The Summer Projects season was an eagerly awaited time during our engineering course. This was the time for us all to travel Northwards from Gods Own Country to hitherto unexplored lands for 2 months of Industrial Training
And after 2 hot summer months of various (mis) adventures, July was the time to get together and swap all those stories. Tall tales of lands so hot in summer that comparatively boiler rooms seems air-conditioned; places where rum is cheaper than water and places without either water or rum!! (Ok , its just Chennai, Goa and Bhavnagar (in Gujarat) if you are curious)
And there we used to swap stories of faux pas with one particular foreign language- Hindi! A language of such complexity that many could not master it even 7 years of learning it in School and College. Well, ok as many will admit; learning is one thing; speaking was quite a different ballgame altogether. Only when you actually try do you realize the gaps in your Rashtrabhaasha Adhhyaapan. Coz I'm not talking about any semi-educated country bumpkins here.On the other hand these are guys who would derive a 4 page long engineering equations in seconds; and were acknowleged best of brains studying at a highly sought after engg college.But still there were enough issues with Hindi that you could write a Harry-Potter-size-Best-Seller on " What they did not teach you at Harvard Primary School".
Anyway, narrating a few of those Hindi Horror stories with all apologies to the Original Protagonists…………
The first one happens on a rainy morning where three of our heroes are doing their project in an Andheri office. One of them " Satish" walks in when the other 2 guy stop behind at the Pan / bidi shop for a smoke.
The cute receptionist smiles at him as he comes in dripping wet with a wet folded umbrella and asks "Hi ! Baarish hai kyaa?"
Our man thinks there is a major identity crisis here!! . So he states proudly " Nahi, nahi mein Satish hoon !!!"
The cute receptionist stifles a cute giggle and clarifies " Meine poocha ki BAAHAR Baarish hai kya???"
Some long forgotten chapter of a Standard 5 Hindi text book flashes in the guy’s head and remembers that baahar means outside. " Oh, ok ok baahar… Baahar Anish aur Harish hai…Smoking Cigarette !!!!!"
Well, the poor guy became the butt of many jokes later that even if a faux pas happened to anyone else; it used to get published on his name. Like the one about the time when he was at a New Mumbai station waiting for the train. Neither him nor his pal had a watch and the platform clock was not working either . A rather plumpish lady was the only person nearby and they noticed she had a watch.
"Go ask her the time" The friend tells our man. " In Hindi??" Our man is understandably a bit scared. "Yeah , its simple. Just ask Kitne baje huvey" .The friend is confident though he doesn’t volunteer himself. The lady is now warily looking at the two "dangerous looking" guys as she saw them pointing at her and whispering something. She clutches her handbag instinctively.
Our man approaches; points at her watch (or well, say somewhere around where her watch is at that moment) and asks "Excuse me; Kitne Bacchhey huvey??? !!!!"
Well, there are conflicting reports about what happened afterwards so I cant tell for sure. Am not sure about injuries or casualties but one thing I know is that both the guys had a quantum leap in their vocabulary of Hindi swear words overnight!……
Much of the essential Hindi conversation was necessitated at various shops when buying those bare essentials for your stay in the foreign land. I do not really recall where the following incident took place or even IF it took place; but if you are not a stickler for such trivia, just read on…..
Two weary souls were returning back to the hostel on a hot summer day in this North Indian town (For us, North India means any place north of Calicut anyway). Anyway there was this juice/ milkshake shop that looked inviting. They decided to have a Banana Milk Shake each from the menu displayed. This is how the conversation went…
Our Hero : " Bhaisaab, Do Banana"
Shopkeeper : " Kyaa banaana?"
Our Hero repeats : "I mean bhaisaab, do banana"
Shopkeeper : " Wohi bhai, Kyaa banaaoon aapke liye?" (He looks at him as if he has gone bananas himself)
The two heroes look at each other in utter confusion. It dawns that banana does mean something else in Hindi but the knowledge as such is not enough for resolving the situation. Also neither knows if there is a Hindi word for Banana. No Hindi teacher in school had prepared them for such a situation in Hindi-land. The hassled shopkeeper does not look like one to mess with. Finally our hero decided to take no more chances " Bhaisaab, Do Banana banana !!!"
Another guy once went for food at a little Udupi restaurant. He wanted to ask the waiter for some warm water as he had a heavy cold. Only, he kind of mixed up the temperature settings assigned by the inventors of Hindi to various words. So he asked" Boss, thanda paani denaa". He realized the faux pas when the waiter placed a glass of sub zero chilled water. Though he racked his brains for the Hindi word for "warm" at that desperate moment ; those little gray cells did not throw up any answers. Only option was to leverage his knowledge of thermodynamics " Boss, Paani Room Temperature mein laana" !!!!
There is another story titled "Soda Kiskaa hai? Coz that is what another hero asked a shopkeeper. No problems with that , except that he was the one (the only one) who just had a soda when everyone else had softdrinks "Aap ne hi tho piya thaa" said the shopkeeper. Ok ok but "Soda Kiskaa hai?" he persisted. The friends reminded him again that it was he who had the soda. He clarified indignantly "I was asking the price, Soda kiskaa hai?"!!!
