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Gill Walter

 

So I’ve made it my mission to learn before a major cup tournament where I will be staying in a camp helping supervise 100 girls for the whole weekend, and communicating with them would certainly be useful.  I’d say this is a pretty big challenge: I’ve never learned a language and the cup is in one week.  But hey,  sab kuch milega.

 

After four months in India I’m embarrassed to admit all I can say is four survival sentences:

 

Aapka naam kya hai?  What is your name.  Funnily enough it works with everyone, and 9 times out of 10 wins a smile for effort or a laugh out of surprise, or at my accent, or more likely for some other reason that I am not privy to.

Mujhe chhoona mat. Don’t touch me. I’ve only used it twice and should have used it twice more. The less said about that the better!

Kya main do cigarettes leh sactee ho? Can I have two cigarettes?  Taught to me after a few beers, and a lot of karaoke when I was being enlisted for assistance in acquiring smokes.  It’s essential for getting by in hostel life, but not exactly appropriate for the coach-teenager relationship.

Kya hua? What happened? Sweeping statement alert: this has to be the most commonly asked question in India.  Used in place of ‘what’s going on’, ‘what did you do to your arm?’, ‘what was that noise’, ‘what’s up’, Or pretty much anything that requires an answer.

 

Obviously this leaves a lot to be desired and I desperately want to understand what the heck everyone’s talking about.  I stored a few words I heard today at the NGO in my memory box to ask The Hosteller crew but when I attempted to repeat them they just looked at me blankly and said ‘are you sure these people aren’t Spanish?’

 

Some words I’m picking up easily.  Sat in the common room innocently blogging I keep hearing shouts of ‘chutiya‘ from the guys playing FIFA:

 

‘What does that mean?’

‘Mental.’

‘Really?’

‘Well, it’s more like asshole’.

 

Okay that’s useful.  They also all excitedly leave the room whenever someone says ‘khana‘. I’m guessing that must mean eat.

 

But my enthusiasm for learning polite sentences seems to backfire.

 

When I learned to say ‘have a good day’, it was actually late afternoon so I changed it to ‘have a good night’ and received an embarrassed smile in response.  Apparently that’s more like an invitation.

 

And on the metro, I repeat the mantra of the automated voice, ‘darwazey daai taraf khulengeey‘ while looking excitedly at my Hindi speaking male friend, who then tells me it sounds like I want to open his doors.

 

And finally, still trying, today at work I attempted a Hindi conversation with a kid:

Aapka kit ne bhai aur behen hai?

‘I don’t understand, what are you trying to ask me? Where am I from? Where am I going?’

‘No, I want to ask how many brothers and sisters you have’

‘Okay then you say, Aapka kit ne bhai aur behen hai?’

 

I swear to you that’s what I did say.

 

Maybe I’ll just stick to asking them for cigarettes.

 

– Gill Walter

 

 

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