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!!!


  1. The phrase "everyone speaks English" is indeed an urban legend.

    Yet people also claim "no-one speaks Esperanto" which is also untrue.

    If you have a moment please look at

    Dr Kvasnak teaches English at Florida Atlantic University.

  2. LOL...dont you just love the rikshawallas? Too bad they dont try to make similar conversations with me. I like your blog. I had a very similar experience when I went to bangalore last year. Just replace 'Hindi' with 'Kannada' and 'Riksha' with 'cab'. And you know whats funny, I asked him if he could speak hindi before getting in, and he said 'tora tora'. Turned out that was all the hindi he knew.