From that time on "Soda Kiskaa hai?" became his officially designated signature line.
And also classic status has been attained by the transcript of his conversation with a policeman at the Karwar checkpost (Goa-Karnataka border) where he was caught with 3 litres of wine in his bag. Well, I was in the bus too this time J
Police: Yeh , teen litre kaa wine hai
Our man: Nahi, nahi.. yeh teen litre kaa wine hai !!!
Policeman is dumbfounded by the logic …but persists
Police: Yeh 3 litre kaa wine hai. Iskaa duty denaa padegaa
Our man: Hum Students hai, duty nahi karte hain (!!)
Police: Woh nahi , iska tax..maane payment - duty denaa padegaa
Our man: Hum Goa gaye. Dukanom se poocha!! Dukan ne kahaa wine ka no duty hai (they have speaking shops thereabouts?)
Police: Aap 3 litre le ke aarahe hai. Sab milake Rs...(He quotes a figure) as duty
Our man: Hum students hai. Students gareeeeeeb hai. Students ko Concession milnaa chahiye ! Well, meanwhile I was praying that my own bags does not get checked too much and hence I didn’t stick around to hear the entire story. However as the story became famous he acquired the nickname "Gareeeeeeebu" and when anyone in college went bankrupt; he used to be called Gareeeb!
And there was one who went to buy a rope for tying a clothesline at a multi purpose store and asks. " Ek Rassi milegaa?". The shopkeeper replies. "Lassi nahi hain, Chhaas chalegaa?" Our man assumes it is some rope-substitute and okays it. After two minutes the guy comes from inside with a chilled glass of Buttermilk and offers it. Our man understands it as a nice North Indian Complimentary Welcome Drink Custom and glugs it down in a jiffy. He notices that the shopkeeper now regains his position at the counter and does not make any effort to look for any rope. He asked again and accompanied it with frantic actions of tying a clothesline; starting with hammering nails on a wall. The shopkeeper looks like he understands. " Acchaa, keela bhi chahiye aapko?? To cut a long story short; it is said that when the satisfied customer returned home it was with one packet of nails, a hammer and of course a bellyful of not-complimentary-chhaas !!
To drift a bit from the topic ; and to even things out a bit..here's the story of a Northie down South and a canteen waiter in a Trichur College. Ok don’t be shocked or offended; well the canteen menu had beef. ( Unfortunately its quite a common food item around those parts. Veggies, Please don’t hold it against me). Anyway there was this Northie student who was served this weird looking item along with regular meals. Well, FYI Keralites don’t generally acknowledge that there exists are a species called vegetarians. The student suspiciously asked the waiter what was on the side plate. The waiter replied all so indulgently "Beef!! And to his absolute shock, he added "Its compulsory here!!!" The student stormed out of the canteen and filed a complaint with the dean of the institute against the canteen. There was an enquiry and the culprit was questioned. The poor man confessed. " I only meant that he did not have to pay extra for it" Someone got it finally "You should’ve said complimentary, not compulsory !!"
Neway let me get back to the topic at hand.I’ll be accused of being politically incorrect if I don’t include some stories of those from the distaff side. Well, there weren’t too many girls in our course. But the few who were there did contribute generously to the kitty of Hindi horror stories. Like the one who went shopping at Fashion street, Mumbai and bargained hard. "Yeh top kitne kaa hain?" She asked " Dhedh sau rupaye (Rs150/-)" says the shop keeper. "Bahut costly hain! Two hundred hain tho mein letaa hoon". What a win-win situation for both the parties!! Quite understandably the shopkeeper agreed to the bargain rather quickly. It was only when she triumphantly described to people about how she got a 250 bucks top for 200 was the entire story revealed…and obviously caused a booming industry of such stories with her as the protagonist.
Like the time she warned a roadside bag seller when no amount of bargaining could get him to lower the prices." Hum, Panjim jaa kar another bag bechenge !!!I don’t know if threat of competition was something the bagseller accounted for, coz he gave in finally !! Anyway, the best story about her is an unconfirmed story of an Auto Driver who dared to overcharge her. He had asked for 40 bucks for the short trip to the hostel from the railway station. And she had never paid more than 30 before. So she bargained hard " Thees se kam, hum kabhi nahin dete !!!"The confused Auto driver gave the balance accordingly and was reparing to drive off. And she informed the onlookers dramatically " Main loot gayi….. Is ne mujhe loot diya !!!" (Well, the driver still claims to be innocent of such a malicious charge)
(Disclaimer: All people in these stories are still living somewhere in this world and all resemblance to any particular real life individuals or incidents is purely intentional.A couple of times i have relied on my creative instincts to embellish the “faded in memory parts” of a couple of stories)****************************************************************************************
Plz do leave a line on the comments column if u liked this piece or maybe even an anecdote if u have one to narrate yourself .on language fiascos..