Monday, June 14, 2010

How to write a letter in Telugu

Respected (never use ‘dear’ for elders) Uncle,
I hope you and (insert family details - eg. aunty and the children) are fine. By the grace of (insert God of choice - eg. Lord Balaji) we all are fine at home (I repeat, fine at home). I pray to (again, insert God of choice) for your health and that of the entire family.
Things are fine at our end. Amma’s joints are much better, thanks to your idea of (insert alternative therapy/home remedy). Naanna’s diabetes also is under control now. What would we have done without you?
I am writing to you to convey the good news. I (have passed with distinction/ have been accepted by reputed American university/ am getting married to a Telugu boy my parents have chosen/ am pregnant/ am pregnant again/ have chosen a suitable match for kanna - insert situation you are in). With the blessings of (insert God of choice again. And you bloody well stick to the same God throughout the letter) everything will go on as planned. We seek your blessings.
With this letter, we are sending tickets for the whole family. (Note: the tickets will be ONE-WAY). Please grace the house with your auspicious presence. Also, the mamidikaaya pachhadi you brought last time is over. Tell (insert uncle’s neighbour’s name) I asked about him/her.
Saashtaang namaskaram to you and aunty. Blessings to the children. Amma and Naanna send you their blessings.
I remain
Your loving niece,
(your name – eg. Bhanupriya, Meghalata, Suvarnaratna or anything but a cool name).

Note: You’ll agree this is not English. Not by any stretch of imagination.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I’m related to people I don’t relate to.

So said Calvin, the cartoon character. But I don’t think he faced half the problems I do. He wasn’t born in a traditional South Indian family, you see.
Recently, I had to attend a cousin’s engagement ceremony. I rushed straight from Famous to Matunga (where else?). Along with my family, my kanjeevaram and those kilos of gold were caught in traffic. So, in the blasphemous jeans-and-tee avatar, I made an unintentionally dramatic entry.
As I was slinking in, I heard the pandit say, “Sarva mangala maangalye shive, who-is-this-and-why-is-she-here?”
Spewing more venom through her eyes than a planner whose brief one rejects, peddamma, my aunt, said, “Ignore her, panthulu gaaru, she is like that only. What to do? We had to invite her.”
So panthulu gaaru continued the mantras, looking askance at me every now and then. As I was sitting there, head hung low, the most sympathetic of my aunts sat next to me.
“Coming straight from office aa?”
Just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, she spat out the words,
“You go to office like this only? Cotton clothes? You don’t have silk t-shirt or something?”
I was about to mutter some explanation but she continued,
“You wear plastic spectacles? At least you can afford gold-rimmed glasses like your uncle’s?”
I took off the specs, “Actually, athai….”
She launched into a harangue, “Whaat actually? Your visiting card has some fancy post no? And your earrings are so small! Your boss is not embarrassed to see you like this? They agree to take you for meetings?”
Quickly, she blew the clarion, and a herd of aunts surrounded me. Within two minutes, I was suddenly looking acceptable. Jeans and tee, 6 huge gold bangles on each hand, huge gold earrings that reached my shoulders, hair parted in the centre and in the parting, a huge golden thingy that covered half my forehead. As you’d know, I have not a single photograph of myself in the ceremony!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My first glimpse of Kolkata

That city talks to you. At least it did to me. It jeered and sneered at me. Barely 10 minutes away from the airport and on the way to the city, a huge, well-lit artefact pierced the darkness and hit me in the eyeball. What was it - you might wonder. Incredible though it sounds, believe me that artefact was a huge Rubik’s cube. Only Kolkata would have a bloody Rubik’s cube for an embellishment.
“Do you have the IQ to enter these exalted gates?” the city asked of me.
“Look I’m only here for a one-day shoot,” I said to no one in particular. I felt it necessary to explain my presence there. Another 10 minutes and another huge Rubik’s cube looked me in the eye.
“You don’t get it, do you?”
I was suitably daunted. Dotted with yellow amby taxis, the street seemed to shrug me off. “What is Bangla for ‘slow down’?, I screamed in my mind.
Slowly, I gathered myself. It’s just a city like any other – I told myself, unconvincingly. Thanks to multi-national banks and telecom communication inundating the streets, every city looks the same. Airtel, Aircel, Indicom collectively made me feel at home.
But after every few blocks, Kolkata in its real avatar would rear its head up. In the dark distance I saw a huge enclosure with a fancy sign board. Colourful and bright, it kind of cheered me up.
“Looks like this city has an amusement park.” I said aloud.
When I was finally able to see the sign at close quarters, to my horror it said – Science City Amusement Park. Through the clouds in my head, words like observatory, space and planetarium hit me in the temporal lobe.
I could instantly picture bespectacled Bong fathers dangling their kids on their knees and saying, “Bollo, A for Agoraphobia, B for Borborygmus, C for Collywobbles.”
The driver mumbled something in Bong. Considering the only Bong word I knew was Boka*&#@*, I kept shut. Better still, I shut my eyes.
Finally, I heard the driver say, “We’re almost there.”
I opened my eyes, curious to see what Park Street looked like. And another sign assaulted me.
Shakespere Sarani street.
“When was the last time you even mentioned Shakespere in a conversation?” the supercilious street asked me.
I forgot all about the shoot.
“When are we flying back?” I asked my colleague.