A Madraasi in New Delhi

I had the pleasure of living in New Delhi during the 90s. 1992 to 1999 to be precise. In ’92, I knew no more Hindi than “Mera naam Ashok haii avoor mye East of Kailash mein ragutha hoon”.

But 7 years and a few Pnjaabi friends subsequently taught me how to use expletives as nouns,

(Expletive) ! Idhar aa.

as pronouns,

Usko Bula. (expletive) kar kya raha hai? (where the expletive takes the place of the pronoun “Woh”)

as conjunctions,

Main paas hotha yaar (expletive), merko copy karthe pakad liya yaaru! (where the expletive takes the place of the conjunction “lekin”)

as question marks,

Ho kya raha hai (expletive)

as adverbs,

Main usko (expletive) maaroonga

as adjectives,

Tu aur tera (expletive) gaadi !

and finally, as exclamations.

Usko dekh yaar. (expletive said in a slow and stretched manner)

But all of the above took time to sink in. In my first few years, I felt so out of place in school that I became very defensive and refused to speak Hindi no matter what. Some kids saw it as arrogance, but back in 1992, I was conscious of being laughed at like the actor Mehmood.

But back at home, things were very interesting. For one, it was hilarious observing my grandmother use advanced dumb charades to communicate instructions to the servant maid. So she would essentially go

“3 words. 1st word. Split into parts. 1st part. (Hand wave). No. Not Mozart’s 40th symphony. Yes. Yes. Jhadoo. 2nd word. (aggressive movement of hands). No clue. (facial expressions indicate approval). Yes. Yes. Accha. 3rd word. (more hand movement). No clue. (Bow and arrow movements). Mahabharatha? Yes. Yes. (hand movements request further guesses). A Character in the Mahabharatha? Yes. Yes. Yes. Arjuna? No. Karna? Yes. Yes. Got it. Jhadoo Accha Karna

I am just kidding of course. But you get the picture. It was not easy. She even asked me to buy “Learn Hindi (through Tamil) in 30 days” and I did. And here is my adviced to everybody. If you ever wish to learn a language, never ever buy the “30 days” series of books. They don’t just suck. They vacuum clean.

And then came my Delhi based relatives. And we felt – “Aah. We can now learn Hindi from people who speak Tamil”, and guess what. Most of my relatives spoke a weird language that can only be heard in New Delhi. It is said to have originated in the murky depths of Karol Bagh. It is called Tambramindi.

(Wife asking for 10 Rs from husband at Vegetable shop) Yenna. Oru dus nikaal pannungo

Neenga onnum fikar panna vendaam. Avar maaf panniduvaar.

Dei. School khathamaa?

Exam eppididaa irundhudhu? Che, kela aaiduthu.

Kadaila enna kareed panninna?

And the best of all,

Naa oru kaamaa poittu varen

Update: As usual, the commentspace has outdone the post 🙂 Here’s some more Tambramindi samples.

From Kamesh

There was this mama from Madras, who during the deep delhi winter insisted to his guesthouse keeper – “bahut cold..bahut cold…ladki lao….ladki lao…” (he wanted the fellow to bring wood for the fireplace)

From farkandfunk

Naan dhaan sambhar khatam panniutaen.

Onnaku konjam kude sharam varalai? Chi.

From KK

My dad grew up in Bombay – Matunga, to be precise, which is, or certainly was back then, a Tam Brahm stronghold… He remembers a Tam Brahm lady across the street saying this to a a vegetable seller:
‘Dus aana ko deva to deva, devatta poda!’

From comfortablydumb,

abe payya…ghar pootke aaya kya (did u lock the house)

thayir sadam kharab ho gaya re (the curd rice has gone bad)

kal raat ko tookam nahi aaya (last nite didnt get sleep)

my grandama’s first hindi words..
milkman – maa ji, dood
grandma – kaun bi nahi kaun bi nahi…kal vaa (come tomorrow) (since we had warned her not to open the door and say come tommorrow)

65 Comments

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  1. Good one. I have cousins in Delhi who are probably better of not attempting Tamil. But Ive had worse experiences of Indians in the US (or offshore – I dont know) whove said “I will be feeding back to you in a few hours”. In case you didnt get it – “I will give you a feedback in a few hours”.

  2. > Exam eppididaa irundhudhu?

    This is not very idiomatic. The act of writing a exam should be ‘paper de pannaradhu’ or ‘paper kodukkaradu’ unless the Delhi Tams have been desperately Anglicizing themselves behind my back.

