Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Language of Andre Pandre

Part 2 is here.


No matter how much I made fun of the people below Madhya Pradesh who shall remain unnamed lest I am tagged a racist, fate ensured I live in close proximity to them. My ears could initially pick up nothing that sound different from andre-pandre, a language which people otherwise call Tamil, but these days, I am trying to train my otherwise linguistically challenged ears to understand bits and pieces of Tamil.

Baby Kalyani is getting her first lessons in Tamil too, but she, with a total of 4 teeth, 2 above and 2 below, barely speaks anything coherent. So I made a list of the key words and literally rattafied them (like some say, learnt them by heart). Now whenever G converses andre-pandre, I recognize it to be more than andre-pandre, picking up certain key words here and there.

Fluent in 3 Indian languages and English, I had long forgotten my initial lessons when mother would have made me repeat words after her and taught me the syntax and grammar of a language. I find myself a kid again, learning the basics of a language because it drove me insane, living in a house full of people and not understanding a word of what they said.

So I started with learning that “ongo” added to a verb made it a sign of respect (like Telugu people add andi to respect others, no matter how scandalous it sounds). So “poh” means go and “pongo” means please go. Also “wah’ means come and “wango” means please come. You have to excuse my spellings here, since I spell things exactly the way I hear them. I tried adding words of my own that rhymed with pongo and wango, like tango and mango, but it seems it makes no sense in Tamil. I would only think if you were to call a man with respect, you would call him mango. Forgive my PJs here, they only grow worse as I approach senility.

Then I learnt some more verbs that would see me through the day. “Saapad” is to eat, something I remembered by rhyming it with papad. “Papad Saapad” is eat a papad. Eating had to be followed by drinking, which funnily enough is called “kudi”. So while G asked me to “kudi”, I blushed thinking she is complementing me to be a sohni kudi (a young and beautiful girl in Punjabi). Now since I was wondering what exactly to drink, I learnt that “tanni” is water and “pal” (Like the Bengali actor Taposh Pal) is milk. So tanni kudi, pal kudi, and sohni kudi are the 3 similar sounding phrases I know these days.

Of course the quintessential Bong that I am, eating and drinking had to be followed by shitting. This again in Tamil is kakka, a Bengali equivalent of kaka, the uncle. When I learnt this, I thought of all my uncleswith their sad faces at having been called shit, and silently asked them to forgive me. Life will never be the same again, especially every time I meet an uncle of mine, and try addressing him. Sighs !!!

I picked up other basic words, like “kaartaal” for morning, and “sayankaal” for evening. “Aama” is consenting, with “amma-appa” are mom and dad. “Appa inge” is where is father, to which a happy baby Kalyani smiles and whispers “fisshhh”, meaning office. Since the whereabouts of the father was not important to me, I substituted appa with other words. “Mottai inge” was where is the bald head, which I remembered from the term “matha motta” in Bengali, meaning a dim witted, brainless person. Matha or bald head by default in Tamil means “mottai”. All mathas are mota. But I am not making fun of anyone. I am merely trying to learn the language through associations.

After “mottai”, “kaad” had to mean ear, mook had to mean “nose” (while I would think it means mouth). “Kaad” reminded me of “kadal” meaning love, I had learnt during my teens when like all foolish teenagers, I had resolved to learn how to say the word in every language. “Rhomba” means big, or a lot, a word that always reminds me of a rhombus from geometry classes. Then there is “pinnadi” and “munnadi”, one meaning the front and the other meaning the rear, though I don’t know which one exactly means what.

There are many food dishes that all end with “al”…. aviyal, poriyal, thuvayal, nariyal, and many more. Okay, not the last one, but one of these days I have to ask G the reason behind such culinary nomenclature. And then I have randomly learnt some stuff. Pongo Kulingo is please go take a bath, something to which baby Kalyani cracks up and smiles a toothless, gummy smile the moment I tell her. It is possible it sounds funny, the way I speak Tamil. And then I keep telling G how my room looks like a couppa thoti (dustbin).

