Every got a chance to be a third party observer in a discussion of the “adults” over some auspicious ceremonies? If so, are they from different cultural backgrounds and a suffers from language barrier? That would be one really funny conversation. I had the privilege to be in one such endeavors.
To maintain anonymousness I will label people present in the discussion as
- GM-1 (Gentleman -1) : Languages known English, Telugu, Tamil, Hindi
- LD-1 (Lady -1) : Languages known English, Tamil, Broken Telugu
- LD-2 (Lady-2): Languages known English, Tamil, Broken Telugu
- Mr. P (Pundit): Languages known Kannada
- Mr. T (Translator) : Languages known Kannada, English, Hindi
- Mrs. P (Pundit’s wife): Languages known Kannada
- Me: (Myself): Languages known English, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Understand a bit of Kannada
The major purpose of this full scale meeting is to decide on Priest and Cook for the auspicious ceremony. The ceremony is on behalf of LD-1. Any sentences written in Italics signifies thoughts not actual conversation.
Here are some of the transcripts of the meeting:
Chapter 1: Greetings!
Mr. P : Namaskara! Namaskara! (Kannada)
(Rest all in chorus of mixed language Namaskara! Vanakam! and Me meekly Yo! thread man! Whats up? ) Fake smiles doing rounds in the small yet well decorated room.
Mr. P (Grinning with his pan infested teeth): Its an honor to have you people with us?
Followed by fake laughs filling the room.
Me: Honor? Why? How? What?
Chapter 2: Strategy Planning!
Mr.T : These people are having this function for which I thought you could be the pundit. Blah Blah!
Mr. P: Most certainly! Thats my profession. When Iam here why fear? And chuckles
Others also chuckle not certain what the joke was.
Me: Drat! What makes him think that all Tamils enjoy Rajinikanth dialogs? Me for one hate it! And Mr. GM-1 had never seen any of his movies to understand the joke.
Mr. GM-1: OK! Coming to the point, we have a different way we do this ceremony. Since we are in a different place we would like to do the way locals do. So, please educate us on what is to be done. “When in Rome be a Roman” and smiles.
Mr. T : (Translates the same to Kannada adding his own bit of humor but forgot to translate “Rome” bit )
Mr. P : Rome!! You are from Rome?
Everyone laughing, at the sametime Mr. T clearing Mr. P’s misunderstanding.
Me: This guy doesn’t understand English, and is it necessary to add some unnecessary phrases?
LD-2: We want this done the Kannada way. And Blah Blah!
Mr. T steps aside! Phone call break…leaves the room! Impatient folks half guilty to drop by at some ones place during lunch time wanted to finish off soon and leave. So the conversation continued in English and Kannada. NOTE: Neither understands the other language.
LD-1: Can you explain the customs here? I just want to know if there are similarities?
Mr. P went on non stop for 10 mins in Kannada and Mr. GM-1 was clearly not following while LD-1 and LD-2 nodding their heads rhythmically as if part of a rock concert where fans follow their stars headbang. Occasional widening of eyes and smiles to understand some Sanskrit words that are common between the two languages with minor changes.
Mr. T: Sorry I had to take the call! Where were we?
LD-1: LD-2: (Speaking together yet skillfully avoiding repetition) We understood about the customs here and looks like there is not much change between this and ours. So its totally ok to go ahead the way Mr. P wants to do.
Mr.T relieved that he need to not translate all the again!
Me: WTF! They understood nothing, sure they know a few words but did they really follow?
Chapter 3: Do you really need me?
Mr.T to Mr.P what do they need to provide you? And what are the aspects you will take care?
Mrs.P Interrupts the proceedings! “May I get anything to drink?” with a big smile on her face!
Everyone for courtesy sake “No thank you, we are fine. We are about to have lunch”
Me: Gosh! What a lie? Its 2:00 pm iam hungry! They don’t want anything?
Mr. P: No one leaves my house without food! (Sounded more like an order)
Me: Wish he had the same attitude when a poor beggar comes to his door for food. May I get something to eat?
Mr. P to Me: Thats the spirit young man!
LD-1: LD-2 Shocked and stares at Me (When will you learn manners? Dumbass!)
Nervous laughters followed by “we are just leaving!”
Me: Really? I don’t think so
After few mins, Mrs. P arrives with coffee for all…….
Me: WTF!! Coffee for hunger? I dont drink coffee.
Mr.T who was sitting next to me sensed my anger in getting coffee, poured half a cup of his coffee into my glass.
Me: yeah right! That will solve my problem. Hehehe Thanks!
Mr. P: So, that concludes it, I will arrange for everything, but we need a cow?
Me: A alive one? I can get a beef burger if needed!
Mr. T: Where do we find that?
LD-1 To Mr.T : We need it for the ceremony.
LD-2: Do we need to take the cow all around the house? Inside too?
