Monday, February 22, 2016

An honorary Tamil

I will be soon extracting myself out of the German womb of cultural immersion to reach Seattle, and re-immerse myself in the Tamil cultural womb. G, one of my first friends in Seattle (back from 2006) is originally from Chennai, although she is hardly the stereotypical Kanjeevaram-clad, vibhuti smearing, Swami (God) fearing lady that I had expected to meet all those years back. 

They speak in Tamil and English at home, and make no exception for me. A rather rambunctious family, they even argue, fight, and watch movies and TV shows in Tamil. When we go on drives, I'm always forced to listen to Tamil songs. 

As a result, my rudimentary knowledge of Tamil is quite impressive. I can ask you to please come inside, go outside, come downstairs, and go upstairs. I can ask you to go take a shower, and ask if your bowel movements were fine this morning. I can ask you if you need a diaper change, and question why are you shouting or putting your hands in your mouth. Everything in Tamil. I know quite a few bad words in Tamil, and the good words that sound like bad words too (like poo, that means a flower). I know what an ass is, and what a buffalo's ass is. I even know random words like karandi (daal'er haata in Bangla) and couppai thotti (trash can). 

However, my abilities go far beyond linguistics. I am familiar with many of the popular Tamil soaps, and can sing (or at least hum) quite a few songs too, including Vaaji Vaaji Sivaji. I am kind of familiar with a subset of the thousands of Gods and Goddesses, particularly amused by a Quick Gun Murugan God, and a Hyper God (It's actually Hayagriva God) who accepts clove offerings. I can name many varieties of food, from the koota to the kolombo (not to be confused with Colombo), sundal, aviyal, poriyal, mostly made with nariyal. I still don't understand much that they speak, but I can recognize word patterns. For example, whenever I hear a series of words like, "andre pandre andre pandre dosa" or "andre pandre andre pandre appam", I know it is time to drop whatever I am doing, follow my nose, and land up in the kitchen for some lip smacking food. 

This time, I intend to add much more to my vocabulary, and teach G some interesting Bangla words too. She already knows Kosha Mangsho (trust me to teach that first to a pure vegetarian), Paanchu Gopal, and Paaka Meye. The knowledge exchange will be fun this time, and so will be my nocturnal fridge raiding sessions. Theirs is the only fridge (other than the one in Kolkata) that I shamelessly raid after midnight without any inhibition. 

Until then, my German lessons continue. Ten lessons done (eighty more to go), and they are still hung up on teaching me how to order beer and wine and food at Restaurant Sumloven in Opera Platz, and meet some male friend at 8 o'clock and go have a drink at his place later. Talk about focusing on the right things.


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