Part 1 of this learning lesson has been summarized here.
February 2010, I spent an entire month at G’s place, picking up bits and pieces of andre pandre. Like a devoted student, I listened to the tape recorder that nags in a loop (also called G) repeat instructions to Baby Kalyani. I learnt them rote, I took notes, I repeated the words, and even found funny associations to remember them. When I went to an event with G and told “Tamil teriyaad” (I don’t know Tamil) to someone introducing herself animatedly, I must have hopelessly failed to convince her that I indeed do not understand Tamil. For she replied to my “Tamil teriyaad” with more animated Tamil talk, shaking her head with utter excitement. All I could do is smile and nod stupidly. I took the safe strategy, nodding my head a certain angle that could be interpreted both as a yes or a no. I can’t tell you how I do it, it comes with practice.
That was last year, when I learnt that “ongo” is a sign of respect (pongo, vango, mango, tango, even Bongo, something that I am). I learnt that papad saapad is eat a papad, and daaru kudi didn’t refer to the two main causes of downfall of men, like philosophers like to claim (alcohol and women). It actually means drink alcohol. I learnt that kakka is shit, and kartaale kakka poniya (sounds like your uncle is a pony) is doing the big job in the morning. I learnt about family relationships (appa, amma, taata, paati, etc.) and about body parts (mottai, kaad, mook, and even pinnadi and munnadi). I learnt about food (aviyal, poriyal, nariyal) and I even threw in an occasional surprise word here and there (like cuppai thotti or dustbin).
I apologize again if you are Tamil and I am exercising your abdominal muscles free of cost by making you laugh at my spellings. Not only am I not Tamil, I also spell things exactly as I hear them (since I cannot read Tamil to be able to know the spellings).
So last year, it was all about discrete words and random concepts. Of course Baby Kalyani sprouted more teeth, learnt to be more vocal about her needs, and learnt to speak Tamerican (Tamil with an American accent). So I had to catch up. Too bad I left G’s place and never really got a chance to pick up more Tamil. However every now and then I kept hearing stuff and making connections. Like a baby graduating to the next stage, I now learnt to form broken sentences by picking up familiar words and connecting them together. I not just learnt to add words to form broken but functional sentences, I also learnt to substitute certain words with other words. Of course, all my vocabulary right now involves something you would say to a baby. The person responsible for this is Baby Kalyani. So while I might not be able to ask your name in Tamil, I can ask you to go change your diaper.
The first thing I learnt in my advanced Rapidex “Learn Tamil with Baby Kalyani” course was how to spell and say the word Tamil correctly. Apparently the spelling is “Tamizh”, and the first few times you try saying it, your tongue will threaten to get entangled in your throat. It sounds something like a guttural Tamidrdrdrdrdrdrdrdr. I now have good reason to believe that whenever the old, paunchy father of the girl in Bollywood movies (who always died due to a heart attack) would scream to the hero, “Battameez, tameez se baat karo”, he actually meant, “You non-native speaker, speak to me in Tamil”.
Anyway, back to showing off my newly acquired knowledge in the last year. Now I know that “yaar de” (that’s how it sounds to me) doesn’t mean “give me a friend”. It actually means “who is this?” (yaaru idhu).
I now know that although “katta kurada” sounds like “kooda karkat” (or rubbish) in Hindi, it actually means “Don’t shout” (Katha Koodadhu). You see, Baby Kalyani is notorious for her screams and shouts, some sure shot techniques she uses to make her voice heard.
I also know that “katthuvaala” is “Will you shout?” and “Pannuvaala” (is not paan waala or the person who sells paan) means “Will you do it again?”. However, I gather than Rickshaw waala or Halwa waala do not mean anything meaningful in Tamil.
I now know that “Vaayla Kai Veppala” means “Don’t put your hand in your mouth”. I also know that “Diaper Maathalam” means “Let’s go change your diaper”. Other disconnected words in my limited vocabulary include “Nimmadi Nimmadi” meaning “peace peace”, something I tell G every time she gets worked up about something. I also know that “ulle po” is “Go inside” and “ulle va” is “come inside”. However, I still don’t know what is come outside or go outside. So I’ll be smart here. Whenever I need to call someone outside, I myself will go outside first, and then ask the person to come inside. Hope that works.
Through ulle po and ulle va, I can fairly track the comings and goings of people these days. I can ask someone “nee enga porey” (where are you going?) and “Hell pogaporiya?” (Will you go to hell?). I know that “pesu” means to talk (something I use in the negative by asking G, “don’t pesu”). I know that “amaam” is not the Chennai brand of Hamam soap, it actually means a yes. I know that “inge vaah” is “come here”, and “vaah bhai vaah” is “come brother come” in Tamil, although it means all praises in Hindi (waah bhai waah).
I know that “pathu” is a term you would use for your husband if that diamond necklace has caught your fancy and you want it for your birthday (pathu is a term of endearment). I also know that the husband will pour water on my plans of buying me those diamonds by saying “tanni kotti” (pouring water). Also, depending on whether you got the necklace or not, you will address your husband as “enna ma” (what dear?) or “mottai karandi” (a spatula on your head).
I know that Jack and Jill now have more brothers and sisters called “Soodu” and “Jillu”, meaning “hot and cold”. I know that “ukkaru” and “nillu” aren’t the nicknames of the twins belonging to the next door neighbor who always upset the dishwasher settings whenever they visit you. Ukkaru and nillu means to sit and to stand. So Neelu is standing can be translated as “Neelu nillu”. And if your dad happens to be a gunda, don’t call him “gundu papa”. It means a fat baby.
I am not done yet. No learning is complete till the activities representing the basic instincts of human beings are involved. Last year I learnt that while kaka is uncle in Bengali, kakka is shit. So kaka kakka means uncle is doing his big job. This year, I learnt something more fancy. I know that kusum means a flower in Hindi, but if you misspell it and leave behind the “m” in “kusum”, it means a fart. I also know how to call someone a buffalo’s ass, but henceforth I will charge you for my expletive consulting if you want me to teach you these words.
As an icing on the cake, I can sing the entire song “Appadi podu podu podu” with no idea about what it means. Check out that song in youtube, the choreography is hilariously representative of someone who has been electrocuted and then been chased by a mad erumai (buffalo). I can name some of the popular Tamil soaps, thanks to Baby Kalyani who has taken a full grown addiction to these soaps like Chelleme, Madhavi, and Basantham.
However, I need to go a long way from my year 2 appraisal, and refine my vocabulary further. Imagine my predicament if I happened to try to impress or date a Tamil man. I am sure that soon, I will need to do better than “let’s change your diaper” and “don’t put your hand in your mouth”. Of course the idea of putting together the words I know and coming up with something romantic is tempting. However, I shall act wise and refrain. For if I were to romantically say, “Come here baby!”, I think it’s a bad idea to put my malformed vocabulary together and say, “Inge vaah papa!”