat!” As much as I tried to defend Tamil cinema, my valiant protests resulted in no improvement of perception.

I continued to struggle with similar sounding words like Chaathi and Chathri and Utharna and Uthaarna. When it rained, I unwittingly almost asked my classmate if I could borrow his chest and once while traveling in a local bus I asked the gentleman sitting next to me if had to take my clothes off in the next stop.

Over a period of time I gradually became more comfortable with the language. I found it easier to participate in conversations and could frown menacingly when insulted. When I went to Bangalore for a vacation, it hurt me physically to listen to my sister converse with the security guard in Hindi.

With the exception of Jodha Akbar, I now found it possible to follow the dialogues of all Bollywood movies. I began singing Hindi songs and even understood the lyrics. By the end of my two years at IMT, I could even appreciate the occasional shaayiri.

I still struggle with numbers though. I can’t count beyond twenty and it makes life difficult on the street. Variations in accent are still a bit of a problem. For the life of me I cannot follow a Bihari accent.

But I am no longer an Angrezi :-)

18 comments:

Serendipity said...

:)) teehee ' borrow their chests' , nice nice

Dinesh said...

Serendipity: With the opposite sex it could have had disastrous consequences :-)

Kroopa Shah (Kr00pz) said...

LOL, didn't you get into trouble with any women with your attempts at Hindi?

Nishal Joseph said...

your teacher wud have called you an angrez which means englishman
angrezi is english

Anonymous said...

mas post hai bhidu! iska koi doosra bhag hai arthat.. part 2????

agar hai tho.. jaldi... i cant wait!

- Anon 1

maduraiveeran said...

Some Hilarious moment you've had. I had similar problems with Marathiish Hindi in Pune and I ended up pointing at things. Thankfully, I didnt have to deal with a laundry man. Om shanthi Om was a crappy movie by the way.

Revathi said...

I cannot understand the torture you underwent because hindi is more or less my mother tongue and i have never had a problem with it. it was tamil which gave me the heebie jeebies when i first started speaking the language 7 years back. i never did understand the difference between "kuttindu poradhu" and "yedunthudu poradhu" and i would always end up saying "book a kuttindu poren" and "thatha va yeduthundu poren". it was only later that i realised that yeduthundu poradhu can apparently be used only for dead/inanimate objects. :-\
the script confused me all the more. unlike hindi tmail doesnt have a ka,kha,ga etc. there is only a ka,na etc. and reading was mighty difficult.
Like you i used to be called Sethni when i first came because of the good hindi and pathetic tamil i spoke!! not anymore!! :)

Nice post. Part 2??

>>Jass said...

// asked my classmate if I could borrow his chest
//I asked the gentleman sitting next to me if had to take my clothes off in the next stop.

ROTFL! Language problems can get seriously embarrassing.

Tashi said...

Quite a few hotspots you have landed into. I never really had a problem with Hindi. It was my Malayalam I had major trouble with. When I went to attend College in Kerala ragging was rampant. And I never really understood what seniors were asking me to do. That was tough. My worst mistake was confusing the word for rape with inter-school children's culturual festival. Both words sounded so similar. And I said that to a senior. Imagine what I went through after that!

Cuckoo said...

I agree with revathi, Tamil gave me a torturous period especially with the written stuff.
'Golden' and 'kolten' are written same and if you aren't aware whether kolten is a word or not then you keep reading it like that.

Even I had a problem understanding Marathi when I came to Mumbai first. But not now.

Good post, enjoyed.

Cuckoo

lazydeeps said...

hey DD...man this was hilarious! i cudnt control my laughter after reading this!! As I hav been an unfortunate witness to ur Hindi speakin attempts, i cherish those moments. :)

Anonymous said...

rule 1. of blogging: not to keep ur anon readers waiting... where is part 2??? where is the next post?

- Anon 1

Shambhavi said...

HAHA LOLZ...hillarious blog.
I can very well imagine ur contorted face while tryin to understand the slangs tht we spoke et. al.
And now tht u r back in NCR, time for further mehnat on this language..eh?!

Ashwath said...

super post...
avanaaaaaaaa neeeeeeeeeeeeeeee??????? hehehe

Anonymous said...

agree with anon1. when is the next post coming? can people in noida speak english? try that...
aaha kilambitaangaya kilambitaangaya...

Anonymous said...

agree with anon1. when is the next post coming? can people in noida speak english? try that...
aaha kilambitaangaya kilambitaangaya...

anon2

Anonymous said...

Hindi teacher labeled me an “Angrezi (Englishman)”

angrezi means English language

angrez means an Englishman.

Anonymous said...

whr art thou.. .hope al is fine with u!!!!