“Oh you know Hindi!, That’s surprising” . Now that is not surprising.
With a typical South Indian (Madrasi is it?) demeanor that I have, the fact that my north Indian colleagues are surprised at my Hindi ‘skills’, is not surprising.
“Oh I passed out of Kendriya Vidyalaya you Know…We studied even Social studies in hindi…So yea.. I can handle hindi!’ Would be my typical response, a tad proud that I got them incorrect in a certain way!
But then, I know for myself on how much of Hindi I can ‘Really’ handle! .Quite clearly, the only Hindi exposure, if I can say, has been academic and I don’t remember having the need of interacting with people around me in Hindi on a regular basis. All that changed when I moved to the northern part of India a few months back. It is not that, Hindi knowledge, rather, the lack of it, is detrimental if you are looking at living in the North. But then, the realization dawns pretty soon.
I end up talking to people around me in hindi almost always! And that’s where I start discovering that what is spoken in this part of the country is way different from the Kendriya vidyalaya’s Course-A Hindi Syllabus (Both Swathi, the poetry book and Parag ,the prose textbook!) .
There are certain things which just cannot be accomplished by Course-A hindi lessons that were taught in school; like bargaining with the Auto driver. You are supposed to sound upset with the rates they quote, argue for the best rate, all in an accent/slang that would convince the driver to reduce the rates. Needless to say most often I fail miserably J. With my textbook diction, I end up entertaining the driver through my failed attempts at bargaining. So I always have one standard line to say
“Arey Bhaiyaa!. Roz (X-20) dekhe jaata hoon main!” where X= amount quoted by the Auto driver!
(Hey brother, I pay (X-20) everyday for the same route)
Now, I don’t even know if that’s a correct statement technically! Nevertheless, It seems to work!
If Accent/Slang is one challenge, recalling the numbers in hindi is quite a handful as well!
As clichéd as it may sound, it is unquestionably true that my first lesson on numbers in hindi, up to 13 atleast, I owe to the legendary ‘Ek dho theen’ song,. And for me, the Kendriya vidyalaya course A hindi took that count to 50 (Pachas you see!). Thanks to my Primary Hindi teacher’s life threat on me for failing to memorize numbers in Hindi up to 50.
Despite taking up the tough part of ‘ 50 to 100 : hindi version’ in secondary school, I don’t seem to recall them quick enough to use in conversations.
Coming back to the Auto chap, the (X-20) that I quote usually, is a number above 50. So, when he quotes X, I take some time to process it. Step one of which is to subtract 20 from it and arrive at my ‘response to the quote’. The second step requires me to translate the same in hindi and confidently throw it back at the auto driver. Now, the challenge here is, I have to do it rapidly in order to stay in the bargaining game. After a few initial bloopers, I got hold of the numbers, atleast the ones on the regular routes.
And then, I encounter this auto chap who reminded me that I was not quite into Hindi numbers yet! The conversation goes something like this
Me: Sector 126 chaloge?
(Me:Can you take me to sector 126?)
Auto chap:Chalenge sir…
(Auto chap: yes sir,we can.)
(Me:How much would you quote?)
I wanted to know his quote (X),so that I can proceed with further steps.Usually the X is Rs.90 or Rs.100, in which case my response would almost always ”Arey Bhaiyaa!. Roz satthar (70) dekhe jaata hoon main!” This guy was plain honest!
Auto Chap: saath rupaya sir
(Auto chap:Rs.60 sir)
I heard it correctly, but I had already assumed it would be either 90 or 100!. So I go with my usual response
Me: Arey Bhaiyaa!. Roz satthar dekhe jaata hoon main!
(Me: Hey Brother, I pay Rs.70 everyday for the same route)
Auto chap: Kya? Kitna bola aapne?
(Auto chap: What?How much did you say?)
And then I realize the mistake!! He actually quoted 60 and I offered 70! Now, regaining whatever senses I lost, I responded!
Me: Kitna Bola aapne?
(Me:How much did YOU say?)
I could have easily told saath (60) when he asked me and sealed the deal, but chose to hear it from him. He did quote 60 again and was hoping I would make the same mistake. Thankfully, I didn’t
From such unintelligent encounters with auto drivers to situations where I had to breakdown a 3 digit number in hindi, digit by digit (eg: 145 is equal to ‘Ek sow painthalees’ is also equal to ‘ek chaar paanch’ :D), it is hilarious in a way.
It also reminds me that it takes more than a Kendriya vidyalaya course A to claim comfort on hindi conversational skills!