A Blip of the Tongue
mother spoke, I should have known just about 2 languages. And if there were such a thing as the father’s
tongue, well, he knew 4! And then there is the neighbour’s tongue, the local grocer’s tongue, the aunt-who-
visit’s tongue and so on.
Often times my dad, who grew up in a Gujarati colony, would be
spotted cheerfully guffawing over the phone with his family.
Their whole conversation would be in top-quality Gujarati! He
would only switch merrily to Kannada to tell my curious and
slightly suspicious on-looking mom, without divulging details,
that things were just fine back in Bombay.
And if language was not all, imagine the very southern moms of my paternal cousins proudly making Dhoklas, Khaandvis, Undhyus and Batata Pohas in the most authentic ways! And the farsan, that encroached the healthy Sambhar, Rice and Kosambri territory, were quite a riot even in those days.
But when the monthly visit of the Vadhyaar happened, there is a certain protocol of speaking Tamil as pure as the freshly made filter coffee. On both sides of my extended family, I would always find trolling relatives, who even while they appreciated my mom’s soulful rendition of ‘Naan oru vilayatu bommaiyya’, were appalled that I hadn’t received enough of a Tamil language coaching,
It was easier back then, to not mind what they said as compared to now, when the beau plays Raja songs and has to pedantically correct my diction on every second occasion. Well, it’s never too late to learn, is it?
When my married-to-a-Maharashtrian-and-well-adapted Athe / Athai / Bua / Dad’s sister came for a short visit to Bangalore in the summers (and you know how Bangalore was the summer respite to many coastal dwellers in the 80s and 90s still), the house would smell of Batata vadas with a tad bit of minced garlic served with peanut chutneys. Kokum Kadis would be a soother. Puran Polis would help the year’s bodily build up of sugars and protein. And the right kind of nylon Sabudhana would have been brought from miles away to get the consistency of the Vadas and Khichdi just right! With bubbly good looking food and ketchup, I enjoyed the commonplace Upvas item as being a rare delicacy!
I owe my entire Hindi language know-how to Lata-ji, Asha-ji, Kishore-da and Rafi-saheb. No, really! I didn’t learn an ounce of Hindi in school. It’s a different thing that I only now completely understand the songs we’d sing.