24th April 

“Aapko yahan kaun saa thel adhik bhiktha hai?”

“Kya aap yeh brand aapke dhukan mein rakhthein hain?”

Just a sample from my restricted but oft-used Hindi dialogues the last week here in Bangalore. I love Hindi for its simplicity and its understandability to a layman…you can always somehow manage to decipher what the other chap is trying to tell you. At least that’s the working relationship I’ve built up with the retailers here. I halt any attempt to begin a conversation in Kannada by a pointed question in Hindi …and then we take it from there with a combination of rudimentary English, Hindi and mime.

Consider this episode when I was travelling by bus within the city of Bangalore and I had no clue where to alight. I turned to my neighbour, a chap around my age who seemed to be a daily-wage earner, and my potential source of information.

“Sirsi Circle kab aayega?”

“Aur dho aur stop”, he replied in even more broken Hindi than mine. But this chap was a companionable sort, bless his soul, and he could see I needed help, so he persisted.

“Kahan jaana hain?”

“Timberyard Yard Layout”, I beamed back at him.

He went “Aah!” and I could see him mentally charting out the most optimal route to get there.

“Kannada?”, he ventured hopefully.

I shook my head apologetically.

He smiled, shook his head back at me in a ‘this-is going-to-be-tough’ way, and took in a deep breath.

“Sirsi Circle mein utharo, road cross karo, aur straight jaao! Traffic signal aayega, left lo aur bus-stand! Timberyard Layout ka bus wahan milega!”

This was more than I had expected and I tried to get a few finer points clarified.
“Sirsi Circle aur bus-stand paas hi hai, kya?”

A furrow of confusion crossed his brow before understanding dawned.
“Oh! Monthly pass yaa daily pass?”

Trust me to stumble on the one English word the chap knew!

“Nahin, nahin! Paidhal jaa sakthe hai kya?” But I knew I was being too optimistic here.

In the end, it was upto the tried-and-tested method of Dumb Charades. My index and middle fingers did a fancy trot for my friend to get the point. He nodded vigorously and showed me his open palm with fingers pointed outwards. “Paanch minute”, followed by an impersonation of an army trooper in a parade. Yup, I could walk, apparently!

It’s amazing how these kind of interactions bring out a sense of companionship among strangers. Ever noticed how people tend to relax in another’s company when they are both confronted by something both of them are not good at,….and they both know it too? For this one reason alone, Iam glad that my Hindi is what it is right now!