I bought a kurta recently, and yesterday I took it to a tailor’s shop to be altered.

Two guys were working at treadle sewing machines in their bare feet. There was only just room in the tiny shop for them to fit in, but there were racks of clothes hanging up on the back wall. Obviously, business is good. I paid my Rs 60 and told them I’d come back the next day.

When I went back to collect the kurta at lunchtime today, the older guy who obviously owns the shop told me “not ready”. Yesterday he’d wanted me to come back in an hour to collect it. I’m learning that there’s a very relaxed approach to timing here.

Back again at 6pm, it still wasn’t finished. The older guy told the younger one to get on with it, and I was told to sit down while it was done. The older guy wanted to chat to me, but was struggling with English. I made out “country” so I told him “UK”. Then a bunch of stuff I couldn’t understand, except it was a question and included “Hindi”. I guessed he was asking me if I spoke Hindi.

I tried to explain to him in English that I’ve only been here 3 weeks, and wanted to add that yes I have a book and CD that I’d started before I left home, and that yes I would love to learn Hindi and I’ve tracked down a couple of places nearby that run classes…

But before I could remember anything vaguely relevant in Hindi he said “Language – Problem”. And again “Language – Problem”.

All I could manage was “ha” (yes). If my brain had been in gear I could’ve told him my name and what I was doing here. But he still clocked my response, and nearly smiled.

This is the first time I’ve run into anyone who expected or wanted me to speak Hindi and I was quite surprised, as Kannada is the main language here, and most signage is in English and Kannada with very little Hindi around.

I’m looking forward to starting the language classes even more now that I know I might have a use for it locally.


  1. redmark

    12 January, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    If you find a good tailor who comes up with the goods Chris I might be sending you some material to get made up into shirts :-)

  2. Tom

    10 March, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    But I noticed your English is already starting to be interspersed with local words: “thanks for the message and for the Khamba feedback on geekgardener”.

    This is fun, but it messes up one’s ability to play scrabble (the shock when you realise Khamba is actually not a valid play).

  3. Chris

    10 March, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    hi Tom! Aha, but “Khamba” is a proper noun, which should mean it’s now allowed in Scrabble? ;-) It’s a composter btw:

    I have definitely assimilated some local Indian-English though. Saying “shift” instead of move came quickly, and I recently noticed I had slipped into using the local construction “X is there”, which basically means “X exists”. I’ve even said “Yaa” for yes from time to time, which is ubquitous, although still rankles a bit from the UK’s years of “OK Yah”…

  4. Tom

    11 March, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    oh, I thought it maybe some adjective from the local language meaning “great” or something. I think it could only be used in English scrabble if it counts as a loan word, even as a proper noun, and must be in dictionaries. BTW am obsessively playing a scrabble-like game on Android. For me, it is a killer app: the point of having a Smartphone.

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