I have been married into the Telugu community for over 8 years now, and I have got by with speaking only a single sentence of the language, ‘Telugu Matla Chaala Kashtam’ (speaking Telugu is very difficult)
4 and a half years of living in Bangalore and ‘Kannada Baralla’ (I don’t know Kannada) got me by. It helped that almost everyone, from my Garbage collectors to Auto Drivers spoke English and/or Hindi.
Chennai however is a tough nut. You need to know Tamil to survive here. More so if people assume you are a South Indian.
Confused? Let me elaborate.
Since as long as I can remember, I have been always told I, ‘look like a Bengali or a South Indian’ . No one believes me when I tell them I am a Punjaban. Ironically, my Telugu husband (just to make it clear, I have only one, and not one from each community) looks completely ‘Narth Indian’, a Punjabi to be precise.
So when we go out together, to stores, theatres and the like, people immediately start talking to me in Tamil. No amount of confused expressions make them stop. An apologetic gesture towards the husband usually follows (‘Paavam (poor thing), he can’t understand a word, is what this gesture conveys) till he starts shooting off in Tamil. (The Husband speaks Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam. Yes, one husband, many languages. Just to make it clear)
If I had a rupee for each time I was advised, ‘You must learn Telugu/Kannada/Tamil’, well, I would have a lot of money.
Interestingly, I neither speak Punjabi or the Rajasthani dialect, which is my ‘Mother tongue’, so yes I do get grief from ‘that side of the family’ too. I am rusty now, but I used to speak fluent Marathi and Gujarati.
I do understand that one most learn the language of the state / country they live in. I intend to learn it too. I just don’t know when. I am a tad busy enjoying myself following the customs and traditions of each and learning to adapt to the culture and cuisines of them all.
I am hoping it is soon though, as it does get terribly lonely when I am the only one at gatherings and functions who is sitting by without understanding a single word of what is being said
So till I start learning one of the many languages I must, how about we speak in Hindi?
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