Sunday, October 2, 2011

(Un)Comfortable Communicators

September is a crazy month at all CA offices throughout the country. 30th September being the last day for filing of some Income Tax Returns, the past month seemed like 30 consecutive Tuesdays. There was always a grumpy Monday feeling behind me, and a silent consciousness of 80% of a work week still to go. I realized a couple of things during this time though. One, I can happily live on Channa Masala and Kadhi from the local Aunty Ka Dhaba in Old Rajinder Nagar for dinner every day of my life, not caring for the meal’s timing being 1 a.m. and the following bowel movements reminding me of the little vibrations that Delhi felt because of an earthquake that hit the city about two weeks back. And two, that a lot of people don’t realize that their diction changes depending on the person they’re talking to.

Bhaiya, aap green tea lega ya normal wala?” the office boy asked me. “Mere liye hamesha green hi banane ko bola na. Green hi mangta.” I replied.

I felt really comfortable saying that to him, but felt a little weird about fifteen seconds later. There was nothing weird about my demand for green tea. It just felt like I was talking more like a Bengali/Goan/Tamil/any other non-Hindi speaking dude who thinks he can make grammatically correct conversation in the language as fluently as Akon in the song Chammak Challo.

The office boy is a Bengali chap, and I had started to talk in broken Hindi just like him. Not with the clients or with my colleagues, but definitely with him. “Tu abhi Bengal jaayega aur shaadi mana ke aayega girlfriend ke saath?” I enquired, while munching on the extra jalebi in the office pantry, hoping that one of the girls gets freaked out on realizing that it was 7.30 already and starts making nervous visits to the bosses’ rooms trying to stop being a chicken and asking for permission to leave for the day ‘cuz “she has to go to another end of the city and her daddy gets really angry if she reaches home after dark”. She gets permission to leave in the next five minutes, and I get to grab her share of the samosa. (Yes, I do that at my own parents’ office, and I’m shameless)

Tum abhi Bengal jaayega aur shaadi mana ke aayega?” my mum asked a client’s accountant who was telling her about his unavailability at work for a week during Durga Puja, as he had to visit his hometown, Kolkata.

That’s not the kind of Hindi she normally uses. It got me thinking how my parents and I unconsciously change our tone and adulterate the purity of our already vanaspati-ly pure Hindi during conversations with people who are not too fluent with the language. With those who’d find it hard to believe that the word “darwaaza” is to “shudh Hindi” what the cylindrical yellow plastic container with green coconut trees and “Dalda” printed on it is to the banner that reads “Pure desi ghee sweets sold here.”

Aww, nanu baby. Mele chaat makit jaaoge?
Translation (in words not incomprehensible because of an overflow of love): Aww, *some word that you think describes cute* baby. Will you go to the market with me?”

I was subjected to such words of love till not age two, but age six. Words that would make a five year old want to give diction lessons to a thirty-two year old. That is what happens everyday to the first kid in a joint family. No one believes that you’re no longer a baby until another bald, pudgy looking, drooling, tooth-less wonder hits your family. But thankfully, all the kids in my family have grown up now, with the youngest cousin turning twelve in another three months.

With no more babies in the family, and no more a girlfriend to call me one, the only time I get to hear “baby” is when I plug in my earphones and Justin Bieber appears in shuffle mode. (My sister put that song there, not me. Go judge her if you want)

But last week, my dadi came over to our place and seemed a little upset on having missed her favorite tv soap that day. Her face clearly showed the extent to which she was missing the sight of some Haryanvi Ammaji woman. She’d have to wait till the following afternoon to catch on the repeat telecast. Her face looked like she couldn’t meet her best friend that day. The best friend whom she’d look at on the tv set day after day and mumble Punjabi curses at under her breath. So to distract her from missing her Ammaji, I started on a mission to entertain her by showing her some features in my new phone. Technologically challenged that she is, showing her the predictive text feature would have been enough to leave her in awe and say stuff like: “Dekha science ne kitni tarakki ki hai. Ab yeh fan ko hi dekho. Kisne socha tha ki ek button dabaao aur pankha chal padega!” My job was as easy as that, but it wouldn’t have kept her mind off the Haryanvi superstar for more than five minutes. My phone had to give competition to her best friend. I clicked on the Talking Tom application and handed her the phone. “Yeh lo, dadi. Yeh dekho kya cool cheez hai!

Yeh lo dadi. Yeh dekho kya cool cheez hai!” Tom spoke back. And when I entered the room half an hour later, dadi was still on the phone, with a look that showed how she wanted to put a nappy around Tom’s waist. “Aww le le, Namaste kalega? Dadiji ko Namaste kalega?” she was speaking out loud just to hear him say it back to her. Then she would slap him a little for being a “bad boy” and he would fall down. And then there was more of “Aww le le…” and similar sounding phrases playing in a loop the whole day. Dadi had missed talking to her baby grandchildren in a cute lisp and changing their nappies more than she could ever miss that Haryanvi woman. “And you thought you could take our place in our dadi’s heart, you Ammaji big-ass?” popped my thought bubble on behalf of all my cousins in the Ahuja family.

It’s nice to see how people, including yours truly, change their pronunciation, diction, tone and mannerisms unknowingly to make the other person feel more comfortable. Or probably try to get into their good books. Or just flatter them. But believe me, all of that –making the other feel comfortable jazz- fades off in two situations. Situations where the communicator makes it unbearably uncomfortable for the recipient to say anything in reply.