  3. There was this mama from Madras, who during the deep delhi winter insisted to his guesthouse keeper – “bahut cold..bahut cold…ladki lao….ladki lao…” (he wanted the fellow to bring wood for the fireplace)

  4. nice…. very nice! I woke up grumpy and this made me feel so much better 🙂 – there is another side to this- how Tam kids who’ve grown up in delhi / bombay speak Tamil – it can best be called Junoon Tamil – if you remember the dubbed version of Tamil – same sentence construction and same singsong accent.

    and hey, “Naa oru kaamaa poittu varen” sounds very promising – do people really announce this at home or just go out and do it clandestinely?!

    Charu
    http://indsight.org/blog

  5. hyderabadi tamils have a few telugu and hindi words that creep into everyday tamil….

    It’s more of a geographical thing i guess, I wonder if there are any tam here frm the eastern states?

  6. I laughed out loud reading your post. And thought that blogs you read might have just as healthy a take on parochial identitites. Then I read the posts on “Asal Tamizh Penn”. Such people are a shame to your blog, tamilians and to humanity.

  7. Happens everywhere. I spent some time in Jakarta last year and visiting the house of a Tam acquaintance was perplexed by ‘Sambar-le bumbu reduce paNNiyirukkalaam’

    bumbu??? Turned out to be bahasa for masala.

    What however got me at the kalyaanams I attended as a kid was the absolutely superior air the Delli Baambe Tams put on. They’d overtly look down on us southies and exclude us by ‘Peter’ing in Hindi (to which we’d say mookkaale sindhi).

    Hope it doesn’t happen these days.

  8. My dad grew up in Bombay – Matunga, to be precise, which is, or certainly was back then, a Tam Brahm stronghold… He remembers a Tam Brahm lady across the street saying this to a a vegetable seller:
    ‘Dus aana ko deva to deva, devatta poda!’

  9. 2 c

    abe payya…ghar pootke aaya kya (did u lock the house)

    thayir sadam kharab ho gaya re (the curd rice has gone bad)

    kal raat ko tookam nahi aaya (last nite didnt get sleep)

    my grandama’s first hindi words..
    milkman – maa ji, dood
    grandma – kaun bi nahi kaun bi nahi…kal vaa (come tomorrow) (since we had warned her not to open the door and say come tommorrow) 🙂

  10. I went to North once, and a guy came to me asking – “Pen is?”
    He meant “Pen hai (kya)?” but I heard something else :p…roflmao!

    and I’m sure the 30 day books have “hai=is” written somewhere.

  11. talking about Junoon Tamizh, remided me of what I read a decade ago:

    Situation: Scorching Sun. Around noon.

    Guy: Elaneer evlo pa?
    vendor: 5 rupees saar.
    Guy: seri pa, onnu kudu.
    Vendor: Junoon-a saar?
    Guy: (taken aback. he repeated) oru elaneer kudu pa.
    Vendor: Junoon-a saar?
    Guy: (Got irritated). yowww. yennaya. Naan elaneer ketundey irukken, nee vera yedho kekara?
    Vendor: Illa saar. “After the break-a”-nu keten saar.

    Voracious Blog Reader

  12. @ Priyank

    Guy: How much do you charge for the tender coconut?
    Vendor: 5 Rupees Sir.
    Guy: Okay. Get me one.
    Vendor: Sir, Junoon?
    Guy: (taken aback). One tender cocounut please.
    Vendor: Sir, Junoon?
    Guy: (Irritated). You §/&§)()=. What the heck? All I want is a tender coconut. What is all this Junoon stuff?
    Vendor: Sir, by Junoon, I asked you whether you wanted the coconut “after the break” or not. [After the break: cut it open and with a straw or do you want to take the tender cocounut home.]

    Just in case somebody didn’t get it: When Junoon was broadcast those days, after the initial title song, a advertisement break always followed. The words were: “Junoon. After the Break”

    //VBR Dude//

    Priyank: I presume, you used “dude” as a blanket term. 🙂

  13. Do “Great post” comments have any intrinsic value to the blog owner? The rest of the world may not maaf me for contributing to heating up the globe by adding to internet junk. So, before I forget, idho main comment kudukkaraen:
    “Great Post!”
    🙂
    Doc, Your comments are the garam masala, salt, fenugreek, onion, garlic and coriander leaves of any blog post. We’d all be british cuisine without you 🙂

  14. Anand,

    I agree. asal tamizh penn is embarrassing with her funnel vision and juvenile attitude. Smug, unintelligent and dull. Such a shame.

