February 21, 2009

Life In A Metro

By God ki kasam sitting all your life there in Dilli 6 or 60 or wherever your birth and brought up happens to happen, you hardly come to know what nautanki all the Indian languages do with each other! It's like they all sat down together one drunken night and made a pact to marry off one of their harmless words to one of the naughty ones of the other language and watch the fun as their speakers get tossed about in the bhelpuri of modern India!

About a week into my new job in Bangalore, the boys got courageous enough to distract me from my work by pulling my hair. Am really impressed it took them that long, because before this, I have been everyone's kid sister from very early on, and hair and cheek pulling has been a cruel part of making new acquaintances. So there I am, working at my new job in a new city, when yank! my ponytail is attacked. I turn back and ask: "Yes, what do you want?"

"Nothing! Just chumma" says the little boy

I am certain I heard that wrong. "What?"

"Arrey chumma man!"

I want to pack and go home to mommy daddy immediately. Look at the innocence and nonchalance on this guy's face. He's like 7 years younger than me!

Ok. So chumma means JUST LIKE THAT FOR NO PARTICKLER REASON in Malayalam. And of course kiss in Hindi, another (horrific) word for it being bosa, of which the plural is bosay, which is how all the security guards in London hostels like to pronounce the Bengali surname Bose, which is so obviously another story that I dunno how I got into it.

Back to work then. Over the years, have grown used to the inordinate amounts of Malayalam that flies about the office, and wait patiently for my turn to speak before informing whoever is talking to me in that superfast language that I did not get any of what they just said. Makes me mad at times, but then these lovely souls make up for that by proclaiming every now and then: "We are mal. We are proud to be mal."

"Oh yes! That you are," I say. "Top quality mal" (for the uninititated, mal (say mull) in Hindi is, umm… poo)

Nehavish once told me the story of her flabbergasted and horrified Tamilian mom's first Delhi encounter with the hindi word "kundi" (latch in Hindi, bum in Tamizh… what did I tell you about the drunken languages?). You should get her to tell it to you, because I distinctly remember laughing till I fell on to the floor of the District Line tube from Blackfriars to East Ham (home of Sakthi store and Sarvana Bhawan) when she told it to me.

Today, one Hindi- and one Tamizh-speaking carpenter is (are? is.) working in my house. As I asked the Hindi speaking guy if I needed to use the kundi each time I close the cupboard, my foot was in my mouth one nanosecond after the words left it.

Aaaaargh! <foot caught in last remaining extraction stitch>


karrvakarela said...

"or wherever your birth and brought up happens to happen. . . "

we use "brought-up" all the time as well. every time someone says that i'm tempted to correct them. it's "upbringing", folks.

karrvakarela said...

incidentally, why are random co-workers pulling on your hair?

Ink Spill said...

People always seem to think it's ok to pull my hair and cheeks! I probably look like a huge mutant baby. :(

Swati said...

I don't know what to say exactly. Possibly couldn't leave a pic of me shaking with laughter, hand on tummy, eyes running on each and every post, can I? Just consider it done for now and the future. And oh, also reading and loving your poetry blog.

Ink Spill said...

Swati, you made my day :D

Anonymous said...

Chumma is "just like that for no particular reason" in TAMIL!!!


PS: Kundi... ha ha ha, I so love that word!

Ink Spill said...

@ Hyde: AND in MAL too!
I thought in Tamil it was more like "Summa"

Rosie said...

I'm envious. (I got to your blog searching for the Jai Ho lyrics from Slumdog Millionaire.) I want to go to India. Haha. I'm from Manila. Mostly I want to go to India because I want to learn the language, because all I understand right now is Filipino, English and French. They don't offer the Indian language in my University. :)

shesturningblue said...

Chumma, that word died a long time ago, did it not

Anonymous said...

No, there is another word for "just like that for no particular reason" in Malayalam. "Chumma" is borrowed from Tamil. Tell the Mallu fellas "vey-roo-they" instead of "chumma" and watch them gape. :-D

It's written "chumma" but depending on how people want it, it is said "summa" or "chumma". Pretty liberal language that way. :-P


Sonia said...


Inkspill: :o) When I was in Delhi, I had the same problem whenever I said chumma. And i found the word ae-vai fascinating(no, does not mean anything naughty in any language that I know of)! could never pronounce it right!

Hyde said...

GRR, so not!

Naveen said...

Hello I am a tamilian and Mallu.....

Well Chumma or Veruthe both mean the same thing.... be in an idle state

P.S in Tamil the pronunciation of 'cha' is usually replaced by 'sa'

eg: chandanam (sandalwood) pronounced as santhanam

helenb said...

so random that I am on your blog, but I found it randomly...i wanted to tell you that I love your theories and add to this one in particular...Katso Merda in finnish means look at the sea, but in italian it means F**k S**T.
Helen in NY