Monday, 29 April 2013


BELOW IS SOME OF WHAT I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO OBSERVE IN MY 40 YEARS OF WORLD TRAMPING. (mostly; includes some parts borrowed from Paul Theroux).

 “You don’t finish?”
“No, I have finished, you may now collect the plates”
I was had just arrived in Nigeria and the boy who came to my hotel room to collect the plates after the lunch asked me, “You don’t finish?”
Later I learnt that he actually said, “You done finish?” Meaning, “Have you done with your meal? Or rather, have you finished (your meal)?”

     “Weyar?” shouted the taxi driver after slowing down to almost a stop to my hand sign, meaning “Where?”
“To Kabakoo market.”
“I no go go theyar” [ I am not going there] and drove on. The taxi was more often than not plied as a mini bus collecting passengers and dropping them on a certain rout. Even there were motor cycle taxis that took a single passenger at a time. Any luggage the passenger had he/she balanced it on the head.

     “Please stop for a while”, I asked a Nigerian walking alongside my dead slow car. I intended to ask directions and it was dark. He blurted, “I no go stop” and continued walking, now faster.
      We were four Pakistanis undertaking tests for Driving licence. One of us, Mr Riaz, was in his fifties and we in our thirties. The last test was driving your car backwards through the spaces between three drums placed in a straight line.

      Mr Riaz was the last to try after we three had done the test successfully. He went and promptly banged each and every drum as we heard bum, dum, boom. We couldn’t stop laughing. The inspector, himself in the fifties shouted at us, “So you laughing at this old man, Eh? Wayer is respect, eh? Ok you go see. I go pass him now now and all you go fail”. We had to reapply and pay fees and take all the tests in the coming weeks.

     In Tanzania I do not remember any pidgin English as they were proud to use Swahili even when they could speak English. As a result I was forced to learn Swahili and had to myself speak (pidgin) Swahili. “Meme anasema shamba wewe eko kuba sana, lakini shamba yangu wile wile eko hapana ndogo” (I say your garden is very big but also my garden is not small). They understood the gist of my meaning and were much amused.

     In South East Asian countries, they are fond of adding ‘la’ at the end of most sentences. “Ok la” was “OK”. In Brunei, Chinese people and even Malay found it hard to pronounce ‘t’. While playing tennis my partner would strike the ball and will argue with the opponents when they call: “OU”. They meant the ball was out. We were our own referees. Bottle was ‘bo’ell’. A Thai worker was telling his telephone number to his friend: two, thlee, five. Zillo, zillo. (23500). He got in return the thanks: “Sank you welli welli mutt.” (Thank you very much). Another will exclaim after hearing something extra ordinary, “you must be chokin” (You must be joking)

    A boy on a London Train Station was heard saying, “The trin is just coming, we were almost layette”

    Even New Zealanders have their own peculiar accent. New Zealanders can be divided in to three major categories: NZ European (white), Islanders (Samoan, Tongans, Maories, …) and Indians and Chinese.
     “Are you allergic to eeg” asked the white doctor before administering the flue vaccine to me. I was new in NZ and asked my wife, who was nearby, “What is eeg?”. She said that what she (the doctor) meant was an egg. I told that I was not allergic to eggs and received the treatment.
     “The weend is too strong, bitter you wrap up before vinturing out”, says a typical New Zealander, meaning, “The wind is too strong, better you wrap up…” They are sworn enemies of Australians and would easily say, “The Ausies are enemals”. “What do you theenk of our Na Zillon?” Was a curious question posed to visitors.  
(Last few sentences are influenced from Paul Theroux’s “THE HAPPY ISLES”)
     Typically, when you ask any New Zealander, “How are you today”, you receive the reply, “I am good”. Now in other places they say, “I am fine,” etc. For them a plumber is plummer and library laibry.   
     The islanders in New Zealand are a group in their own. Most islander languages have limited alphabets. For example I noticed they cannot pronounce B and G. Consequently you hear one say, “I have four shildren, two kirls and two poys.”
     The Maori Language has ‘book’ translated as ‘Puka’. Thus a library is ‘whare puka puka’. ‘whare’ means house and ‘puka puka’ means books. Plural in Maori is done by repeating twice. This should not be of any surprise because in Sanskrit (Hindi) also a library is ‘ Pustak-alya’; and in Urdu, it is ‘kutub-khana’ (house of books).

     It is curious to note that the Arabs are just opposite. They cannot pronounce P and would say, “Bebsi cola, Bakistan” for Pepsi and Pakistan.

     While we are at it, why not consider the Bengalis. They apparently find it hard to pronounce ‘v’ and replace it with a ‘b’. Thus a girl named Vidya in Lucknow will become Bidya in Kolkata. The world renowned Rabindra Nath Tagore was actually, in Sanskritised fashion, RaVindra Nath Thakur.

     The aboriginals in Australia have their own Pidgin English. By walkabout they mean walk. There is Bible in Aboriginal Pidgin so they will find it easier to understand than in proper English. An example will suffice:
[Psalm 23: “Big Name makum camp alonga grass, takum blackfella walkabout longa, no frightem no more hurry watta” (He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.) credit: Paul Theroux.]  

     Americans have their own way of corrupting the English Language. Thus labour became labor, gaol became jail, schedule (sheedool) became schedule (skedule). What is more, even a British billion (1000,000,000,000 one million million) became American Billion 1000,000,000 (a thousand million). They are though more British than the British in that they even now use pounds for weights (as against kg); feet, mile against metre, km; degree Fahrenheit against degree centigrade, etc.
    “Gimme a quata”. I was waiting for the taxi on the curb in New York when suddenly I noticed a stretched hand in front of my face. My eyes followed the hand through arm and met the beady eyes of a ragged homeless man asking for a 25 cts coin. I declined and felt foolishly proud to have refused ‘aid’ to America. Only years later I learnt of the ayatul birr (2/177, Qoran) that asks us to give to any one who asks, and I regret to this day.     

      There was a teacher who was nicknamed ‘water buffalo’ and would drive on the black board a Math sum and arrive at the final answer: 15 mm. He would say, “This is the answer, fifteen yam yam.”

      Another teacher named Father Gregory was fond of asking the boy sitting near the window, “Please close the doors of the window”.

      As far as the teachers’ nicknames are concerned, hardly any teacher would escape the students assigning one to them.  We had in our days in G.F. College Tidda Sahab (grass hopper), Jheengar sahab (Cricket) and Bakra Sahab (Goat)……… I arrived in Tanzania in 1970 direct from Shahjahanpur, where I was teaching in Hindi and never having spoken in English. I had my fare share of difficulty teaching in Tanzania in English and would often resort to Hindi in the heat of a discussion, much to the amusement of the class.
      Soon I discovered that they referred to me as Mr. Pilas. I would have been saying something like this: 2 + 2 = 4 (Two pilas two is equal to four). Later I corrected myself and started saying ‘plus’.
      I read a question, “A pint of beer costs 2 shillings…..” I read ‘pint’ as in ‘hint’. A student corrected me that it was pint (like paeent). I thanked him and was much embarrassed.

    English is such a language that I am still learning: speaking, writing, spellings, and grammar. Because of put and but. Because of pint and hint.