Language Problems

Me being a Mallu and K being a Telugu-lu, the common language of communication between us is English. Yes, Yes we are the in-direct descendants of the Queen herself. This English gets coated with a generous dose of Tamil, a lil bit of Telugu and sporadic Mallu here and there.

I never learnt to read/write my mother tongue Malayalam, but made up for it by learning Tamil-my 2nd language in school, as my parents thought it was better to learn the state language and anyway the Govt’s in Chennai were all against Hindi. I took to Tamil like fish to water and there are so many people who have told me that I am more of a tamilian than a Mallu. My command over the Tamil language grew and have got me laurels in school and college for my participation in Elocutions, Debates, Speeches etc. Thank God I don’t have the famous Mallu accent-I dread it when I hear it….The Ofeece(office), the Coeffee(coffee), the Oiyill(Oil), the Bess(Bus) and the Bess stand (Bus stand), the benjch(bench), the lenjch(lunch), the yempty(empty) vessel and the likes. My mom learnt Tamil herself while sitting with my sister and me while we did our homework and tutored herself to read and write too! But when she talks Tamil, she gives respect to all other things than people. For eg she would ask somebody – “Nee yaen anga ponae” instead of “Neenga yaen angae poneenga?” and refer to things or animals as “Avanga” instead of Athu, Ithu.

I never knew even a bit of Telugu when I first moved to Hyderabad and since Hindi was the next widely spoken language here-I was confident I could manage. But the maids did not know Hindi-and I knew I had a huge problem at hand. I started off with sign language and if I had anything to ask/say to my maid, I would ask K the previous night and by-heart it. If I was stuck somewhere, I could always sms K for clarification :-). So I took it upon me to conquer another language and as time went by I could understand and converse in Telugu-though with a lot of grammatical errors. The maid,watchman and neighbours used to put all my words together and understand what it meant. :-).  Wah wah, I pat myself for learning the language all by myself just by observing and listening… pretty much like how a baby learns to talk :-). I realized that using the “learn the language in 30 days book” was such a waste of time. 

I have to mention here that all my Hindi knowledge was a result of watching Hindi movies on DD from the 70’s to 90’s. The “Khabardaar, Khaaaamosh, Ulle ke patthe, Baghwaan Ke liye mujhe Choddo, Maaaaaaaaaa mujhe naukri milgayi hain” helped a lot. In college I even took Hindi as an optional subject and scored 85/100. That was the first time I learnt to read and write Hindi. I was so happy to read those small paragraph’s from the Hindi text book and almost felt like a true-bred Hindi speaking kudi. But ask me now, and all that I remember are the letters “Aa, Aaa, Ee, Eee”. A south indian learning Hindi has been made famous by this movie “Indru Poi Naalai Vaa” . I break out into peals of laughter just watching this scene.


However well I framed sentences in my mind or practised with myself, the moment I am in a bad mood and want to express my anger, my Hindi and Telugu abandon me with lightening speed and I am left mumbling and clobbering the air for words! From then on its a full on flow in English – irrespective of whether the other person has understood me or not. Phew!!! what a waste of time and energy! And then if K is present next to me, its his job to translate in Telugu all that I’ve ranted. Its a war zone in our bedroom later, if he had left out any crucial sentence that was very important. 😮

There have been numerous occasions when I have blabbered with utmost confidence – One such instance…I was in the grocery shop and K was waiting in the car. I had taken the snacks I wanted and could not find the banana chips packets. So I marched to the store assistant and asked her

Me-”Chinta pandu chips yekkada?” (Where are the banana chips packets?)She-gives me a strange look and shook her head in the negative.I should have left it there…

Me-I went on “Chinna packets undi kaada, 200gms Chintha pandu chips” (you used to have small 200gms Banana Chips packets, din’t you)

She-Ledu Madam, alantivi emi levu. (No madam, we don’t have such things here)

 That’s it. I was pissed. I turned around, paid for the remaining things and walked to the car. Opening the door, I started ranting “These store people don’t even want to look for something the customer asks. They are so lazy. I just wanted some Chinta pandu chips and she wouldn’t even help me look for it”. At this moment, I see the same expression on K’s face that I’d seen on the girl in the store.

K-what, what did you want?

Me-I wanted Chinta pandu chips K…Banana chips and she wouldn’t even help me look for it.

At this moment, the whole car started to shake as though there was an earthquake, but it was just my dear husband rolling in his seat with laughter, trying his best to control himself. That was it–I was irritated already and here he is, irritating me even more. Finally after what seemed ages, K manages to stop laughing and tells me

“Arre, banana chips is “Arati Pandu” chips sweety. Chinta pandu is Tamarind.

No wonder that girl had that expression on her face!!!!. She would not have even heard of “Tamarind chips” and he goes off ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha again. No wonders for guessing the reaction on my face!!!!! 😮 😮 😮

K knows to read/write Telugu and Hindi. He understands Mallu and Tamil well, but can’t talk to save his life. Oh, wait…he knows to say “Kaapaathu, Kaapaathu” (save me in Tamil). I love asking K to read the Tamil comments (written in english) my friends post on FB and its hilarious and I end up guffawing. His Tamil/Mallu accent is soooo funny-I would say its cute. So whenever I am down and out – all I have to do is ask K to answer me back in Tamil/Mallu and my mood is back. 🙂

One such conversation

Me – K, tell me one sentence in Tamil or Mallu na
K – Patti poda  (Patti is dog in Mallu and Poda is Go away in Tamil)
Me – Eh!!!!!! no reaction from my end!!
This is how married couples talk….. 🙂

But in the end we are multi linguistic – we both know 5 languages 🙂 🙂 😉

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