Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tamil teriyaad, dude!

The other day, I was walking around when I came across an Indian food stall.

"Kya chahiye?" ("What do you want?") said the guy in Hindi.

I was so pleased that I instantly bought my dinner from him.

No, I wasn't thrilled that a fellow Indian had spoken to me in a language I understood. I was just thrilled that the guy did not automatically assume that since I was Indian, I knew Tamil.

A small percentage of Singapore's population is made up of Indians whose great-grandfathers settled here ages ago. Since most of them happen to be from Tamil Nadu, they are an important part of Singapore's multi-racial society. In fact, Tamil is one of the four national languages here. Which is probably why, surprising as it may seem, many people are not aware of the existence of states other than Tamil Nadu.

Many people appear shocked when I tell them I can't speak Tamil. "But you're Indian what!" they say. "Yes, but all Indians do not speak Tamil." I try to clarify. "They don't???" I get shocked looks. Heck, I know my country's official language in and out even though it is not my state language. I understand most north Indian languages, what else do you want?? Oh, sanskrit? Well, I know that too! :/

I have noticed how advantageous it is to know Tamil, especially in Mustafa, as demonstrated by a friend yesterday who got us instant service from the salesman by speaking in Tamil. If the language wasn't the toughest language in the world (according to me baba!), I'd have surely taken up lessons right after I completed my Introductory Chinese lessons. But when I hear someone speak in Tamil, I freak out. 'Cos one word sounds like one sentence and one sentence sounds like a word. You get what I mean. And don't even get me started on the jalebi-like script. It is too intimidating for me to even think about learning it.

So much as I love some of the Tamil songs, I don't understand what they are talking about. And somehow I feel that the hindi version just does not do justice to the original songs. I mugged up the entire lyrics of Snehidane and Vaseegara so I could sing them. But it's a pity that I don't understand what I am singing. :(

Sometimes, when I am out in a food court, even the guy in the Indian food stall simply assumes I am a Tamilian and starts talking to me in Tamil. At first, I used to get really confused because I did not know what to say. I mean I do have Tamil friends who have been kind enough to teach me some bad words (isn't that the first lesson in any language?), but I don't think those words would exactly be useful in the food court situation. Besides, those words almost got me into trouble once, when I wanted to say "Aapdiya?" but almost said...err.... something that rhymes with it.

So to get around this problem, I decided to learn to say "Tamil teriyaad" ("Dunno Tamil") to such people. I was told that it was a sure shot way of getting the point across that I was not a Tamilian because apparently no self-respecting Tamilian would use such an ungrammatical, incomplete and inelegant phrase, not to mention the bad pronunciation.

So I thought I'd try it in a real-life scenario.

"Something-something-something?" said food court guy.

"Sorry, Tamil teriyaad." I said triumphantly.

"Ohhh! Something-something-something-something???" He grinned widely.

Sheesh. :/

Any Tamilians in the house? Can you teach me how to say "Didn't I just say I don't know Tamil, you dhakkan?"


Ajay said...

"Didn't I just say I don't know Tamil, you dhakkan?"

"eppo thenappa solna ennaku tamil
theriyathanu muttal :)"

I aint too sure what dhakkan means,
but i am guessing its synonymous
with imbecile.

you probably wanna stay away from "muttal" if you wanna get fresh food again :)

anantha said...

Dhakkan = spoon? In any case, Ajay's translation ought to work and ya take his advice and go easy on the "muttal"!

Thanu said...


Meena said...


Reminds me of this one Bengali friend of mine who had gone to Tamil Nadu for his engg. tests. There he got into an argument with the cab guy. after much bickering in both their languages, the driver asked him, "Tamil Terimaa", which just means "Do u know Tamil?".

My friend was so pissed that he just yelled "Bangla tera Baap!!" and walked away!!

Sigh!! Laguage barriers!! ;o)

Janefield said...

ROFL @ Ajay's comment....Sayesha, it is in your naseeb to only learn bad words, re :-) But you know what? If you say such a long sentence in Tamil (even if you do mug it up :-)), no one would believe you couldn't speak the lingo! Haan, yaar, such is life!:-) The something-something was cute!

Janefield said...

@Meena's friend's yelling...ROFLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

Rohit Talwar said...

Tumhe Sanskrit yaad hai abhi tak? Sheesh. Junior high school main thi.. Jeezzz mujhe kuch yaad nahi :(

Yes! Jalebi like script! And when my friends start talking to each other in Tamil/Telugu [both sound almost the same to me..sheesh] I freak out. Weird sounds I must say. :D

I've not heard a single Tamil/Telugu/Kannada song in my life. Wait--Kannada, yes. Incredibly funny..It's popular as 'ek steel ke dabbe mein do patthar hilane ki sound'.. :D

And... err.. DINNER MEIN KYA MILA FINALLY? That guy thought you are looking for Sambar? :P

And hey.. The Girl kahan gayi aaj? I'm disappointed, disappointed, DISAPPOINTED. When the window opened, I expected to see your Gold. Chal koi nahi. Agli baar sahi. :D

Macho Girl said...

Hmmm... never thought tamil was a jalebi language... I guess its just really familiar to me, so i never looked at it that way. I always thought kannada and telugu were more like jalebi languages!

And I have no idea why ppl have the tendency to teach the bad words of the language first! (of course by "ppl" i mean friends). Even I learn the bad words first whenever a friend tries to teach me a new language! (with friends like these, who needs enemies! :P)

Tamil is the most difficult language when u get into it in depth. Otherwise it is not so bad! Really! My friend soleil has learnt quite a bit in a short span of time! Now she can say "kadavulae! En pairu soleil. Engai poraenga? Pasikirathu!" (Oh God! My name is soleil. Where are you going? I am hungry!). Just learning the basics is pretty easy :)

Vikram said...

You know what, next time someone speaks to you in Tamil, start singing the Tamil songs you have memorized. I'm sure atleast some words will make sense and get you what you want.

