I *heart* Bombay (and well..Boston)

I'm urban..in the way other people are mountain-people or tunafish junkies. I love city life...something about dreary concrete blocks and grumpy people totally gets my juices flowing. Ergo, this will be a blog about me, my two favourite cities (Bombay and Boston), my addiction to Vietnamese coffee and my views on Gregorian chant and it's efficacy in curing some types of tympannic membrane rupture. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Talk! Parlate! Parlez!

As I sit here at work struggling to translate some adverts I wrote into Chinese (Why! Oh Why do 1.5 billion people in this world speak Chinese! Makes so much more work for me), I'm left laughing at all the fun translations of simple sentences that Babelfish and Google Translator come up with...And then I wonder what I sound like when I talk to people in a language other than English (though the less charitable among my friends will claim I sound just as horrendous in English).

Well, my mother tongue is Konkani. Apparently, I was some sort of child prodigy who at age 3 could recite the Ramayana and Mahabharata in chaste Konkani and would spend my time correcting assorted great grand mothers as to the purity of their language (Then, like now, I guess I had nothing better to do) Note: These great grand mothers were all about 2 *hours* removed from a village..so this 3 year old Bombay boy correcting them when they say "kalingan" instead of the more orthodox "bacchang" for watermelon didn't go down too well with them.
Ah well...they're dead now. I'm still alive. Though my Konkani (after it's usual meanderings through life at Catholic school where we were told we spoke the language of the devil...apparently God speaks English .. that too Bandra-aunty English) has now been sadly corrupted into a Bombay mishmash, I can still look upon with happiness those days of superiority over old, semi-paralyzed women as one of the triumphs of my sad sad life.

I also speak English. Well, I don't think so. I used to be far better when I was in school. I read my old English composition ("compo") books today and don't know what half those words mean. And my handwriting? Wow! I'd give myself an award for it (Then again, I'd award myself for pretty much anything...You got up this morning? Congrats! Here's your medal!). Though my accent has gone all over the place..Went from "Generic Bombay school kid" to "I'm not vernie" at college to "Keeping up with the Peddar Roadites" in Engg school to "Desi FOBulous" in Virginia to "middle-class Bostonian" in Boston to "Bandra aunty" today.

Hindi? That was my strong point in school. Imagine! A kid who never even spoke a word or even heard anyone in the family speak it till he was in the 5th grade...suddenly I'm up for the Highest marks in Hindi award in 10th grade! Ages 12 to about 16 had me speak Hindi like I was some sorta pundit from the Ganga belt (probably around Varanasi)..without the annoying bhaiyya accent but with the flowery-showery lingo and vocab that the cis and trans Ganga folk have. NOw? I sound like a Punjabi aunty who lived in Goa for a while. Hello-shello men, aaj kaise ho dude?

As for Marathi, I refuse to talk it ever since the Shiv Sena made such a big deal about people like me not being Maharashtrians..like it matters. My people were in Bombay while their's were still starving to death in some god-forsaken village in Amravati and they have the balls to call me a foreigner in my own city? No more Marathi for me, thankyouverymuch.

Gujarati I learnt thanks to my group in Engg. school..all Bawas and GTHs (Gujju'turned'hep..I mean "hayyp"). I haven't had the chance to use it yet seeing as the ones I know are all the HS Juhu-Lokhandwalla/Peddar Road types...refuse to speak in Gujju to anyone..and if they have to it's in a nice America-ni-accent.

I learnt French in school and polished it (off?) at Alliance Francaise in Bombay..the one on Homji Mody street. Somehow I fell in love with the language and how it sounded. The tenses were a killer though but saying the list of "etre" verbs every night before bed helped me out a lot. Of course my accent is somewhere between Mauritian Creole (my teacher was one) and Montreal immigrant. S. thinks I sound funny when I speak it. Well, D'uh! It's hard to sound sane when you're mouthing things like "The rain, it falls today" and "My mother short puts the book thick on the shelf"

Italian I picked up at the Boston Center for Adult Education..because there as here, I was bored all evening with not much to do. Read somewhere (Probably "Lonely Planet"...*not* the travel book..I mean the Bible for singles..) that it's a good hobby and a nice place to meet other people. So I decided to pick Italian for Beginners (alos a very nice Danish movie) along with "How to make the perfect lasagna". At the end of six months, I could make a perfect spinach lasagna and order a 4 course meal at a posh Italian resto. The downside? My married Italian instructor (a woman I might add) fell in love with me. And since I didn't know the words for "your husband will kill me" ("Il vostro marito ucciderà io" as I found out later), I was forced to come out to her during a very weird meal at Legal Sea Foods..("No no, non è voi, esso è io, sono omosessuale!")

