India has 22 official languages and if we go by the number of speakers, then there are 26 most spoken languages in this country of 28 states, 7 Union territories, and a billion plus population (1.2bn).
And thus began the befuddling drama of a multi-lingual country. When south meets north, and mouths open dropping words, we know how close we are. (No sarcasm intended.) This intimacy is preserved amongst a plethora of cultural differences.
Indian Tamilians speak Tamil; if you speak Hindi and happen to meet the ones who know little of Hindi then, like me, you are lucky, for you will have a riot of laughter with them. When you hear them talking amongst themselves and happen to show your curiosity about their discussion and they tell you “chumma!” do not jump like a kid who just found a slingshot in his boring science class! Stay calm, for the chumma of Hindi that means a kiss is a Tamil cliché too, and it means ‘simply nothing’. Literally!
We have a delicious fast food of Marathi origin and we call it Paav Bhaaji. Paav in Hindi and Marathi means bun and is to be eaten with Bhaaji, an interesting preparation of almost all the vegetables accessible to you. Paanv which is pronounced much like ‘paav’ and means a leg in Hindi had my Tamil friend perplexed. She asked me why do we eat Leg Bhaaji?
My mind is so wowed by words with capability of meaning anything and everything that now, I let some imaginations free. Here it is, I have an impossible colleague who keeps peeping into my computer to check whether it’s work or Facebook that has kept me glued to it. Sometimes I feel like programming my computer to recognize his face and pop up a message saying Tu 13 Dekh!! Hindi words, Tu means you, 13 is actually tera meaning yours and dekh means look. So you look yours. In short, mind your own business! This guy, a Hindi speaker, goes to Madurai (a city of Tamil Nadu) for a vacation. One fine morning, his wife makes him realize how badly he needs a shave. He leaves his hotel room looking for a barber and naïvely asks the locals for a ‘Naai’ (Hindi for a barber). Upon finding one, he calls out aloud, “Naai“! Now, this should be followed by a good blow to his nose by the barber himself as ,‘Naai’, in Tamil means a dog.
I once had this colleague use my telephone; his never works. He returned the favour by smothering my telephone with wet finger prints. (That display of hand-art skill on my phone still pisses me off! L) That day, I and my friends found a befitting substitute for his name. ‘Oily Guy’ it is!
So now, the Oily Guy, bruised and beaten, goes back to his hotel room only to find that his room is locked. This spurs his anger. He goes to the reception and yells, “Take off your kundhee and let me in, now!”
Wow! This Oily needs some real boiling-hot oil down his head! The poor guy isn’t aware that Kundee means bottom or derriere in Tamil!There are a few more words that I know. Eram of Urdu equals paradise whereas in Tamil it’s buffalo. Panni in Hindi is colloquial for a plastic bag but in Tamil, it’s a pig.
The above is hopefully just a prelude; I would be joyous if it becomes a full-fledged story devoid of any transparency of language(s). Let me learn more words and I will be back with some more insensible stories concocted. Or, we can do it together.