It seemed like a good time to move out of Delhi. We won’t stay for more than two years, husband was categorical. So Bangalore it was, exactly 10 years ago on November 18, 1999. Three days later, walking alone on Old Airport Road at 10 night, I called friends in Delhi to tell them this! It was amazing that I could walk that stretch without anyone gawking at me during the day even. What a respite!
There were things I couldn’t get used to in a hurry and then there were the rest…
EVERYONE called me 'Amma'! Aiyyo why? I clearly remember the day I graduated from ‘baby’ when I travelled alone, the train attendant called me ‘madam’ and I was quite shocked. But Amma? The maid, I did not mind. But the doc called me Amma, the autowala, the school teacher, everyone.
At around 4 in the evening lovely hunger-whetting aromas arose all around. Bhajjis! Ah! fiery peppers and crunchy capsicums, mangalore and maddhur wadas. Totally addictive. But the carrot was ‘ello’ (when I first corrected C for using that she told me if she said ‘yellO’ no one would understand!) and ‘jamoon’ did not easily evoke the taste of gulab jamoon but remained the succulent purple-tainting fruit. ‘Bhaiya’ could not be used to soften the heart of plumber/ electrician/ security. Everyone spoke in a sing-song kinglish and a sentence became a question by just elongating the last word. The all signifying ‘aa’ made all the difference ‘going out aa (!!)’, ‘going out aa (?), ‘going out aa (.), going out (~) ’ Similarly ‘pa’ ‘da’ ‘la’ – good fun!!
Nor was the ‘one dosa parcel’ easy 'cause parcels came in post and not at food take-away counters. The trucks and buses ‘sounded horns’ and never horn pleased. The traffic cops wore bowler hats. Women wore flowers in hair to work – not one or two, entire bushfuls even with trousers. They rode bicycles in sarees. There were lady bus conductors, petrol pump…nah 'bunk' attendants and postwomen too! The cows had elongated and very pointed horns. Red light se right lena, bhaiya was not understood. 'Signal' it was. ‘Where is your native?’ was hello. And ‘tell me’ after hello wasn’t meant to sound as rude as it did.
Now we look forward to 'meals' not thalis and eat soft mounds of fluffy rice slobbered over with spoonfuls of gee (just as g becomes gh, as in 'gar' meaning home, gh become g, and same interchange for 't' and 'th') as spice induced tears of sheer pleasure stream out of our eyes. We break into the impromptu 'jinke marina' at balle balle moments. I 'remove my phone' from my pocket to talk into it. And use Amma, Ma liberally for aunty, neighbor, kid, store attendants, loo keepers… When at indecisive shopping moments, I place my hand on five silk sarees and tell them I want only one, the exasperated shop attendant points to one and says, 'chennagidya', which I now know is not 'go to hell', she’s helped me select.
Why I’m writing all this? Chumma!
PS: All you scandalized north log, 'chumma' in not the jumma ka chumma but simbly JLT !! yeah, that took a while getting used to!