As the title might warn you, this post contains a considerable amount of Tamil untranslated, coz translating it would remove the quirky spirit of what is said.
I’ve always been amazed at the utter inability of some of my relatives to pronouncing words which most others seem to take for granted. I mean, you would expect people who don’t trip over the tricky Tamil “zha” syllable to call me Priya and not Pi-ri-yaa! That’s only the beginning – Padmavathi is Bathmavadhi, Lalitha becomes Lalidha, Mahesh is Magesh. Kamal Haasan is Kamalagaasan. Krithika becomes Kiruthihaa. And funnily, some of them go on to spell it that way! Like, a popular Indian blogger is named Kiruba Shankar. I wondered where he might be from, with such an outlandish name. Turns out he’s Tamilian. And the name? When I heard a relative trip over my neighbor Kripa’s name, I knew.
I have an aunt in Nyakpur, the city so famous for its oranges. She makes a pilgrimage to Tiruppadhi atleast once a year. She’s also picked up some rudimentary Kannada – she now says “naanu barle”, a combination of the Tamil “naan varle” and Kannada “baralla”, both of which mean “I won’t come”/”I’m not coming” when I ask her if she’s coming home this month or what. A Mysorean uncle is getting quite Tamil-ized, he even says “Neeru Challidum”, instead of “Neeru Chalbidatte”.
Can’t blame them, can we? Tamil TV channels broadcast every damn thing in Tamil, including Powerpuff Girls and Superman cartoons. And also Chinese and English movies.
English: Oh, God! It’s hurting him!
Tamil: Ayyo, kadavulae! adhu avana kaayapaduthardhu!
English: (Titanic) Jack, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me!
Tamil: Jack, enaku unna theriyaadhu, unaku enna theriyaadhu!
English: We love you very much, forever
Tamil: Naanga unna romba rommmbaaa naesikarom, eppozhudhumae.
English: Princess hates the Powerpuff Girls
Tamil: Andha Raajakumaari-ku Powerpuff Girls-a pidikavae pidikalai.
English: “Dad! Look! A dinosaur!”
Tamil: “Daddy! anga paarunga, Palli!!” (palli=lizard, normally the ones on walls and behind tubelights, but what the heck)
And Chinese and English movies are replete with expressions like “Adi Aathadi!”, “Adi Aathi!” “Enna Raasa!”.
Countless endearments in English have been replaced with “En kannu-la?” or “En raasaathi!“. “Hey, buddy” turns into “Yenna machi”, “Yaen Machaan“, “Enna da maama“. Quite natural, that is; it’s a translation. But “You die today” turning into “Machchi, nee gaaali machi inniki” makes me smile. And “Inna? Nee perriiiyya pista-va?” from a Chinese monk was shocking at the least. And not to forget a white policeman saying “Naalu moththu moththina vaaya tharapaanga“. Or delicate-looking Chinese and white women calling their husbands “innaaangaa“, or other men “saaaar!” in total Madras spirit.
What took the cake was a bunch of Chinese drunk men singing “Ponaal Pogattum Poda“. But my personal favorite has to be this Chinese man opening a tap and commenting on its lack of flow with “Aatha, idhu ennadhidhu, thanni kaaveri-thanni maadhiri guppu-guppu-nu vardhu?“
And the icing on the cake:
My grand-uncle (now he isn’t one who trips over my name… he’s completely Bangalore-ized) tells me of watching the sports news on Sun TV and hearing about the exploits of this awesome tennis legend-in-the-making (or maybe legend… I’m not clued in to tennis, correct me if I’m wrong) called David NaLapaandiyan (notice the harder, Indian L), who plays for Argentina. Argentina! Now grand-uncle gets extremely concerned about this brawn-drain (i
f you see this phrase anywhere else, remember, you read it first here nope, just googled for it, and found it’s used quite often in the same sense… damn! I can’t patent that phrase and use the cash to buy coffee-table books with jang bang illustrations and tasteful photographs) that’s happening; I mean, why can’t this dude play for India?
Close up to headshot of Mr. NaLapaandiyan, and he turns out to be a complete Vellakaaran (white man), blonde hair and all. Okay… maybe he has a Vellakaari mother, he thinks. And then he sees the name, and in English, it is spelled David Nalbandian, and pronounced so on NDTV and elsewhere.
And… it’s an easy mistake to make… Tamilians are ubiquitous… seen in every damn part of the world. And not in corner-shops always – every second name in American, Australian, German, British or Canadian universities, or R&D labs or Corporate environments seems to be some Natarajan or Ramakrishnan, or Ramachandran, or Ramaswamy or Kandasamy, or Muniswamy or Subramanian…. Tams have their cake and eat it too