Yeah, bad idea I know. Because you are not a good singer. I am. Muhahahaha.

Dev said...

Yeah! Good to be in the top 10!!! :)

Me been in n out of TamilNadu (no, never stayed there... did you know they speak Tamil over there??? ;) ), and alllways have had the language barrier problem... learnt the Tamil teriyaad thingie from a friend too. And hey, you gotta learn to roll ur tongue to speak Tamil too...

Speakin of TamilNadu, have you been followin the election fever over there? Karunanidhi has promised a TV in each house if he wins. :D:D:D

Archana said...

Ha, its funny to see somebody complain from the "other" side. I have heard many, many non-Hindi-speaking folks here complain about how irritated they get when someone happily assumes that they speak Hindi just because they are from India. Protest of "I don't speak Hindi" only gets another barrage of Hindi!

Mercifully, I speak both Tamil and Hindi - so I guess I will survive both S'pore and the USA ;-)!

Madjazz said...

Hi Sayesha,
Its an all too familiar feeling for me what you are going thru'. The only difference is i live in the US of A where everyone even the americans(who happen to know one or two hind words bcos of the bollywood movies) think i know hindi just bcos i am from india. And recently on girl at the indian store went 'You call urself and indian and u dont know hindi'. I just went #$%^##%%^ in my head as a reply to that. No prizes for guessing which state i am from in India.


Hi $AYE$#A,

U sound very cute when u speak these phrases a "One kaan ke neeche!" and "It's not like that, you dhakkan!". Too cute! Believe me.

U need not learn Tamil by heart as it does not have aplace in the 10 most widely spoken languages of the world. Check

Only 2 languages from India is there. 1) Hindi 2) Bengali

But to keep it going at Singapore , yes you should learn Tamil. So you should stay in Tamil Nadu for about 6-7 months without speaking Hindi at all. Im sure you will learn the basics of the language. Best of Luck for Tamil lessons.

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

*Hits herself on the head. "Aur maar phone par gappein!"*
But the only satisfaction that I have right now is that I came before TGFI. Muhahahaha. :D

And yeah, Tamil is one hell of a tough language! I remember my Tamil friends talking to one another in Tamil. :/ Eeeks, that's soooo weird! Jalebi-like script? Hahahahaha...awesome term. :P

"Didn't I just say I don't know Tamil, you dhakkan?"
ROTFL! Why not slap the "dhakkan" immediately and say, "DEAF loser", in Tamil, of course. :P Just learn those two words too. ;)
And bad words of a language are the coolest part. I remember when I started learning French, I learnt most of the swear words first. :P And now, I'm doing the same with Spanish...yay for being so "bad word oriented". :P

And hey, that "Jiya Jale" song from Dil Se also has some words of another language, right? Which one is it?

Oh, and I also know a song in a language that I dunno at all. It's that Bengali song by Tagore, "Aeklo cholo re". :D Hehe.

Because you are not a good singer. I am. Muhahahaha.
Sheesh, isn't Vikram gloating in unnecessary pride these days? :P

@Rohit: Main apne phone ka bill badhane mein lagi hui thi. :P Haan, next time, I'll clinch the gold. :D

Phew...lamba comment tha na? :P

Arrowhead said...

The best language related story I know is about a Korean who tried to learn Farsi. Pronunciation is so important in Farsi that if you don't get it right, one can land in hot water. Let me illustrate.

Korean guy to an Iranian lady: "Koone shomo kujo hast?

Lady: Excuse me?!!

Korean: Shomo kujo jindagi mikonee?

A common friend jumped in and saved the Korean.

What the Korean wanted to ask was 'Where is your house (Khoone)' and he ended up asking 'Where is your butt (Koone)?'

He tried to clarify by asking 'Where do you live (zindagi)' and he managed to ask with aplomb, might I add, 'Where do you conduct your prostitution (Jendagi).

It's a true story.

Siddhu said...

There are two ways to say it --

The polite, decent way --

'Naan ippo thaane sonnae? Enakku Tamizh theriyave theriyathu'

The Madras way of saying it --

'Dai, w*tha, oru tharam sonna puriyaatha da, t&*&*(&()_ p&)*&^*(! O&*&))! Enakku Tamizhu theriyaathu daa ba&*&! Summa vechukaathe! Aaman naan Peter thaan, w&*()(& scene podaamae Peter voodu ippo, machi'

Translated this goes something like, 'Hey, (untranslatable expletive), don't you understand anything if someone tells it to you once? I don't know Tamil, you (untranslatable expletive)! Don't take panga with me! Yeah I'm a Peter (that's Madras-speak for anyone who speaks in English instead of Tamil), stop acting smart and start speaking in English, (literally)sister-in-law!'

deepu said...

haha, BTW do you know telugu ?

shub said...

heh and yest one guy in a food court asked me "Tamil teriyuma?"

naari said...

Naari, Just say 'Tamil teriyaad' again punctuated by nodding your head to mean no or shaking your wrist to say the same. If he still persists, well just say something in oriya / sanskrit to flummox the poor chap :)

Btw what was that other phrase you had mugged up beech mein? You tried it out on my mom I remember and she was in splits over that

turkish said...

exactly why man invented sign language ...

the finger girl.. the finger !! it says it all in any language !!

its me said...

hahahah. i knw the torture. earlier, say some 5 yrs ago (i dunno the situation now) wen we were in delhi, anyone who came to knw that we were from south used to ask only one question "oh.. to tum log madrasi ho..).. it was like the entire south is made up of only MADRAS...

trups said...

abe sacchi, tamil script is too twisted yaar! and speaking toh is like u "kadkadakattkury kudukad kad" hehehehehe

and to tell tht guy "Didn't I just say I don't know Tamil, you dhakkan?", u can say, "something-sumthin-smthng-something" :P

huh wha hpnd?! hey i dunno tamil either!!! :D

Abhishek Upadhyay said...

