Tuesday, October 16, 2007


"Professor Hucchuraya" a film made in 1974 had the inimitable Narasimharaju playing the lead role. I don't remember much of the film except that the story was around arranging a marriage. Hucchuraya is called in to Bangalore to sort out a much muddled love story and steer it to the happily ever after. But the introductory scene of Hucchuraya landing in Bangalore is something that I have never forgotten. He gets off a Tonga in what is supposed to be Malleshwaram if I remember it right and tries to ask the people walking up the street about the address he's looking for. Every time he asks someone the response comes in a different language - Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu probably even Hindi. And he turns to the camera and says "is this still Bangalore the capital of Karnataka or have I landed in some other place?" This is 1974 mind you and namma bengaLooru has only gotten better over the years. Now the situation is so bad that if you speak in Kannada people turn to you and say "oh kannaDa heg kalitri?" How did you learn Kannada. A question that makes me indignant needless to say. What do you mean HOW? I am a Kannadiga that's how. A friend of mine once pointed out that I was not a Kannadiga but Mangalorean !!!! I will not describe what happened to her post that question.

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!


Shruthi said...

Identical experiences - Identical. Right down to Hanumanthappa speaking to me in Hindi! Really! :D

Bikerdude said...

I happily capitalize on the Kannada empathy. The auto guy's scowl immediately transforms into a slightly less dour grimace when I speak to him in Kannada. And the boatman in a hippie beach in Gokarna once charged us 20 rupees and the others in the boat 200 rupees because we said "4 ghantege vapassu banni, devasthaanake hogebku". So yeah, it's all good, and you shouldnt be complaining, Ms Mirza :)

Anonymous said...

Are you for real ????

Gosh, you and i must have some telepathic link... I aint a lady like you but, yes I have faced the same situation..

Walk into to surfing joint and the lady, who till then was rattling away in Kannada to another lady, turns around and speaks to me in English. When I replied to her in Kannada, she gives me that wierd look as if I was an alien, and had landed to invade her joint.

Lucky you, you are done with your stint in the Tamil land, whilst I, am currently egging on !!!.. When I hear these folks talk in their tongue, I, for a fleeting second am envious of them... They are so staunchly attached to their language (it has its cons too).

I only wish that I could return and live in a city, which is mine and inhabited by us Kannada speaking folks (not being communal, just wishful).

Nice post this...



Sav said...

Not to worry, I will speak to you in Kannada. And intend to learn tulu from you too. you know why ;)

Abhipraya said...

Shruthi: too much I say :) Lets keep talking :)
Biker Dude: You sure know your way around :)
Archer: My full sympathies with you. Hope you have loads of Music and flavours from homeland to keep you going.
Sav: You just teach me how to fight it out in Mal and I will be happy to oblige...you know why ;)

Therestlessquill said...

Nice post, girl! I've just moved to Bangalore and hate it that I can't speak the language. I cringe everytime I talk to an autowalah. Because I've never been in an Indian city in which I can't speak the local language. I went to kerala over the weekend, and the waiter at a shawarma shop speaks to us in English. And then grins wide and gets us our bill double quick when we answer his, "Anything else, you wand?" in malayalam.
But about your post, nice. Keep it going.