The less said about my forays into Arabic (sounds hot..a bitch to read though) and Hebrew (sounds like me gargling and spitting), the better. My forays into Finnish, Russian and Yiddish remain confined to the basic vocabularies and learning wildly inappropriate songs..

And now back to translating into Chinese. How does one say "Java script modulator" in Chinese? I wish I were dead!

Current music:
Hai Hai - The Punjabi Hit Squad

Please don't judge me..but I love this song.


  • At 2:44 AM, Blogger Vijayeta said…

    God! You're such a show off! ...Get the point! And for all your knowledge of different languages, you listen to The Punjabi Hit Squad! How...multicultural, savant and erudite you are, dear Vikster! And not to forget your absolutely fabulously gorgeous looks!

  • At 2:46 AM, Blogger Vikster said…

    Thank you Vij me love.

    Your check is in the mail.

  • At 3:11 AM, Anonymous Sanjay said…

    Learn Arabic and I'll probably fall head over heels in love with you. (as if I'm not already!)


    P.S. Please confirm the rates and I will start writing those types of comments too :) I'll go for the bulk comment package if you have one!

  • At 7:52 AM, Blogger karuna said…

    Woweee, I'm a not-so-secret admirer, also a tad jealous...
    So practical question, if you aren't exactly perfect with one language assuming basic conversation is it wise to go ahead and start another just cuz u feel like or will you just end up utterly confused?

  • At 8:17 AM, Anonymous veed said…

    and i can only speak english...

    gujarati is my mother tongue (im not gujju) ..
    had 12 years of hindi in school/college ...
    and one cant survive without marathi in the university im in ...

    and yet i cant speak a sentence straight (teehee) in any of those languages

  • At 8:33 AM, Blogger Abhimanyu Sahai said…

    lol (um, at your description of French)
    I speak French and some Russian myself...
    The other day I was reading "Asterix et Les Normands" and it was interesting to note that the original Asterix should talk like this:
    "Go! One is going to do a race! The last to the reach, it is Julius Caeser!"
    (which of course in Russian would become "We race last reach Julius Caeser" :-?)
    But what is worse is to hear French people make fun of English (I am currently based in Lyons), I mean bloody how dare they, it's supposed to be the other way round!!
    So there's a guy here, who says "I got the loosies", and subsequently blinks at me like a goose. :-| (In case one found oneself unable to decipher that, he had rendered himself to Diarrhoea)


  • At 9:27 AM, Anonymous aparna said…

    when u listen to hai hai by punjabi squad EVERYONE'S judging YOU.ME KNOWS FRENCH, MARATHI, HINDI,BENGALI,SMATTERING OF GERMAN ...........WAIT I GIVE UP.
    p.s-i like to groove to hai hai

  • At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Damn! I envy you for knowing so many languages and being good at it too!

  • At 9:19 PM, Anonymous kestrel said…

    God!! Pick up arabic..fast fast. Its the sexiest language..i agree...

  • At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Syl said…


    Been reading your blog on and off :)

    My mother tongue is Konkani too ...originally from Mangalore, but brought up in Bombay like yourself...my Konkani was never too pure (in Mangalore grandmas would say i stretch my words like Goans!) and it hasn't been getting better ever since :(

    I am as of now in Hong Kong...put your "Java script modulator" in Chinese?" question to one of my Chinese colleagues here and he didn't seem to know!

  • At 10:41 PM, Anonymous kestrel said…

    oh..i forgot to ask...i hope you got your copy of "Kammel Kalamak ".... cheers

  • At 11:27 PM, Blogger Vikster said…

    Sanjay: I can sing in Arabic. Does that help?? As for the group praise discount, it usually comes for 500Rs.

    Karunaji: You admire me inspite of my Sindhan rants?
    Utterly confused is the way to go! I had to drop both Hebrew and Arabic (was learning them both at the same time) cause the languages are so similar I was getting confused...

    Veed: Can't survive without Marathi? Ouch!

    Abhi: I have the entire Asterix collection..en anglais sadly! Loosies? I use the runs or the trots meself.

    Aparna: I refuse to apologize for listening to Hai Hai!

    Anony: I never said I was good ...LOL!