Arre tamil is a great language. When someone speaks,its voice seems similar to the sound when you put few pebbles in a small plastic box and start shaking it*weird example...I know*

//bad words..isn't that the first lesson in any language?

Really thats very true.I have been moving to and fro to chennai.Dunno tamil but know its bad words.Many I dont want to mention but few worth mentionin are Tanddi(beggar),Koringan(monkey) etc etc.
Hope I have contributed something worth in your tamil vocab.

scipio said...

Sayesha... You are lucky to be in Singapore. If you had spoken Hindi in Tamil Nadu, you would simply have gotten no response.
Once I met a Truck Driver from Punjab or somewhere. He was asking for some kinda info... You should have seen the relief on his face when I responded in Hindi. The poor guy had been be trying to get hold of someone who speaks Hindi for hours it seems. :)

I take offence of you mocking my "jalebi" script which is incidentally one of the oldest surviving languages in the world. Ok... ok... I confess my ppl make a lot of fun Hindi language too. Actually the only Hindi we Tamilians know is not "Hindi maloom nahin"... it is usually "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" or "Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun" :)

D The Dreamer said...

Sayesha, awesome post. I know that is a cliche but simply can't resist. :)

//But you're Indian what!" they say. "Yes, but all Indians do not speak Tamil." I try to clarify. "They don't???"//

I have been in Delhi for 2 yrs and I would be ridiculed for not knowing Hindi. Just one funny incident. In Palika Bazaar, we bargained some stuff for nappe rupya (90) while he was selling for assi (80). That demonstrates my skills in Hindi.

D the D

Anonymous said...

@Girl who sold the world
that was malayalam in 'jiya jale' song...

dharmu said...

"yenna solla poogirai"

me a great fan of tamil songs, but hard on the wordings and meanings.

and i love watching tamil movies too, uh...not that i understand much of them, but tamil ki to baat hi alag hai.

@rohit talwar- hye, whats that ablout dibba stuff, uh? kannada songs r good, kannada movies r good, kannada language is good.

not that its my fav, but when u understand, some kannada tracks r touching.

Sirius Black said...

lolz i luv this wrd DHAKKAN :P use it half of da day :P
wat does sound like in tamil :-s

NIRMAL said...

Good Post.
Unnaga Blog roumba nallairrukudhu.
(means ur blog is very good)

Yeah i know u like Minnale. :)
despite not knowing Tamil.

Kanidpa neeinga tamil katthukunum.


Kusum Rohra said...

(isn't that the first lesson in any language?)


ANKIT said...

i too have some quite good freinds down from south india studying with me here,,,learnt a few very imp. tamil words from them(!)..
one interesting word i can remember is BLADDE--referred to a bad joke i guess...!

nice post,,.!

freebird said...

I also had the same prob. Wen I once visited TN ...and I thought since I knew malayalam tht well I cud catch up quickly.(the two languages r supposedly reeaally similar).

And while travelling in the public tranpost, this really old lady comes and sits besides me, shows me her ticket and asks something-something-something (in ur lingo). And I said the only sensible thing u get while seeing the ticket, “3 rupees” :-D
*smiling shamelessly* I go, “tamil teriyaad”

@The Girl Who Sold The World
its malayalam sung by our very own M.G.sreekumar (in b/w I’m a mallu buy the way)

Awesome story, man.ROTFL!!!

Inder said...

It is always like this - What we know is wonderful and what we don't is laughing stock. This attitude is more of ignorance than offensive. Every language is great in its own right. One needs to know the language to find its greatness.

Somya said...

Nice....I have got a better idea...start speaking to that guy in someother language that u know n think that guy doesn't...I am sure once he'll get the dose of his own medicine...things would go fine.

The Smiling Girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
trups said...

@preethi vemu,
i know kannada (r,w,s), but i juss cudnt und tamil in my 1 yr stay in b'lore!!! my tamil, telugu n mallu langs all sound the same to me!!! mayb thrs a trick to it?? :?

Shekhar said...

Ho ho ho !!

This post had me laughing, all right. And as if that weren't good enough, meena's comment did one better. Ha ha.

Here's my contribution to the langauge-jokes account..

James bond and telegu guy incident:

On a flight James bond was sitting next to a Telugu

Telugu Guy: "Hello, May I know your name please?"

James Bond: "My name is Bond"

Continuing in his inimitable style, " .....James

Then Bond asks: "And you?"

Telugu Guy: " My name is Rao...

Siva Rao...

Samba Siva Rao...

Venkata Samba Siva Rao...

Yarlagadda Venkata Samba Siva Rao...

Rajasekhara Yarlagadda Venkata Samba Siva Rao...

Sitaramanjaneyula Rajasekhara Yarlagadda Venkata Samba
Siva Rao...

Vijayawada Sitaramanjaneyula Rajasekhara Yarlagadda
Venkata Samba Siva

Since then when anyone asks Bond his name he simply
says "James Bond"

lil _kath said...

..i have few friends from Tamil Nadu, Chennai, & Kerala and i always loved to learn any Indian language like hindi,tamil,malayalam i always asked them to teach me some basic words everytime we talk.
..yeah, it's quite difficult esp. malayalam not like hindi and tamil that i'm quite used too..

Neenga eppadi irukenga?
..Vanakkam Sayesha ^_^


Siddhu said...

Yeah, the South Indian languages, though they ahve roots in Sanskrit, are much older and use a completely different syntax. I can't read either, but can speak both.

Malayalam is basically very very similar to Tamil, kathy. Malayalam, as we mallus say, is Tamil++!!! ;)

Sayesha said...

Whoa! :O

Sayesha takes a deep breath before embarking on the comment-replying journey :P

Hahaha! Dhakkan means 'lid'. I think it implies that a dhakkan person is someone who's no good by himself, just like a lid is no good without its container :D

Your sentence in Tamil sounds too long yaar, I doubt if I'll remember it. How about I just say the muttal part? :D

#aNTi blogger,
Dhakkan is lid, not spoon :)

//take his advice and go easy on the "muttal"!

