Friday, April 06, 2007

Mind Your Language

A visit to Chennai is a horrific prospect for most Non-South Indians. Most of them are paranoid about the fact that locals would not understand their language and vice versa. So were myself and my colleagues, when we visited the city earlier this year for an official assignment.

After our 1st day in office, we were supposed to retire to a newly built Guest House for employees. Since none of us was sure of the way to the place, and more importantly, none of us knew a word of Tamil, we asked a Tamilian colleague to accompany us. After going around in circles for over an hour, we decided to ask a man walking on the road, the way to the Guest House. We asked our local colleague to enquire about the Guest House to the guy in Tamil.

"Can you show us the way to Helena Villa?" Our colleague asked in Tamil.

"Bhai mujhe Tamil nahi aati hai. Hindi mein bolo!! (I do not know Tamil. Please speak in Hindi)" was the terse reply he got from the visibly exasperated man.

An avalanche of laughter descended inside our car, as we realised that the poor fellow was on the same boat as us. He too was a Non-South Indian, who had been having a rough time in Chennai, not able to understand Tamil, and got ostensibly agitated when he was spoken to in the local language.

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