A Manner of Speaking

It’s 11 in the evening and I about to night marofy. The little one has just woken up from sleep, refreshed and bright eyed, ready to rock and roll. The same cannot be said of her bechari Mummy and darling Dimma. Welcome to motherhood and grandmotherhood.

I was planning to write a super duper post but kya karein! Between Baby’s khana, peena, rona dhona, diaper changes, there simply is no time. Hence, I am going to limit myself to giving gyan about my brand of English aka Mumbaiyya English.

The first point to note is ki I use a lot of ‘ki’. Using this Hindi substitute for ‘that’ is a very common error most Hindi speaking people do. We speak English but our prepositions are from Hindi.

I observe our societal niceties even in English. Verbs are used differently when referring to seniors, reverential and influential people. This comes across in conversations by the abundant use ofbhaiyya,Didi, jis, Please, Thankyous. It sound overly humble or wierd perhaps, but it is the same reason why we even frame our sentences with phrases like requesting you, kindly do blah blah, can you do me a favor and other words depicting deference and humility. It is just a cultural thing you see.

There are numerous taboos and superstitions that we still follow. Haan, in this age and world. It is difficult to change generations of belief and riti rivaaz. I know I am always mindful of social norms even when talking in a foreign tongue. For instance, one never asks where someone is going just as they are about step out. That is why, no matter how silly it sounds, I only ask where people will be coming back from. Similarly, I never say I am going or leaving. Inauspicious, you see. So, I stick to “I’ll be back” or “I’ll return from”.

Next, as I hail from a TamBram family, there are few Tamil words I use that find no equivalent in any other bhashasUnfortunately, not having studied the language formally, I am usually clueless about their correct usage. This necessitates my using the base verb with the suffix ‘-fy’ to insert them in my conversations. So, I ask if I can sadicho-fy dinner, pesenjify the rice and sambar and aatify the filter kappi.

Further, there are few tones and words that I myself insert to mimic local flavors. With my Mumbai dost log, I freely use haan re, kya re for ‘Oh yes’ and ‘What man’ respectively. With South Indian buddies, I end my statements with a drawling aa sound. I know that Yeah is common in the north while ya is prevalent down south. Udi baba, O Ma are exclamations to use with Bong friends while Goan family friends love the trailing yes, no? in my statements.

I also know that local media and literature or at least programmes, books and movies local to a nation shape the kind of examples and quotes we use. So, we do not term work as Herculean tasks, but call them doable by only Rajnikant. In place of are you sure?; we ask pakka, confident, lock kar diya jaye?. We use characters from Mahabharata, Ramayana, Indian history, Bollywood, Tollywood as metaphors and role models, never Shakespeare or Hollywood.

There are many other thing that are ghumo-flying now in my mind. But tapping on my iPad with just two fingers while burping gudiya is difficult. It’s harder when this post is half underlined in red, thanks to a Spell check that finds half of this page, wrong, grammatically incorrect and unacceptable. The function that suggests replacements has long stopped. My post might be incomprehensible to Grammar but there are millions who understand just fine. So, lage raho yar.

Namaste and Shukriya for reading this.


2 thoughts on “A Manner of Speaking

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  1. There’s so much detail in this. I’m trying to remember it all at once, but I think that’s doable only for Rajnikant. I like that people only ask where you are coming “from.” I’ve watched a bit of Bollywood and never noticed that. Probably lost in the subtitles. Most cool post!


    1. Thank you.
      Regarding noticing these details in Bollywood movies, in addition to the limitations of subtitles, is the factor of diversity. Different regions in India follow varying beliefs and traditions. Also, the same customs do not necessarily have the same adaptation. Further, with numerous languages, each with its multiple dialects, being spoken in my country, the equivalent in english is difficult to state, sometimes to even find.

      I am soo happy that you watch Bollywood movies. I absolutely love them. Though they are movies made only in Hindi. So, if you enjoyed those (and can find some with subtitles), do watch the other Indian movies made in Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, etc.


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