Hahahaha! But I like the sound of it! :P


Hahahahahahahhaha! :D

#The Chosen One,
Hehehehehe! I think I will only remember the muttal part anyway! :P

Haan yaar, Sanskrit was my favourite subject in school! :P

And no, I did not buy food from that guy! :D

#Macho Girl,
I guess that's cos you're a south Indian, so you can tell the differences, for us all three are similar! :D

Oooh I learnt pasikirathu too! Very very useful! :D

Tu paagal ho gaya hai??? Imagine me singing Tamil love songs to food court guy! ROFL!! :D

//Because you are not a good singer. I am. Muhahahaha.

Arre chal chal! Or rather, po po! :D

Hahaha! Karunanidhi is the dude in shades, isn't it? I dunno why I always imagine him with Jayalalitha. Were they co-stars in movies or something? :P

Cool man! You can speak both. Awesome! :)

Hehehe... don't kill me okay, but I believe that every Indian should know hindi because it's the national language :P

//U need not learn Tamil by heart as it does not have aplace in the 10 most widely spoken languages of the world.

Wow. You seem to have a very structured way of learning languages! :)

#World Girl,
Yeah, Jiya jale has some mallu words... I had mugged them too! Now I can't remember the whole thing :P

Konjiri thanji konjikyo
Mundhiri muthli sindhikyo
Manjari vanna chundhari vaave
Thaanginnaka thakdhimiyaadum thangani laave hoay!

//Sheesh, isn't Vikram gloating in unnecessary pride these days? :P

Muttal hai yaar! :)


Hahahaha! I like version 2! ;)

Nope, I don't! Even tho my folks lived in Hyd for two years, I was there for barely 2 weeks :)

Hahahahahaha! :D
You should have replied in English, "No you dhakkan! I don't understand a word! Not a word! Not even what you just said!" Hahahah! That would have disoriented him! :D

Sayesha needs to take a break before she can resume replying. :P

Sayesha said...

Hahahahaah! You mean the "pichhkaran madiri" one?? Hahahahah! :D

Hahahahaha! :D

#Its you,
Hahaha! One of my friends has a theory. India is divided into only two states. The entire upper half of India consists of Delhiites and the entire lower half of Madrasis! Hahahah! :D

//kadkadakattkury kudukad kad

Sheesh! You sound like there was a pebble in your rice or something! :D
ps: Oh, congrats about that thing that happened that day to you! ;)

Hahahaha! Yes yes I will ghoto all these words too! :P

Oh yeah, been there! I was in Madras in 1992. Was really difficult getting understood. I noticed that some pple even got angry if we tried to speak to them in hindi :O

//I confess my ppl make a lot of fun Hindi language too.

I think it's the birthright of every Indian to make fun of states he wasn't born in. :)

Hahahaha! Great bargaining skills man! You're a boon to them! :D

Yeah! I love that part of the song... lends a certain coolness element to the song! :)

I love only the two songs I mentioned. I don't like Tamil movies at all, mainly because the hero and the heroine are SO mismatched! X-(

Achha you're kannada kya? Didn't know that! I have never heard a kannada song in my life! :O

Sheesh! Did you get the dhakkan thing from me? :O

Nandri! :)
Unnaga comment also roumba nallairrukudhu! :P

//Kanidpa neeinga tamil katthukunum.

All right man, out with it! Did ya just abuse me, huh huh huh?? Aapdiya?? Po po! :D


Hahaha! And I thought that was a distortion of the word 'bloody'! :D

Yeah, I can't tell the difference between Tamil and Malayalam either! :O

You're right. We always make fun of what we don't know! :D

Hahaha! Yeah man, I should talk in Sanskrit! :D

//solle alle

Arre your version does not have muttal in it! I think I will go for Ajay's one! ;)

Post in tulu?? Hahaha! Yeah, do that! :D

//Agar chahiye to I will tell u the meaning of word by word for both those songs... Atleast that way, you will know what you are singing, right...:);)???

That would be AWESOME! Please send it to Nandri a lot! :)

I can understand your situation :)

Yeah, someone sent me this forward, I was ROTFLing! I sent it to my Dad cos he was living in Hyd then! Damn funny! :)

#Kutty Kathy,
No, I did not just call you a bitch. I called you "little" Kathy. Must clarify that it was the tamil Kutty, not the Hindi one! :D

Vanakkam back to you! I have no idea how to say I am rombha fine. :P

//Malayalam, as we mallus say, is Tamil++!!!

Oooh, you're so gonna get into trouble with Mallus for that! :P

Lalit Singh said...

when i went to trivandrum i asked a mallu frnd to teach me how to say "I dont know malyalam" - Malayalam ariyilla
and i learnt it as 'malayalam arilille' which means 'Dont you know malayalam' and until he corrected me after a few days, I kept wondering why people were giving me the scornful looks if i didnt knew the language..hey guess what .. i also learnt the lyrics of Vaseegra without knowing the meaning to sing it

Anonymous said...

Yup that one was good ;)

Anonymous said...

LOL, I used to get that a lot when I was in Chennai. I look South Indian but can't speak Tamil to save my life and the first thing I learnt was- Tamil Teriyaad.
And after I learnt a couple of swear words which I won't type out here or else I will be banned from your blog foreeryne is sleeping,Tom looks at the campfire and realiazes

Kroopa Shah (Kr00pz) said...

LOL, I used to get that a lot when I was in Chennai. I look South Indian but can't speak Tamil to save my life and the first thing I learnt was- Tamil Teriyaad.
And after I learnt a couple of swear words which I won't type out here or else I will be banned from your blog forever :-P

மாயவரத்தான்... said...

