“Rama Ma’am apse milne ke liye betaab hai.” I was taken aback when my friend, Mausami introduced me to her husband when I met him for the first time at a wedding . I felt hugely embarrassed with her choice of words,which translated into English meant that I was desperate to meet her husband. I looked around to see if my husband was in her hearing distance .Thankfully he was not.
That is how Mausami, our Bengali friend, would often speak Hindi, picking up high sounding words from Bollywood movies and songs. An amazing lady, bubbly and chirpy, she would often entertain us with her hyperbolic Hindi speaking skills. Her vocabulary was fantastic, straight from Bollywood movies, extravagant and dramatic that landed us in awakward situations at times. She would often stump us with the usage of words like ahsaanpharamosh, nashukra, sangharsh, though more often than not used inappropriately .
Mausami’s Hindi was funny. To our amusement she would say, “Tum paani khayega”. Mausami would often get confused between ‘eat’ and ‘drink’. The fact is there is no vocabulary for drinking in Bangla ; everything is eaten from water to cigarettes. Of course, in due course of time she perfected the use of correct terminology for eating and drinking.
The most amusing were Mausami’s gender goof-ups. Bangla, being a gender neutral language, ‘Ka’ ‘Ki’ ‘Ke’ was always an issue with her. Mausami would invariably make gender blunder. Over a period of time she gained proficiency in the usage of correct gender for the living things, but the gender for the non-living objects continued to perplex her. When we tried to reason it out with her she would say, “How on earth do you get to know which noun is feminine and which is masculine in Hindi?” Indeed it was difficult for us to explain why train and bus are feminine gender while truck and aeroplane are masculine. We had no explanation as to why police, which is not even remotely connected with femininity, is a female gender. We were clueless as to why we say Police ayee and not ayaa in Hindi.
Never mind the gender trouble; it is the communication that matters. Mausami struggled with Hindi, fumbled for words, grappled with use of correct gender but that did not deter her from being a chatter-box. Despite her atrocious Hindi speaking skills, she was very popular in our friend circle, always ready to mingle with the people of all age groups. It has been a couple of years since she left Chandigarh as her husband got transferred to Mumbai but we continue to miss her and, of course, also her notorious Hindi glossary.
(Published in Hindustan Times on Aug 24, 2017 under Spice of Life column)