When we moved into this apartment after four years of touring Tamil Heartland I was so glad that I didn't have to point out the paruppus to the shopkeeper when I run out of it and that I could actually speak without wondering if I am making a fool of myself. But the truth dawned on me the day we landed back here. The auto fellows always ask "kidhar jaana madam?"where do you want to go? The shop fellows will say "madam ek dum fresh item hai abhi aaya hai" madam it is very fresh came today only. When I reply promptly reply in Kannada they look utterly startled and say "eshTu chennagi kannaDa maataDteera madam" - How well you speak Kannada. GRRRRRRR
Later I bought Worldspace simply because I happened to hear some of the most divine Kannada Sugama Sangeetha (Light music) compositions at Bheema's restaurant on Church Street. I shocked the waiters there by asking them what cassettes they were playing. They were so thrilled with my curiosity that they rattled off the whole programme schedule of the channel. So every morning I would crank up the volume and play the Sparsha Channel. One day I hear the doorbell and there's the milkman at my door with a very puzzled look. And then with some hesitancy he blurts "neevu kannaDa haaDu kELtheera? Do you listen to Kannada songs? Now it's my turn to look puzzled. Without waiting for my answer he says but I thought you just spoke Kannada you are a Kannadiga aren't you? That is so nice. I am fed up of talking in Hindi and goes away.
I've had auto drivers look at me like I am some new species when I speak to them in Kannada. I once asked an auto driver who's name was Hanumanthappa (can't get more Kannadiga than that) if he's converted to be a Delhiite because despite me speaking to him in Kannada he kept answering me in Hindi.
Why is it that people are so surprised when I speak Kannada IN Bangalore? More importantly why am I a Hindi speaking person and not Tamil, Telugu or Marathi speaking? These questions have been nagging me for the last 1.5 years and here are possible answers - some my theories and some reasons provided by good Samaritans.
1) Most obvious reason - Bangalore IS the second Delhi at this point of time.
2) People suddenly realised Hindi is our national language and so the renewed enthusiasm in speaking it (though I doubt this)
3) I was once told that I wear western clothes and hence had to be Hindi speaking. Reaaaaaally now?
4) My car is TN registration and hence I must be Hindi speaking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5) I have a nose ring like Sania Mirza. Do you mind she's a Hyderabadi which is in the south of the Vindhyas get your geography right man!
I almost did an MA in Kannada because I thought I would forget what I knew. What with just about 4 people in my life who can speak to me in Kannada!