//So much as I love some of the Tamil songs, I don't understand what they are talking about.//

U know the thing, we, the tamils also not know the meaning of the songs nowadays :)

மற்றபடி நீங்கள் விரைவில் தங்கத் தமிழை கற்றுக்கொண்டு எங்கள் ஊர் சினிமாவில் புகுந்து, சிறிது காலத்திற்கு பிறகு அரசியல் கட்சி ஆரம்பித்து அரசியலிலும் புகுந்து விரைவிலேயே ஆட்சியை பிடிக்க வாழ்த்துக்கள்.


Angelsera said...

thr is an age old joke that a south indian askes a surd
"Tamil Teriyuma" (which means 'do you know tamil?' but its pronunced "Tamil terima") and the reply comes "abe oye..hindi tera bap"

I m sure u ve heard of this one

Sayesha said...

Hahahaa! :D

Thanks, if you're referring to the post! ;)

Hahahah! I was wondering why I would ban you from my blog just because Tom is contemplating suicide by jumping into the campfire while everyone is asleep. Then I realised you must have had two windows open and some mix-up happened there. :P

//U know the thing, we, the tamils also not know the meaning of the songs nowadays :)

Hahahaha! :D

As for the things you wrote in tamil, I am getting a consultant to translate for me. Then I shall react accordingly :)

Hadn't heard it before, but Meena's comment had something similar :)

WA said...

Great post (as usual). Couldn't stop laughing at Meena's comment :)

Sayesha said...

#Wicked Angel,
Thanks :)

Siddharth said...

//Malayalam, as we mallus say, is Tamil++!!!

Oooh, you're so gonna get into trouble with Mallus for that! :P

actually the trouble would be from the tamil camp. 'cos tamils think that malayalam is tamil which got stuck some 600 years back and had a nasty affair with sanskrit....

for this, im gonna be in trouble with mallus.

and i live in gulf. god save me...

Siddharth said...

//Ha, its funny to see somebody complain from the "other" side. I have heard many, many non-Hindi-speaking folks here complain about how irritated they get when someone happily assumes that they speak Hindi just because they are from India. Protest of "I don't speak Hindi" only gets another barrage of Hindi!

Mercifully, I speak both Tamil and Hindi - so I guess I will survive both S'pore and the USA ;-)!//

same here. here in kuwait, the whole one country, many languages concept its too complicated for the locals to understand. the arabic term for 'indian' is 'hindhi'. so assume that all 'hindhis' speak hindhi. :) stop.

i told a lebanese guy that i was a tamil. his reaction? "tamil?. good.... so, why do u fight?". :))

Sayesha said...

May you be saved from the furious 'mellus' in the 'gelf'! ;)

Pramod said...

You are annoyed at this simple question.... how about if you are asked every other day which restaurant you work in? Well, thats what happens here in Switzerland as there is a huge Tamil (albeit from Sri Lanka but nevertheless - they dont look any different from any other Indian from the south!) - and they have more or less a monopoly of the backoffice of any restaurant in Switzerland (be it French, Italian or whatever!)

And most people mistake us to be one of them - and they ask which restaurant do you work for. Well, unfortunately thats not the end of story - you say you don't work in one - and when they know you are from India and not SL - be ready for next question - you must be an IT expert! Ahggrrreee....!

Well, I was thinking I will have to learn Chinese while in Singapore - looks like I will have to start with Tamil!

Sayesha said...

//you are asked every other day which restaurant you work in?

Hahahahaha! Don't worry, you won't face that when you get here :)

raj said...

Ah!Sayesha! Why dont you just learn tamil?
Actually, thats novel. The sort of you-are-indian-so-you-must-know-Hindi attitude is the preserve of desi N.I dudes and dudetters all over the world - heck, even in India. Thousands of N.I dudes come to Chennai, and go like, what you dont know tamil, are you Indian?

This, after coming to chennai to make a living.

Why cant N.I or Pseudo-North Indian people like you make an effort to learn tamil.
FYI, Hindi looked like a bunch of broken bricks to me initially - but I made the effort to learn it.
Several years in singapore, every opportunity to learn tamil, and you chose Chinese to learn. If that doesnt tell you something about your prejudices, well, good luck to you.

raj said...

And to the guy who suggests that Hindi and Bengali find a place in top 10 languages whatever, boss, your choice. The fact is knowing tamil can open you several doors in more countries around the world than Hindi or Bengali. Most of the speakers of these languages are rstrricted to India, Bangladesh, U.S.A and England. Your loss.

raj said...

In the first post, I meant "You dont know Hindi, are you Indian?" not "you dont know tamil, are you Indian?". Nobody says the latter, definitely not in India!

Sayesha said...

1. You see, "pseudo-north-Indians" like me choose to learn the language spoken by the majority. Is that so bad?

2. I learnt Hindi because it is the national language, and I believe that one should learn one's national language. And as an Indian, I am proud that I can speak, write, read and understand my national language, even though it is not my mother tongue.

2. I chose to learn Chinese because in Singapore it is the most widely spoken language, after English. Now English I know you see. So it had to be Chinese. More than 75% people are Chinese. Less than 10% are Tamilians. You do the math on what I should learn to speak.

raj said...

Well, Sayesha, you choose what you want to learn, obviously. But i see that this "national language" bug has bitten you, too. I dont think Hindi is a National Language in india. It is a regional language spoken in a large region of India. FYI, there is no such thing as a National Language in Indian Constitution. You can check it up.
The idea of India is in "Unity in diversity".When we agreed to that, we agreed that all are equal.Even if we didnt,we must :-)
To give special favours to one language, one religion or one region is going against that idea.
Going by the same logic, there is nothing wrong in calling Hinduism the national religion of India and saying "I think everyone should embrace the national religion".
Ponder on that.
I am sad to see even such a broad-minded person like you(as evident from your posts) go narrow on this path alone.