  15. Anand, sundari,
    While I don’t really know much about the real individual behind the ATP blog, I simply find the smug candour very amusing in a weird sort of way 🙂
    If one sees the comments section, it looks like the opinions are fairly extreme, one either totally likes her or totally dislikes her.
    While I can’t be sure, her posts seem more like a caricature of the orthodox tambram all of us love to both like and dislike in equal proportions 🙂

  16. While I hate to rant on your fun-filled blog, I have to say that her post on Telugus is extremely offending to me as a Telugu. Nobody can write such a piece without harbouring feelings of Tamil supremacy.

  17. I read a few posts of Tamizh Penn.
    I have to echo Ashok’s views. I think there is a very sharp brain deliberately appearing to be a typical Tam Bram whatever….
    I think there is a sarcasm and parody that many may just miss. I don’t see malice in her….
    Though why this person doesn’t look at larger issues with Tambram vision is beyond me. Would have been fun!

    1. I have been reading ATP’s blog and I find it profound and brilliant. One might accuse her of being parochial and insular, but then so was Jane Austen. It is best when people write about things they know. BTW, Krishashok, I came to your blog via your comment on ATP’s blog championing the cause of chennai auto-drivers, and I find here an absolutely entertaining blog. If ATP’s genius is in caricaturing TAMBRAM characters, yours is the exquisite contemporaneity of Chennai ‘Cockney’ (…for e.g.” house-notification before departure” -remark by the Auto driver in one of your previous posts, had me ROTFL the whole day). Make us laugh more!

  18. I yam yettanother defender of ATP. I see her posts as holding up a mirror to the foibles of entrenched Tam Brahm-hood. Let’s not consider them to be her personal views.

    She is the Paris Hilton of this fragrant southern harbour. A sharp brain hidden behind a dilettante exterior.

  19. haha!! hilarious post! one more example, from our very own triplicane… the language could be described as ‘hamil’ maybe?

    one guy says to the other- ‘sor thunna bulatha hai’ 🙂

  20. LOL fun post!!

    Here are two of mine:

    Mother to security guard in Kan-Hindi:
    “Jaldi aao, ghode par hawa hai.”
    (gode = wall, haavu = snake in kannada)

    Cousin to shopkeeper: “Baaki apparama kudutha hai.”

    On an aside note, zepellin’s “sor thunna bulata hai” made me shriek with laughter!!

  21. Hey Nice Post!!

    I am from Hyderabad and the Tamil we speak is a mix of telugu, hindi and english. I was reminded of the sentences some of my cousins use.

  22. have worked for over 15 years in madras as a journalist and well know her types- soft and inexperienced, can’t report from the trenches because she doesn’t have a belly for it, will plod along, passing dull wit as humour in ‘feeturr writing”. asadu tamizh penn would be more like it.

    i do recall that offensive piece on andhraites that A talks about. drawing room prejudice as blog copy makes for tedious reading.colourless. vikatanmatron’s voice, circa 70s in tamil in english today. sorry to drag her name in here, but hey i can’t post comments on her blog and was jumping with joy over A’s.

    if you want another instance of an embarrassing read try shobha narayan’s book on food and tam brahm lives. (penguin).she won the pultizer in you yess for writing on atahi made yelumicha pazha saadam in thonnais during train journeys. makes you cringe.

    what gets my goat is those who think such writing as “another instance of holding a mirror to authentic tam bram cusisine and lifestyle of a bygone era”.

    try ‘no onions nor garlic’ by srividya natarajan. reviewed it recently for a local mag here. takes the pants off chennai’s foibles and its citizens and tam brahms. breezy read. hilarious.

  23. sundari,
    But I don’t quite fully understand the extremeness of some of the opinions of readers on ATPs blog.
    While some see her as painting caricatures of orthodox tam-brams, some get very offended at her posts.
    While I don’t know her as a person, I can’t sometimes help but feel that it’s just a blog, written under a pseudonym. With perhaps 1000 hits a day, which is trivial compared to the reach of any mainsteam publication.
    I don’t find everything she writes funny, but I laugh out loud at the ones I enjoy and simply skim over the rest.
    At the end of the day, I suppose there ain’t so such thing as universal humour 🙂

  24. KA: I know. You seem a chamarthu affable payan. But as the years roll on, the frivolousness of my youth drops, and i find myself rallying against that kind of vapid thought and slack humour.

    Worse, she is from Tirunelveli and Bharadwaja gothram. I am sure that my gang of thieves from the Gopalasamudram, Ravanasamudram and Tirunelveli side might find a connection.

    Besides most of the journalists fm madras have a Nellai connection and it’s not just confined to Dina Thanthi.