Little words. Baby steps. I like the progress I am making every day, a few words here and there. These days not all the things people say around me sound alien, or andre-pandre-ish. I am picking up little words here and there, so that I know if G is bitching about another female friend on the phone, cribbing about how the other friend has no sense of potty-training the baby, or how the other friend she doesn’t care about was showing off big time on her trip to Florida.

But other than the few words I understand, the rest all still sounds like andre-pandre.

sunshine

Part 2 is here.

16 comments:

Bhaavna Kameshwar said...

You still havent heard " Senthamizh" or it is called " Pure Tamil"...I feel that you may even faint after hearing to that..Jokes apart. Kudos to you for trying to even understand a new language.:)

amrit said...

Hilarious post! And from whatever little Tam I know - Munnadi means front. My favourite word has been yevlo (how much) - used it often during the overtures for an auto-ride.

Vivek said...

you should watch the bingo chips ad :)

The Wandering Minstrel said...

i am bengali too. and i have a tamil husband. ur post reminds me of my pre wedding days when i was learning the language :) way to go and keep it up. tamil is a lovely language and there is no end to learning.

alpine path said...

Lol! Loved this one! I was trying to learn Hindi and got confused by mook being mouth(and not nose as in Tamil). We should try talking in hindi/tamil one day.

Btw, munnadi means front side. And, kuppa thotti?? Ha ha!!

Pavi!!!! said...

hahahah!..."kallakitel pongo!" [u can ask ur friend the meaning of this ;)]
i am a tamilian n that made this post so much more funnier! lol ! Good luck with learning more of the language!

Himank Sharma said...

This post reminds me of our college batch trip where TN was one of the many states we covered. Sitting at a typical tamil restaurant on the highway, we were welcomed with the sounds of 'Sambhar sappadiya' by the waiter, in an insanely funny (for us) accent. Which later went on to become the voice of the whole batch during the trip.

Taurus Girl said...

Hey I am a bong too.. and i just came back from Chennai, after spending 4 months there... could totally associate with your post... I tried and even managed to pick up a few words/sentences...
Its a tough language for sure, but keep up the good work... :)

Sid said...

Very very interesting post. Nice to hear of things from the other side!

There was also a series of Bingo ads aired in India that had a mock-Tamil teacher. He used to break the words for easier pronunciation - U-KA-RUN-GO - "Please sit down".

Siri said...

Love your post, Sunshine. After two weeks of absolute hell, felt so good to laugh out aloud, which I did after reading your post :-) Keep writing...

chatduke said...

uncles are shit .. mother is a dustbin ... yucks to believe someone saying so !!! ...
anyway i don't understand art and writing and creative freedom ... maybe this article is a hint on the larger aspect on how MF Hussain painted Gods in absolute n*** ...
excuse my comments ... I have lately been mesmerised on sensitivities of art people supporting Hussain with those specific paintings on the name of creative freedom and art ...

as always, your article was very interesting and entertaining ...

chatduke said...

o ji ki gal ma'm ... tussi mera comment nai post kitta hallein tak ...
ok koi nai ji koi nai ... i understand ... tussi naraaz ho with something i wrote ... typical madrasi ... !!! ... :) ...

mintdesai said...

Sunshine,

what has happened? no post since quite a long time. Almost a month.

- Just another regular reader of your blog

sonik said...

I've started my travelogue with my experiences in Chennai and accidentally bumped into your post. Your "keywords" are very useful, especially since even my smattering Kannada doesn't help in this place. Even the nos. sound different because of the accent. But your post made me grin widely :D

Kolor said...

Yevlo timir onakku..! tamil baashakku nee "andre pandre" koopidra.

Bengali orey gol gol rosogolla mari irukke.:D :D

Saari madam. Too much time spendings in Chennai.

ice_fire said...

to add to the link..
'chuma' means simply in tamil...