Again, not learning Tamil is your choice. But that you chose to ignore or dont want to learn a language of your fellow countryman, while you had no qualms learning a foreign language(however beneficial it may have been to your pragmatic self) is precisely the "prejudice" I hope you, as the reasonable person I assume you to be, will ponder on.

Why is it that you think every Indian should learn Hindi while you yourself summarily dismiss Tamil as a "language not to be learnt", because it doesnt give you practical benefits.
That way, an auto driver in Sivakasi has no practical benefits learning Hindi, even though it is the so-called "national" language, so why should he? See my point?

Isnt the fact that you can make a Singaporean tamil happy by speaking a little of rudimentary tamil enough? You are so polite to everyone on this blog, you want to make friends with everyone who comes here, so why cant you go a little out of your way to make that friendship with that waiter?

To sum it up, I wouldnt take this sort of argument with the usual "North Indian" Hindi fanatic because their minds are closed - (closed as much as your average Tamil fanatic down south, with whom, too I have similar arguments saying that they should respect Hindi, FYI) - but I chose to post here simply because I respect you as a reasonable blogger who is open to criticism and thinks and admit if you are wrong.

Well, if YOU dont get the simple basic point I'm making, then the future of India is really a sad thing for me to ponder because this divide will keep getting bigger and bigger until the point that each region in India starts feeling like a separate nation.

(You replace Tamil by telugu or Marathi or Bengali anywhere above nad you will get a perspective)

Sayesha said...

Thanks for coming back. Always willing to have a good debate. And pleasantly suprised at my promotion from 'pseudo-north-Indian' to 'broad-minded reasonable blogger'. :)

1. Perhaps I used the wrong term. Instead of 'national language', I should have said 'official language' which is Hindi, in the constitution. But my point remains the same, that Hindi is formally recognised as the official language of India. In 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted Hindi as the Official Language of the Union. For more info, you can look up Part XVII, Official Language, Chapter 1 - Language, article 343, of the Constitution at this website:

//Again, not learning Tamil is your choice. But that you chose to ignore or dont want to learn a language of your fellow countryman, while you had no qualms learning a foreign language

The problem is that I have too many fellow countrymen with too many languages. Why should I pick Tamil over the thousand other languages my fellow countrymen speak?

I would rather pick a foreign language because I live in a foreign country. If I lived in Tamil Nadu, I would definitely make efforts to learn Tamil.

//Isnt the fact that you can make a Singaporean tamil happy by speaking a little of rudimentary tamil enough? You are so polite to everyone on this blog, you want to make friends with everyone who comes here, so why cant you go a little out of your way to make that friendship with that waiter?

If I start learning languages just to make random strangers happy, I would have little time to do anything else with my life. :)

My point is simple. I think learning a language is a personal choice. As far as Hindi is concerned, *I* think that knowing the official language of your country is a basic thing. Other than that, you are free to have any reason to learn any language. The reason could be a practical one, a sentimental one, or even a humanitarian one like making a waiter happy. I would like to stress again, that this is what *I* believe.

So in that sense, no one has the right to question why I am learning Chinese instead of Tamil. It is my personal choice and I have good reason to do so. :)

raj said...

sayesha, it is reasonable upto the point of "my choice to learn a language i choose to". Fine, so what is this bit about "official language" and stuff. Who made that rule? And with whose consent? With what modus operandi? Why should Hindi be the official language of India? Ever thought of that? What special qualities that it has over Marathi or Tulu or Manipuri?

Is it that in your opinion, I am a lesser Indian if I dont learn Hindi?

raj said...

Let me ask you a more pointed question:
I have met several North Indians, who land up in Madras, and fret over Madrasi Auto Drivers not servicing them in their own royal language viz Hindi - why, in this very comments section, there is the bengali guy who is offended at the notion of someone assuming that he knows Tamil - "Yeah, of all crimes, you expect me to know tamil, mere baap? Not on my father's corpse will I commit that sin" - he seems to be saying. You agree with that?

There is another Talwar guy who makes all sorts of insulting remarks on Tamil, Telugu and Kannada etc. You agree with that?
Just because some irresponsible poop made a constitutional rule that Hindi is the official language, I should learn Hindi even if I dont stray out of Tamil Nadu, AP, Gujarat and Bengal? So what if I dont have any personal profit doing so?

Sayesha said...

Just because people post comments on my blog, does it necessarily mean that I conform with their views. If people insult other languages on my blog, is it my duty to advise them on diplomacy? This is a blog, not a classroom. Just as I have my views, my readers have theirs. You can't have a debate with me on what they are saying. I believe taking up the matter directly with them would be more suitable :)

The reason why your 'irresponsible poop' made Hindi the official language is because if we were to pick ONE language that is understood in a large part of the country, it would be hindi, and not tamil, telugu, kannada etc., which are confined to one state each. Many other north indian languages also share commonalities with hindi, which just makes it the most preferable choice for the official language. Just because it happens to the language of people in the north, which makes it easier for them as they do not have to learn an additional foreign language does not mean that they have to suffer abuse at the hands of those who have to make the effort to learn the official language.

The people who drafted the constitution were not favouring north Indians, they just adopted the most suitable method of picking the official language in a country of diversities. Just because it did not pick your state language as the national language does not mean that they were incompetent fools. Hindi is not my state language either. Neither does it have anything in common with my state language. Do you see me complaining? Why don't you put yourself in their place? If you had to pick a language for the whole country, wouldn't you pick hindi?

That aside, as I mentioned before, what you wanna learn is entirely upto you. If you don't want to learn hindi because you don't need to, that's fine. Just don't complain about why it is the official language. Because that's like complaining that you don't like the colours on the national flag. There's a reason those colours were chosen and you can't change that.

deeanj said...

hi sayesha
its graet experince i have lot of friends and we always arguing about this things the lanuge bariier.
u know same like her in uae most of the indian here is MALLU so even arbs know lot mallu .
take care

raj said...