  25. At least you know more hindi than I could learn tamil in my 2 year stay in Chennai… but the grandma story does remind me of a similar incident… at my friends flat in Chennai, the maid knew only tamil and my friend knew only hindi… they used to communicate in their respective languags on what food to prepare that day… and just by the use of nodding and swaying heads, the communication used to be a success… I still havent understood how…

  26. sundari — shoba narayan did not win the pulitzer or anything.

    No onions and garlic — I wanted to ask for a refund from Landmark. I mean — I willingly put that brand new book “in weight.”In my life I have never insulted a book like that.

    Different people like different things avalavu than..

  27. “if you want another instance of an embarrassing read try shobha narayan’s book on food and tam brahm lives. (penguin).she won the **pultizer in you yess for writing on atahi made yelumicha pazha saadam in thonnais during train journeys. makes you cringe **”

    Pulitzer Fellowship as student and Pulitzer Prize for writing, 2 different things no?

  28. Amazing read!
    LOL!!
    A similar (slightly long) experience with accents:

    My Kannada friend’s daughter and my(tamil) daughter were playing in the backyard. All of a sudden, my friend’s daughter comes running in and tells her Mom, ‘tooth in my sock’ !! Assuming that I heard only half the sentence, I called my daughter in and asked her if she ‘bit her friend’s foot’…??!! My friend was quick to clarify that ‘thuth’ was actually ‘hole’ in kannada..her daughter had a hole in her sock!!

    Carry on with the great blogs!

  29. too good man… I ve become a die hard fan of ur blogs…(forgive the ellipses) … am yet another software engineer who was shitted rather than pissed off by the day’s work and who has another impaartent meetin to attend.. ur blog really filled the gap.. keep writing..

  30. Too good!
    Want to share sth similar..
    We were eating panipuri one fine day and my friend who actually wanted to ask that fellow to serve hot puris asked him this way:-
    “Bhaiyyya! Ise jalao !” And ever since, We have stopped going to that place! 😀
    BTW, Wish I could understand all those lines written in Tamil. 😦

  31. KA !! hats off for the update !! i was brought up long, long ago, mainly in Delhi, and i realize from ur blog that if i go back now , i would need to talk to Delhi Tams in Hinglish , Pnjglish, and sign language. Viva change !!!

  32. btw, didya attend Guruji Raghavan’s bhajan’s ? his voice has changed now, but he was very very melodious and gr8 till early 90’s

  33. @orangedusk and maths lovers : ur comment has ellipses , some have hyperbol(a/e)’s , some have parabolas ( speaking paras , in Hindi bol = tell, bola = told )

  34. I am from Bombay and have come acoss many such incidents.

    My aunt had come from Chennai, and went to the vagetable market at chembur. Chembur should very technically be classifed as a suburb of Palakkad in Mumbai. Anyway my aunt didn’t know that. My aunt asked the vegetable guy,” Tomato. Aadha kilo ka aadha ” to which the guy replies,”yen mami, kaal kilo venuma”

    Another friend had come from chennai and decided to go sho[pping to fashion street. She asked how much is a fair price for a pair of slippers. We told say bees rupaiya. She goes there and pointing at a pair asks, “Kitna?”
    Shopkeeper: Padhra Rupaiya madam!
    My friend: Nahin Nahin!! Bees rupaiaya!

  35. My grandfather said this to a roadside food stall guy back in the ’70s.

    “Illupuchetty kab soodega?”

  36. In the 1960s, my father-in-law had just moved to Delhi and knew only a few Hindi words. A neighbour’s son, Gangesh, fell down & hurt himself while playing. My FIL rushed to inform Gangesh’s parents. Suno ji, Gangesh ko “gaay” (Tamil Gaayam) ho gaya! Hilarious!
    Thinking abt Gangesh’s parents who thought Gangesh had a cow!!

  37. hillarious post and comments!. Being a coastal andhrite, who came to bangalore newly, I couldnt understand certain telugu dielect that was used in bangalore.
    One day I was trying to jump from my PG terrace to the adjacent building terrace (whose walls were close enough for a safe land) to avoid taking the staircase. The landlady of the next building was concerned about my safe jump so said “husharamma husharu” which means “be careful/take care” in kannada.

    In telugu it meant ” Do it with more Josh or energy” 🙂

  38. As a mumbai-bred tambrahm, me and my sisters would Tambrahmhindi all the time! The best example in our Iyengar household was – “Tu yeccha perattu karegi?” (Yeccha perattu – cleaning up after everybody finishes eating)! Hahah! Golden.

    Your blog rocks!

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