One, after you’ve completed six months in a romantic relationship, which you thought was the happy ending to your love story. Grow up, man. All the Hakuna Matata gets over when awkward pauses start hitting your conversations which were earlier full of incessant laughing sessions. No one gives a shit about how comfortable the other is once those feelings of love fizzle out. One of the two tries to break the awkwardness, the other gets more awkward, the couple breaks up. And life goes on.

The second situation is just as tragic as the first. It’s when you get an sms that reads “Heyyy…… hws u?? i m gng 2 da mrkt wid mah sis… u wanna cum alng?........ lolzzz..!!”

Now, I’d have loved to go with two pretty girls to the market. But sorry, your message just made me kick myself in the butt for knowing you.  If you were really trying to save on characters in your sms, why put those extra Y’s in the “Hey”? It makes you look like a Sajid Khan fan, and I judge you now.

I wish you’d have sent me that message when I was participating in a poster designing competition in 8th grade. The theme of the day was Rural Health Awareness. Your extra dots would’ve made me win the competition by making me choose “TB ka samay par ilaaj”, and intelligently quoting “TB se bachne ke liye -dots- apnaayen” in different shades of color sprawled across my work.

And let me tell you, “da” sounds funny only when you put it after the word “Bappi”. Don’t try to be no FiddyCent, mah nigga!

Ah! That brings me to “mah”. There’s a page on facebook, whose link I am dying to paste on your wall. “Saale, my ko mah bolne se angrez nai ban jaayega.

You know, I’d love to cum. But you’ve ruined your chances of making me do that, irrespective of how much my fully structured replies make you do.

I’m not done yet, you piece of filthy text message. There’s nothing funny about me wanting to come with you to the market. I’ve danced to Choli Ke Peechhe at all DU college fests, but that doesn’t mean I’ll try on women’s clothing for you in the ladies section of the store that you’re planning on visiting. So yes, not funny. Stop typing LOL when you’re not even laughing out loud, but have just typed it ‘cuz it’s your substitute for a full stop. And, “lolzzz!” Seriously? What in hell does that mean? Are you a comic strip character who goes off to sleep while laughing out loud?

Last, but not the least, the two exclamation signs after two full stops to conclude the message. Personally, I’ve just noticed this in text messages from girls. It’s like they’re practicing the expressions they would give their future husbands some years from now, while arguing with them on the silliest of things. The first full stop tells that she’s finished saying what she wanted to. The second follows to inform the recipient that she has actually finished with what she wanted to say and is now expecting a reply. The first exclamation communicates surprise at having got no reaction, and the second rhetorically states: “Do you even listen to me!”

For heaven’s sake, woman! Send that handicapped message with unnecessary character transplants first if you expect a reply. And since you’ve typed it like that, don’t be pissed off that my phone’s outbox didn’t care to send you a message back. Your message makes it feel awkward, and leaves it with nothing to say. The “It’s not you, it’s me” line won’t work either. It’s breaking up with your ugly text. Oh sorry, wrong analogy. They were never even together!! Yes, that is something that actually deserves two exclamation signs in the end.

While I type these last few sentences, a dog barks in the street outside like it’s caught the seasonal cough. It’s pissing off. I should run to the balcony and bark back at him. I hope it’ll make him feel more comfortable and shut up.

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  1. haha..!!
    No, I dont intend to practice any reaction to my future husband by these 4 punctuations.
    And I am actually laughing, so well, that explains the haha.

    Refreshing stuff. U still keep up the happy-go-lucky image.

    and im actually finding it difficult to put 1 full stops instead of 2, and writing "finding: instead of "findin"

    so is the irony of "the sms language"

    good work btw. :P

  2. Now this is awesome, really!!
    It has a flow which is served well with a garnish of your witty sense of humour. This is your best piece and my personal favourite by far.

    ps: soooooooooon am coming up with my post ;)

    Keep it up!!!

  3. Samiksha: Don't worry, I'm not judging you. It's all in good humor. Thank you. I'm happy that it made you laugh :)

    Sanjeev: See, one doesn't need to be a pastry chef to come up with delicious dishes for the eyes :P
    *now runs away and tries to take his own case for having said something so -cheesy-*

  4. It seems like I just spoke to you over the phone for an hour. SO typicallllll. And so natural and funny! And SOOOO awesome! :D

    P.S finally read it! :D

  5. Hilarious! And so true!
    PS: love the text message part :D

  6. Sargam: Yay! It makes me so happy to know that YOU finally read it. And ooh, this way you'll never miss out on my nonsense. Motivates me to write more often :D

    Payal: Thanks yo! :)

    P.S. I felt like putting something as Post Script 'cuz you both did :P

  7. Absolutely loved it man. And I could very well relate to it specially how our style and phrasing of words change when we talk to certain people and how naturally we start using "adulterated hindi" without realizing at all. :)
    And as u mentioned about the "uncomfortable" messages.. there's even funnier thing that I've noticed these days..People SAYING "lol" instead of laughing out loud. So "Wannabe-ish". Your post kinda reminded me of it. :P

  8. Joshita: Haha. I know one of my sister's friends who does that. *LOL back at her* :D


If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D