That's fine - you dont know the history of deceit and manipulation which made Hindi the national language. This majority business sucks - going by the logic, tomrrow a majority BJP govt(if they manage that, God forbid) can make Hinduism the official language and we can all go carping that all muslims and christians have to learn and honour hindu traditions and customs.
There is a difference between a colour and a language - a language has tradition, culture and a long history associated and most importantly, forms an identity for people - you belong to RED groups and BLUE groups only in some schools.

If I were a bureaucratic babu, I wont arrogantly assume that I can decide for millions, nay billions of people all by myself without proper research or data
FYI, I do know Hindi but I wont upbraid someone because he doesnt know Hindi(because, well, you know, it is the OFFICIAL language)

It is ARROGANCE to claim that one language holds and forms an INDIAN identity. If you cant see that, well, one day when India is broken into fragments because of this silly language issue, you will understand - for, a constitution is made for people not otherwise. You cant suppress the feelings of a subset of people and hope to make a single entity of India. If this means that there is no common language, so be it. Why cant you just learn a bit of tamil before you go to chennai and a bit of manipuri before going to impala, if it ever comes to that. Why do you expect someone sitting there to learn your language and make your life comfortable.
And yes, you just learnt Hindi to prove you are Indian. I know to communicate in 10 Indian languages and tomorrow, if I have some business in Chandigarh, I will make sure that I learn a decent amount of Punjabi. And dont tell me it is that difficult- it isnt - we do it all the time (learning new things.)

If I were in charge of choosing a official language, I would hold a referendum with the stipulation that a common language will be chosn only if it gets more than 80% of the votes - not the first-past-the-post principle.
That is called common consensus. A mere 40-50% of people choosing for the nation is not common consensus - and that too, they didnt choose either - Some bureaucrat sitting in Delhi assumed that Hindi will be chosen in a referendum - they didnt hold a referendum.

Anonymous said...

sayesha or whatever idiot you are....







Sayesha said...

I see your point. My mistake was to use the words 'national language' when I meant 'official language'. I have corrected that in the post. Thanks for that :)

And I mentioned before, what language you wanna learn is really upto you. Too bad that Hindi is already chosen as the official language. Now it's upto you whether you wanna learn it or not, I would learn it because it's probably the language that would help me get by in a lot of states. But of course, like you mentioned, if you know you're going to be in a state where hindi's no help, yes, you should learn the language of the state if you can.

First of all, you don't have the balls to name yourself. Secondly, using uppercase diminishes your case because it implies that you're an angry rude person who doesn't know what he's talking about. Thirdly, you insulted my parents. I don't think you even deserve a response from me.

nmk said...

Hey Sayesha:

I think it’s weird that I speak any Hindi at all. I can speak it well enough to get by and if I go back to my books would probably be able to read it quite well in a few weeks. After English, it is the language I can read and write best in (I am illiterate in Tamil, my mother tongue).

I enjoy Hindi poetry, music, movies and consider it great that I won’t feel like a foreigner on the streets of Bombay or Delhi. Given a choice then, I should be in favor of Hindi as India's official language. Hell, its commonly spoken (30-40% of the population speaks a variant I guess). We probably need one language for the nation. So let’s toss it in.

However, I don’t think Hindi should be our national/ official language and as a language of business/ bureaucracy in India we should use the local language in each place and English. A lot of people in India don’t speak Hindi and the arrival of Hindi robs local languages of their role, relevance and respect. Ask any kanadika from Bangalore or any Maharashtrian from Bombay if they hear enough of their mother tongues. My experience has been that; they say they don’t.

Tons of north Indians in the south feel that they have no need to learn Kanada, Tamil, Malayalam or Telugu cos everyone speaks Hindi anyway; and anyone who doesn’t should learn ("cos its the national language").

I think that an attitude of superiority for Hindi is callous. Tamil is an older language, a more nuanced one with an incredible collection of literature spanning a couple of millennia, a widely spoken language (significant minorities in at least 4 countries speak it) with great adaptability. It might sound harsh to an untrained ear (most languages do, or else like French sound like funny noises spoken through a drinking straw) but of the languages I speak none is as direct, frank, poetic or beautiful (I am not saying Tamil tera Baap, just saying it’s a fantastic language, as are Malayalam (trying to learn, have a reluctant tutor), Bengali…..).

I don’t think everyone has to learn Tamil, but I do think that we need to try and learn the local language where ever we are (message to self: where in the world is that introductory Malay book when you need it?). In some places we don’t have a choice (2nd tier city, mainland China, Small town in rural Germany), in other places we have to make an active attempt to get out of our comfort zone (Singapore, we don’t always try and learn the languages used that we don’t speak. How many people can speak Mandarin or Malay after having been here for 5 years?).

It’s not just about language. Our languages permeate our sense of history, our sense of identity. We have all learnt about Indian history and India’s struggle for independence. Can someone/ anyone from the north tell me the name of one South Indian freedom fighter (heck even I don’t remember more than a couple). Does it mean that the people in the South just sat back; relaxed and waited for independence to arrive on a platter? No they did not. I have grown up to stories from my mother about their exploits, their attempts to do their bit for their nation and their sometimes (all too often) tragic ends. We don’t know about them cos, they didn’t speak the “national language” or write in it or make brave speeches in it. I don’t know any Malayalee, Telugu, Kanadika or Assamese freedom fighter. Where are they in our collective conscious, where are they in our history. If you ask me, they have been written over because they fought for our freedom in a language other than our national language. They are remembered in pockets; they are talked about in pockets and slowly forgotten.

Most states in India were formed because people felt their language needed protecting and needed a state to sustain it (Andhra split away from Madras state (as it was then known
) and I think Gujarat was once part of Maharashtra). It matters to people at an instinctual level and is a part of their identity. Tamil Nadu threatened to secede from the union when Hindi was going to be made the national language back in 1965. People immolated themselves on the streets and the police had to quell demonstrators with gun fire.

