I love Indian English – there is always an elegant and often quaint way of expressing yourself and always a new gem. For example, I am no longer puzzled when I am asked to “open my shoes” and I know to take my shoes off.
Living in the south has some brought some wonderful new examples for me. Levels of English are very high here and I still smile when I remember, just after our arrival in Chennai, overhearing two elderly gents having a disagreement in the street. "..........yes, but sir, that is not MY botheration..............."
However, yesterday I realised that sometimes our English is not easy to understand unless we use certain expressions. My cooking gas cylinder has run out of gas and I spoke to the landlady, who handles these things for her tenants. Her English is excellent and it makes our life very easy. So I was not prepared for the blank look when I told her that the gas was finished. So I tried again
“The gas cylinder – it is empty”
“Erm – cylinder has no gas” (struggle, struggle)
“you know cooking not possible”. By now I was miming cooking actions…….
And in final desperation,
“Gas illeh” (I am not sure how it is spelt but illeh means ‘no’ or ‘ there isn't any’ in Tamil).
Finally she smiled - “you mean the gas is getting over?” she asked me simply, clearly wondering, why on earth I had not just said that.
“Yes, yes!” I said “yes, the gas is getting over”.
Next time I will know to say that the gas is getting over, and try not to wonder - getting over what? A serious illness? A broken relationship? Or just getting over itself?
The gentleman who taught infinity
3 years ago