Mr. GM1 (Jokingly): Yeah! Mainly to the toilets! And burst out laughing.
Everyone joins the laugh!
Mr. P: We need a cow and a calf…… I know a cow we can borrow, but its calf is inside her!
Me: rotfl…..calf inside her? Does the calf need to belong to the same cow or different cow is also acceptable?
Mr. GM1: We are not so religiously inclined to do so strictly. Can we get a shortcut for this?
Mr. P: Sure! We can bend rules when needed! (laughs) A silver cow idol will do!
Mr. T (Chuckles): Easy to take it to toilet too!
A roar of laughter rips through the tiny room.
A lanky dude enters the room, and is uncomfortable with many visitors in the room.
LD-1: Is this you son?
Mr. P: yes! Ganesh! Say namakara to good people here!
Ganesh mumbles good afternoon and tried to go into the room.
Me: Ganesh, I understand what you are going through dude! These people use us as conversation breakers! Run! Run! Run!
A series of questions considered to be appropriate to ask a some stranger’s son! I ignored most of it until I heard the term “Electronics And communication”.
Mr. GM-1: Ah! ECE! LD-1 here is also an ECE engineer and so is Me (thats referring me). How is college going? When are exams?
Mr. P: My son studies very well, he is always college topper!
Mr. GM-1: Excellent! (Points finger at Me) This fellow never studied! I never understood how he passed. If I ask him a question he will run away from this place. These days the engineers are totally worthless, they don’t know their basics. I interviewed so many people and they cant answer what they studied. If asked they will tell, “Saar! We studied in 3rd sem I don’t remember”. Whats the point if we forget what we read? Blah Blah!
Mr. T: Yes yes, same case with my son also. He keeps on playing that stupid guitar.
Mr. GM-1 Looks at Ganesh: Whats the difference between EM, Strong Force and Weak Force?
Ganesh totally embarrassed tries to turn away.
Mr. P: Come on son! You can answer it!
Me: LMAO! Man! This guy is screwed! Run Gannu Run!
LD-2: You people stop it! You are embarrassing him. Let him go!
Thats the last we saw of Ganesh
Mr. P: My boy must have been nervous seeing so many people that he couldn’t answer.
Me: yeah right! I believe u!
LD-1: So, as far as pooja is concerned everything is taken care of! We go with silver cow?
Mr. P: yes
Chapter 4: What about food?
Mr. GM-1: What about food for the guests? Can you arrange that too?
Mr. P: Most certainly! Tell me what you need? And For how many people?
Mr. GM-1: We are having a small gathering, so mostly max 50
Me: 50 is small?
Mr. GM-1: This is what I propose, For breakfast Idly, Sambar, Some Sweet, Pongal, Vada and Chutney, anything else you can add?
Mr. T: Saar! I suggest Sweet to be Kesari Baath
Mr. GM-1: I was thinking something in terms of Sojji
Note: From this point on Mr. T’s participation is totally useless as he is not able to translate Kannada food items name to English and Vice versa. Here Sojji and Kesari Baath mean the same in different language. None of them knew that except me.
Mr. T and Mr. P (Together): No Saar! Kesari Baath is much better. Its a standard here.
Mr. GM-1: Actually Sojji is also a standard in TN. Iam not very particular, but if its possible make it
Mr. P: I need to get the recipe for that? I have never done it before. Shall we stick to Kesari Baath?
Mr. GM-1: Sure, please go ahead with that!
Me: Well, you both are talking about the same sweet!
Mr. GM-1: Why didn’t you say so? Laughs!
Everyone had a hearty laugh!
LD-1: For that Pongal can you not make it watery like the way its done in Bangalore? We would prefer if its some what semi solid like a paste.
Mr. P: I know I know! In Karnataka we have many different type of pongals. Which one do you want?
LD-1: Different types? How are they different?
Mr. P: Ah! You don’t know the difference? How come?
Me: Dumbass! How are we to know? All I know is that I don’t like Pongal no matter how its made.
Mr. P: You have not tasted pongal yet my boy! We have Iyer pongal, Iyengar pongal, normal pongal. Among this Iyengar pongal tastes the best. Its very close to what you get in TN but much better.
Mr. GM-1: Good! Then lets go for that!
Mr. P goes into history of pongal.
Mr. P: So in a nut shell, Iyer Pongal is a modification of Iyengar pongal and Normal pongal is a modification and liquidation of Iyer pongal. TN pongal is modification and solidification of Normal pongal.
Me: hahaha, so basically TN pongal is Modification Modification Modification of Iyengar pongal?
So one more modification will turn that to Iyengar pongal?
Mr. T: Interesting! I didn’t know such details.
Mr. GM-1: Since you know so much about food I will leave it in good judgment of you to decide what is good for us. [Tries for the last time to close the Pongal topic]
Mr. P: I will take care of this on my own. You don’t worry!
