Have you ever lived in an Indian state without knowing their native language or Hindi? Living in such a state will be hell.
I lived in Kolkata for couple of years. Living there was hell. Even without all the language part I said above. Ok, Ok, I am just kidding. Kolkata is a great place to live… if you want to go back to 1947.
Sudhakar was my room mate in Kolkata. He didn’t know Hindi or Bangla. He managed to communicate with non-English speakers by just Manmohan’s language. Or he would use me as translator. Because I could speak Hindi… better than Katrina Kaif.
We had a maid at our home. She would cook, do the dishes, clean the house, wash the clothes, and talk for 5 minutes in Bangla which we never understood. But from her face reaction, we could decode what she used to say – “Damn! I want my salary. Today.” She knew a very little Hindi (still more than what Katrina Kaif knows). So, I could communicate a little with her, like saying “No money.”
One day, Sudhakar got promotion at his work. So, he came home very happily and shared the happy news with me. I said to him what any nice friend would say – “Give me treat”. He agreed to treat me at KFC. So, we wanted to tell didi (our house maid) not to cook dinner.
Sudhakar struck a conversation with didi, “Hi didi”… followed by some actions, like putting his hand on his stomach and signaling “It’s full”.
Didi asked in Hindi, “Oh, you don’t want dinner?”
I interrupted, “Yes, didi. But, we are going out to eat.”
“What’s special?” she asked.
I told Sudhakar that she is asking the reason why we are going out to eat.
Sudhakar said, “Promotion… Promotion.”
At that moment, an idea popped in my mind.
I translated that to didi, “Yeh baap ban gaya hai. Isi ko promotion kehta hai.” (He has become father. That is what he is calling as promotion).
Didi continued in Hindi, “Oh, that’s what you signaled with stomach huh!! Now I understand.”
Sudhakar got little doubt and asked me, “What is she saying?”
“She is happy for you and your wife,” I said.
“What? Wife!!!” shockingly said Sudhakar.
“Did I say wife? I meant she is happy for you and your life,” I managed.
Didi asked Sudhakar, “Kitne bachche hain?” (How many kids?)
“She is asking how many years of experience you have,” I translated.
Sudhakar signaled two.
“Arre baap re!!” didi wondered.
Sudhakar tried to speak little Hindi, “Two – bahut kam. Bahut bahut chahiye” (Two is less. Need more and more).
After hearing the words “more and more”, didi was about to faint.
I said to Sudhakar, “Probably, she is going to have a baby. That’s why she is fainting”.
Sudhakar started signaling again with his hand on stomach and pointed his index finger towards didi, asking whether she was going to have a baby.
Didi understood that Sudhakar was calling her also out for dinner.
She said in Hindi, “I have to go home at 7. I can’t come.” She also showed seven by her fingers.
Sudhakar said to me, “OK. I understand. She already has 7 kids, doesn’t she?”
“Yes yes, you rock, Sudhakar,” I smiled.
Didi said, “Bahut kushi news hai. Paisa do”. (Good news, na. Give me money)
Sudhakar gave her 50 paise.
She was like, “What!!!!!!”
Sudhakar said, “Paisa… Paisa.”
I told Sudhakar, “Paisa in hindi means cash. Give her rupee notes”.
Sudhakar signaled “Tomorrow… tomorrow”.
Then didi started talking in Bangla… for 5 minutes… which we couldn’t understand. But from her face reaction, I could decode what she said – “Tomorrow, I am going to mix dead lizard in your dinner.”
I suddenly took out a 100 rupee note from wallet and gave it to didi before Sudhakar realized that it was his wallet.
Didi smiled and bid good bye to us and left for her home.
Then Sudhakar and I left for KFC.
Sudhakar said, “Buy whatever you want… whatever… for 100 rupees.”
I said, “For 100 rupees, we can buy 3 ketchup packs.”
I continued, “Don’t be a kanjoos. Spend more, na! You don’t get promotion daily.”
Sudhakar took out a 500 rupee note after my words… and 16 minutes of continuous pleading.
Sudhakar said, “Ok, you wait here. I’ll go get the food that you want,” and started going towards the counter.
He came back after 10 minutes with a plate full of food. He moved the food that I ordered towards my side grumpily – he didn’t look very happy. I got the food from him. And checked once for lizards.