    Kestrel: I agree..though it sounds better when a young woman speaks it..

    Syl: Welcome to the blog! I'm Manglorean too...well, true blue Bombayite here but if you went back far enough I guess...

  • At 12:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I must comment that my Hindi is in fact better than the Vikster's. He gets embarrassed when I speak my native tongue and hisses "Meenu, speak English!!"

    Its a rather tragic consequence of loving frangis so much- no?

    MUAH Meenu

  • At 5:59 AM, Blogger Enemy of the Republic said…


    I think your talent is great. I admire you. I speak Spanish and English fluently (write, read and the rest) I taught myself to read Italian and I can understand it, but I need lots of help. I took German for years and never ever got it. So you have a gift.

  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger Id it is said…

    Impressive though quite the narcicisst!

    Which Chinese language are you translating into, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka..?

  • At 3:02 PM, Blogger I Male said…

    How about swahili? You may want to learn that too. I have never heard anyone speak in Swahili. Maybe you can scream some "good" words while we are busy..... walking over a mountain top!! :-P

  • At 7:01 PM, Blogger aristera says said…

    1. show off
    2. hai hai? and in your post on music u cursed us folk who like kajrare? i rest my case.
    3. cant stand gujju's who are embarrased to speak in gujju.
    4. french is a khasmamu khandi zabaan. likhtey kuch whore hai te boltey kuch whore hai!

  • At 11:09 PM, Blogger Vikster said…

    Meenu: Yes. When you go to the Taj, you talk in English dammit! Those waiters know it!! Take your firangi Hindi back to Ammrika and your Bollywood nites!

    Enemy OTR: Please don't admire me! It's just something I did when I was bored...

    IdItIs: Sigh. That's what I was afraid off when I re-read what I wrote. I'm vain yes. But you could crush me with your little finger if you commented on that.

    Imale: Don't talk to me. You've been ignoring me.

    Aristera: 1. What to do? My blog no?
    2. Hai Hai is Birmingham Bhangra..it is phoren ni maal
    3. I agree...my peeve with Konkanis whorefuse to learn Konkani as well.
    4. I like French more than Gujju. Atleast they don't middle part their hair!

  • At 8:57 AM, Blogger Hob Gadling said…

    "Keeping up with the Peddar Roadites" in Engg school

    Hehehehehehehehehehehe! You villager from Bandra, you!

  • At 2:52 PM, Blogger IndyanWriter said…

    Vik, you tickle a particularly erogenous part of my anatomy.

    Cerebrum Salute!

    F***. You've turned me into a stalker.

  • At 6:54 AM, Blogger scorpio said…

    ayyyyo... ze flair for ze language along wid ze looks... but de punj grooves.... i mean how desi can u get???

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger methinks said…

    ayyo me too.. il tuo italiano mi sembra essere tradutto da un babelfish o qualcosa cosi'!! "no, no, non e' lei, sono io. io sono omosessuale!"

    haha! can we please meet. i need to brush up the italian, the french, the german, the spanish, can teach you some punjabi, we can share the hindi .. bengali? heard the sanskrit ruckus out there somewhere? ttg i think it was.

    and hello. i've been visiting once in a while!

  • At 9:13 AM, Anonymous sqrl said…

    I dont get why the Shiv Sena would turn you off Marathi..I speak Konkani as well as Marathi.. my Marathi or my Konkani isnt as fluent as my English is (its the mishmash kinds), but then I use that to piss people off (the Sena types) by telling them that I am a Maharashtrian who doesnt speak Marathi.. heh heh heh. Frankly, Marathi is a language as nice as the next one, as asinine people like the Sena shouldnt keep you from appreciating it.

  • At 7:03 PM, Blogger Leon said…

    I'm a tamilian who lived in Karnataka for 12 years, Andhra for 8 years but don't speak a word of Kannada or Telugu. I also don't read and write Tamil.

    Err.. perhaps I should also mention here that my Hindi isn't too good either.. :D

  • At 1:24 AM, Blogger Selma Mirza said…

    its soo cool being multilingual...

    how are you going about learning Chinese?

  • At 7:34 AM, Anonymous José said…

    ahlan Habib! shwaia atakallam il-arabiyya il-falestini, lakin im ata rotze, ani uchal lelamed otkha ketzat ivrit. Mai university mai hindi parta hu efalo um poquinho de portugues mais bem español es mi primer idioma. And Of course, I speak wicked good bostonese.


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