Thursday, January 21, 2010

Serious about Marathi

As mentioned somewhere in previous posts, although Hindi is an official language in India each state has its own, unique language. In Maharashtra (with Mumbai as its capital) it is Marathi. Maharashtra is one of these states which treats their language very seriously and makes sure that people maintain it and use it on daily basis. Therefore all the tables and signs on the streets are written in Marathi, all the numbers on buses as well (this is really making my life more complicated!) and finally all the official institutions operate in Marathi. If you go to the police station (luckily haven’t had such an opportunity… yet) they will examine you for sure in Marathi, if you are a politician standing for elections in Mumbai don’t even think of not knowing Marathi. Why? You can get slapped!! Check out this article and see what happens if you try and talk in Hindi here

And on the top of that The Maharashtra government has recently made it mandatory for new applicants for taxi driver permits to be domiciled in the state and be able to read, write and speak Marathi. LINK
Well, another obstacle to keep Maharashtra only for Maharashtrans and prevent immigration from other parts of the country. (Will write about immigration later) For me, another reason to get confused whether Indians are one…or not…?


Imagine you travel in a subway in Warsaw or any other European city. Suddenly, you spot someone who looks different. Maybe they have a different skin color, maybe they are dressed up in a weird way, maybe have a funny hairstyle. You can’t not have a look, you want to see more details… While you are enjoying your view, the person promptly looks back. What do you do? Whistle? Quickly start staring at your shoes? Search for something in your bag? Take out your mobile? Basically, you pretend you haven’t been watching this entire time and you are just normally busy with your life. I am sure all of us have done it several times in our lives.

Let’s analyze now how the same process looks like in India, assuming I am the one looking different. (I don’t know why someone would think I am different because I am a Mumbaiker ONLY :P) but let’s assume it for a second. I am getting into the bus, sitting on one of the available seats and of course I can feel hundreds of eyes looking in my direction. In most of the cases I ignore it, have been here for 7 months now so got used to this all. It was actually fun at the beginning because wherever I went I felt like pop star ;) But I got over it now :P However, sometimes, just for fun, I would look back to check the reaction… and you know what? People keep staring! No one even tries to pretend they haven’t been watching, they actually stare more because now they can see my face as well!! In some cases, when I am in a good mood I will start fooling them, making stupid faces, giving some of my biggest and brightest smiles or saying hi. This makes a staring person most excited and from then on I can be sure they joined my fans’ circle and I can enjoy their stares till the end of the journey!! :D Good fun!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Conversations with rikshawallas

I can't say I speak Hindi... I am not even close to speaking Hindi... In the office I don't need it because everyone speaks English... on the streets... well... I know a few basic phrases required to buy food, bargain about prices of food and clothes and of course explain to the rikshawalla how to get to my house.

These few basic sentences like: "turn left" or "go straight ahead" or "wait one minute" make these lovely rikshawallas think I can speak proper Hindi.
First when they realize that I speak to them in Hindi they stop their rikshas and turn around checking again if I am really a foreigner. Then they smile and ask: "Hindi?" to which my reply is: "tora, tora" (a little) which makes them smile even more! Then assuming they found an interesting person to have a conversation with they would start with thousands of questions. Typical dialogue:

RW: Madam, which country?
ME: Poland
RW: Which country?
ME: Poland
RW: Kya? (What?)
ME: (giving up) Europe
RW: (smiling) aah, Europe, nice country, nice country, Madam!
RW: Husband?
ME: No
RW: (smiling) Me wife and 1 daughter
ME: Nice
RW: Something, something,something (in Hindi)
ME: Bhaiya (Brother) HINDI Nei!
RW: Something, something, something (in Hindi)
ME: Hindi nei!
RW: Something, something, something (hoping that if he repeats 5 times I will finally understand)
ME: (giving up, pretending I understand) Ha (yes)
RW: Something, something, something (in Hindi)
ME: (laughing) Ha, Ha
RW: Something, something, something (in Hindi)
ME: (pretending I am surprised) Ha, ha

and we can go like this for 40 minutes :D

Ride in riksha: Rs 56
Smile of the RW (showing ALL the brown from tabacoo he has been chewing teeth): priceless!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Santa goes green!

The places where you can definitely feel the Christmas spirit are shopping malls! I went to one of them just a day before Christmas and it felt so much like home! I was however wondering why all the Santa Clauses were wearing green clothes there. In my head I was finding reasons – cultural differences, green goes better with darker skin or green is fashionable this year... but the reason was much more interesting and exciting! Santa goes green! He has become eco – friendly, he acts sustainably and he cares for environment! WOW! Isn’t it a creative way to approach two topics at the same time? And it links so well with my posts about environment! I was really amazed!

Merry Christmas!

It is a very funny feeling to celebrate Christmas when there is 30 degrees outside and 90% of the people around you don’t have a clue what this festival is all about. However they still try very hard and use the excuse of Christmas to take a day off, to do some extra shopping or to organize the celebration in the office. This is what happened in my department on 23rd of December. Suddenly someone came up with the idea of Christmas celebration and we all went mad! Lots of food, including Christmas cake, Santa Clause, Santa caps for everyone and Christmas game with prizes! When we were about to start the event someone realized that most of the people don’t know why exactly we want to celebrate Christmas and what is so special about this day, so they suddenly decided to call “an international expert” or “foreign consultant on Christmas” to give an opening speech! Guess who that was!!! I seriously don’t know what exactly I said, I guess something about how Christmas is celebrated in Poland and how I am missing snow but they were laughing and clapping so I am assuming it was pretty successful ;)

Aren’t we all looking cute in these caps?
Note how they made me bend because I was too tall and was not fitting in the picture ;)