Mrs P voice from middle of nowhere! He does know how to make good pongal.
Mr. GM-1: Oh! You cook food on your own? Not bad!
Mr. P: Me??? Iam a pundit. I don’t cook food.
Me: Dumbass! Pundit don’t cook? How will you eat? Pundit’ani’ cooks?
Mr. T: He hires a cook.
Chapter 5: Wait! Food discussion not over!
Mr. GM-1: We need to decided on lunch too
Mr. P: Saar, tell me what you want?
Mr. GM-1: The regular meals that you get here.
Mr. P: Can be done saar. Do you want 2 vegetables or only 1?
Mr. GM-1: 2
Mr. T: What about sweet?
Mr. GM-1: What do you suggest?
Mr. P: How about Holige?
Mr. GM-1: Whats that?
A full flow of English to Kannada and vice versa conversations to explain what Holige means.
Mr. GM-1 to LD1 and LD2: I think they are talking about Sulian. I think that will be good choice!
Mr. P: yes yes the same! Even I think its a good choice.
Mr. T: you have made the right choice saar!
They don’t know is that both are talking about two different sweets altogether, once again I didn’t interfere just to see how things work out.
Mr. GM-1: So this is done?
Mr. T: yes saar.
Me: Err! Mr. P, so what stuffing are you going to have in your chapathi like sweet?
Mr. GM-1 To Me: He is talking about Sulian. Sulian is round you stupid fellow! And laughs
Mr. P: No, Sulian (In a very kannada tamil accent) is flat like a roti with stuffings in that.
Mr. GM-1: In our place they make it round. Its fried in oil. Can we leave it round?
Mr. P: Round? Oil fried? No! No! We toasts that on a tawa.
Mr. GM-1: huh! How will that cook?
Then, a series of dialogs to figure out what each was talking about. Followed by the whole recipe reading session.
LD-1: Ah! Thats Pholi! We call that Pholi (Excited as if she decoded the Da-Vincie code)
Me: hahahah, wow! Thats as if she passed in the subject of Pundit-actomy!
LD-2 Pointing At Me: This fellow knew this all along and wanted to watch the fun! Shame on you!
Laughter filled the room! A blurry image passed by and it took me a second realize that it was Ganesh rushing outside before he stopped and questioned again. Series of laughter followed that event.
Mrs. P: Lunch is ready you can eat and go?
Me: Damn it lady! I know you didn’t cook any food for us! Coffee is not food! No formalities please. You know we have a train to catch so we wont eat here.
A series of refusals and apologies followed and she is sent back to the kitchen.
Chapter 6: Its not about money! Who are you kidding?
Mr. GM-1: So, we finalized everything. How much do you charge for all this?
Me: Jeez that was direct? Knowing him all my life I should not have expected anything different
Mr. P and Mr. T started blushing and scratching their head with an sheepish “Saar” what ever you think is right?
Me: Spit it out you thread!
Mr. P: Saar, you know that you place so far from my place. I have to travel all that distance and you know these days petrol costs have increased so has transportation. so…..
Mrs. P: Yes Saar, reaching that place is so difficult.
Me: What is she? His support system in negotiations?
Mr. T still scratching his head slowly raises his voice to change the topic
Mr. T: I remember it can be negotiated?
Mr. P: I will only quote reasonable price.
Me: For the last time SPIT IT OUT, Iam hungry!!!
Mr. GM-1: Then do tell us?
Mr. P: 10k will do for all this Saar! Food separate. You need to talk to that cook
Mr. GM-1: Sounds reasonable. Iam fine with that.
Me: He can never negotiate, he is too good a person to turn down the prices quoted. Look at LD-1 and LD-2 faces! Rotfl, their mind is screaming “HE IS TAKING US FOR A RIDE” Negotiate.
Mr. T: Even I think its good deal Saar. Shall we leave? We are getting late for your train.
Mr. GM-1: Nice meeting you Mr. P, in case of any doubt we will call you up.
Me: Call him? And Speak which language?
Mr. P: Saar one more thing, you must ask him (pointing to Me) to wear Panche! And sit there topless and so should you.
Me: You Perverted Freak! Iam not stripping for you. But why me? Iam not involved in this.
Mr. GM-1: yeah! Why him? This ceremony is for LD-1 not him (pointing to Me)
Mr. P: OH! I didnt know. I thought it was for him (Again pointing to me)
Mr. GM-1: Even I never had to sit bare chested for my wedding. Laughs.
Mr. P: Customs Saar Customs
Mr. GM-1: Alright if you say so! (I could feel the sarcasm)
A series of pleasantries exchanged and we left.
At the end of all this saga i got an amazing meal. The thing is irrespective of so many cultural differences its really great to see people of different community trying to make things work. India in that way rocks!