English Memsaab


Language map of India

Major languages of India. Image courtesy: mapsofIndia.com

Staying away from your home and hometown teaches you a lot! One such important lesson is communicating in sign language or broken sentences in an unknown language to get your point across to the other person. Esp. in a country like India where language changes every few hundred kilometres. If I take just one example of Karnataka state, the languages spoken are mainly Kannada, Tulu and Konkani ( later two by minority population mostly in coastal Karnataka).  Even the Kannada spoken is not similar throughout the state and dialects are so different that people find it difficult to understand each other at times. Again the Konkani and Tulu are spoken differently by different sects who speak the language. As a country we have so many languages and dialects that WordPress dictionary shows them as spelling errors as I type most of the names here. 😛

I remember, having to ask directions in Trivandrum, where people understood English but the problem was they couldn’t get the way we pronounced the names of the places and ended up giving wrong directions and sending us, at times, in the exact opposite direction of where we intended to go. We would finally manage to get hold of one person who spoke and understood ‘our English’.  It is one of those unfortunate moments when you thank the British for having ruled us (at least they have given us a common language:English) 😐

Now I stay in Bangalore, which is the capital city of Karnataka. My mother tongue being Kannada, I thought, now I am done with broken communication but life has other plans. My PG owner is a Tamil native and hence most of the cooks who come to our PG to cook are from small distant villages in Tamil Nadu and know only Tamil. If you happen to drop by on one of the weekday mornings into our PG, you will notice an earthling v/s alien like situation. Two people blabbering away at each other and looking at each other in wonder. And they part ways again talking, this time to themselves. One of these people is our cook and other could be any of the other inmates. 😕

Fortunately we have a couple of girls who speak Tamil, who come to our rescue once in a while. On one such occasions our cook exclaimed to my other PG-mate(in Tamil of course) while pointing at me, “How is this girl going to manage after marriage, She doesn’t know Tamil, does she intend to speak in English with her husband and in-laws?” 😯 I have faced “What is this girl going to do after marriage?!” many a times before but this time it was for an entirely different new reason. The innocent gal doesn’t even know other languages are spoken in India or that B’lore is in Karnataka whose official language is Kannada or that so many non-kannadigas also stay here and it is ok to be so.  She has also taken upon herself the responsibility of teaching the poor me some Tamil and kindly extended the invitation to attend her brother’s marriage in her home town. 😉

Yesterday, was the icing on the cake. She told me another assumption she had made about me and another friend of mine. That initially she thought we were ‘foreigners’ 😀 I couldn’t respond coz I was busy laughing.

Of all the confused identities this one takes the crown!  😀

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20 thoughts on “English Memsaab

  1. 🙂 Living all of my life so far just in Bangalore has some advantages.. I am fluent in Kannada, Tamil and my mothertongue Malayalam. I can understand Telugu and can manage to speak back in bits and pieces. My Hindi isn’t too bad either.

  2. hahahaha…i liked that “what she gonna do fter marriage”.. it would have blown my mind if it would have happened in my case…
    since i’m from Mumbai i know little bit of many languages and some credit goes to Hindi movies too
    so intially i had assumption that since Hindi and Marathi have same script and more or less similar..north Indians won’t have problem understanding Marathi
    but when i met people from north who had come to Mumbai for the first time i realised that it’s difficult for them to understand Marathi and more difficult to get the pronounciations correct
    loved this post 🙂

  3. I’ve never been to India, but do plan to visit soon for a total exploration of entire India. Here in the UK, we do have different South Asian communities. Us younger generation, have grown up with kids of different cultures and languages. I have always found it fascinating that being a British Asian, we have the blessing to know more than one language. In my case – I know Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, a little Arabic and also the some different variation of those languages i’ve just mentioned.

    The British people who I associate with simply find our ability to know more than one language a miracle, especially since we simply practice these languages with our communities pretty much from birth.

    Reading you post, just gives me that much more urge to visit India and explore exactly what you have wrote above.

  4. You know 6 languages? I am so impressed! I know English and a tiny bit of Spanish and Urdu. I’m always amazed at people that flawlessly jump from one language to another!

    • hey Ameena. Thanks for stopping by.

      One good part of growing up in India is that you grow up with 3-4 languages from your early days i.e. English, Hindi, Your mother tongue. Here states are divided on linguistic basis. Sometimes your father and mother belong to regions speaking different languages or you grow up in a state where the language spoken is different from your mother tongue.

      The foreign languages, I learnt out of interest.

      Someday I hope to learn Urdu. It is a beautiful language 🙂

  5. hey hii
    whatever is in your post, i have just experienced it!!
    I mean i was in Bangalore for around 6 months, for my company’s training and obviously i too stayed in PG..
    and our owner was a Tamil!! the surprising part is they dont even know Kannada or English or Hindi and still they manage to do business so well, thwy probably know only few english words and their fav is Rent…gr8 people
    After reading your post, i couldnt help but think of the days i spent there and smile…

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