When someone from the north comes to the south and says “hey lets have a national language and since most people speak Hindi, let that be it” it inflames a lot of old wounds and old passions. People in the South would rather have English as a national language after all to them Hindi is foreign as well. I think this idea that Hindi some how represents India is overblown. It goes against the very spirit of India as a place that supports diversity (not multiculturalism, where all the cultures become an amalgamated grey goo), that supports differences, that supports distinction in culture, language and religion because being an Indian means not having to conform to a standard definition or standard stereotype. You are an Indian if you want to be one …………..whether you can or not speak a word of Hindi.

Sayesha said...

Wow looks like I have seriously offended some Tamilians here, at least you're not rude like the dude before you :)

My post was never meant to establish hindi's superiority over any language. I am not anti-tamil and nor was this post meant to be a tamil-slamming one.

The debate, if any, should be "whether India should have an official language or not", and not "which language should be the official language?" because hindi will win hands down in the second case. Knowing tamil will help me get by in one state, but knowing hindi will pretty much help me get by in the entire northern India. So if there is to be an official language, hindi seems to be the natural choice. This, in no way, robs tamil of its heritage or diminishes its worth as a language spoken in India.

What I fail to understand is why people think that this post is meant to establish hindi's superiority. I am not from a hindi-speaking state myself, but I am happy and proud that I know hindi. Anything wrong with that? And I do agree that no one should be forced to learn any language. You go learn whatever's gonna help you. I took Introductory mandarin classes after graduation, bought a book on learning Malay, and intend to study Tamil after my master's.

Never did I intend anywhere in my post that you're an Indian only if you know Hindi.

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Indefinitely Looped Within Finite Space said...

Excellent post by NMK. Kudos to you.

Tamilians don't look at it as Hindi vs. Tamil. It is Hindi vs. English. My vote is for English.

Deviating from the main topic here, I find it amusing and humourous that expatriates in USA and UK don't miss a chance to inform non-hindi speakers that they need to learn it "Because it is India's national language and because you are an Indian".

Just when I am somewhat comforted by their blind patriotism towards India, these folks start bashing the education system, jobs, amenities, society, government and everything else they can think of about India.

As soon as that tirade is over, they start ranting about how life in USA is unfair for the indian immigrants. Oh please, for the sake of crying out loud.

Is there anything that you are happy with? Most of the functions and parties that I attend are hijacked by these whiners. These ranting discussions can go on for hours togethere. All that I hear is vivid descriptions of how life has been unfair to you in India and USA.

Seriously, is this all that your grey cells revolve around? Even worse, these whiners sometimes embarass the citizens of USA and UK in these parties. They list out the unfair events they have experienced to these friendly folks. What do you expect them to do?

This constant whining and complaining has developed the attitude of "Blend in or bail out" attitude from the USA and UK. Naturally so. You came here because you were unhappy in India. If all that you can do here is complain, you better pack your bags.

Sayesha said...

Thanks for commenting on such an old post and bringing me back here. Can't believe pple are still reading this! :)

What I find amusing is that you would just assume that I am an expatriate in USA or UK who "left India because she was unhappy". Who told you that? I left India because I got a scholarship to study here.

//Is there anything that you are happy with?

Yes, almost everything in my life. You mean someone told you otherwise? Or you just chose to assume it, along with many other things that I never said? :)

I have never "constantly whined or complained" about my life in Singapore. I have no idea where you got that from. So you may keep the "pack your bags" advice to yourself or give it to someone who needs it.

As for the tamil-hindi-english debate, this is my only point. If at all there has to be an official/national language, it should be one of the state languages. But the real debate should be whether India should HAVE an official/national language in the first place. In view of there being so many languages in India. So if the answer is yes, the language chosen should be one that is understood by the majority and not just by one state. You will see my point if you could get over your obvious dislike for us NRIs :)

And oh, according to me, English does not count anywhere in this particular debate. It is simply a foreign language which we must learn because it connects us with the rest of the world.

Indefinitely Looped Within Finite Space said...

Apparently, you cannot comprehend English. I was just ranting in general and not making those comments towards you.

This is the prime example why everyone should learn English, the neutral language.

Btw...if my previous post did not make it clear to you, I am an NRI.

And oh, according to you, English counts as the universal connecting language. So let's all learn English and use English as the official language.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I missd da debate. I can clearly see dat ur post wasnt intended to hurt tamilians, but few of your comments do.

Anywayz, here r ma contributions. It isnt like u say dat a lang widely spoken shld be made as a national laguage, though ther r many lang. which has more cultural values. Being a tamil myself, I would say dat tamil shld b made as da national lang. ll u accept dat? Da same here!!

If ur points r to b considered, y tiger is claimed as da national animal, instead it should b rats. The same is da case with peacock.

Everythin is fine, until some other lang. threatens tamil. May be someday, this tamil vs hindi, northie vs southie are gonna lead for a big event such as a partition...


Sayesha said...

#Loopy guy,
//I was just ranting in general and not making those comments towards you.

Oh, so you just randomly decided to rant about NRIs on an irrelevant post of mine that is months old. :) Well, whatever makes you happy, dude :)

I can't believe pple are still coming back to this post. Okay, maybe I did not make myself clear, or I was misunderstood. So let me say this one final time.

The debate, according to me, should be whether there should be a national language for India in the first place. Maybe we don't need one because of the diversity.

But if we do agree to have a national language, there should be a logical way to pick one. And as far as I see it, the logical way is to choose the language spoken by the majority. Now what in having this view, is so offensive?

#All others,
Beat it, guys. This party is O-V-E-R. I cannot keep coming back to ye olde posts to reply to your comments. Thanks. :)

The Kid said...

ha ha ha! its not that bad :-)

Vijay E said...

The logical way to pick a language was proposed by Anna when he talked about the "2-dog theory":

Regardless of caste, religion or linguistic affinity, everyone in India require English and hence, it is the best possible alternative.