Tuesday, December 14, 2010

They Call it Cauliflower!

When I had moved to Bangalore, I was, of course Kannada illiterate. But very soon I realized that I could get away by suffixing just one single syllable to a lot of English words and “speak” to locals who did not understand English and Hindi. Or Bangla.

Like if I had to direct the auto rickshaw wala to take a left turn, all I had to do was just say “left-aa”. Lingering a little longer on the “a”.

Soon I was prolifically saying right-aa, left-aa, tired-aa, and even food-aa. I was thrilled by the versatility of this one syllable which helped a “North Indian” like me transform a single word of English into a sentence – sometimes an innocuous statement, the rest of the times as a question.

The lady who helped me keep my apartment clean was an elderly matriarch called Muniamma. Muniamma wore glasses, as thick as the bottom of a soda water bottle. She wore printed cotton saris draped in the nauvari style. And she was on time every day.

Muniamma and I never talked. She spoke no Hindi or English and I no Tamil or Kannada, the two languages she spoke. Though we smiled a lot at each other. And when I say a lot, I mean even when the time she broke my favorite coffee mug which said – The World’s Best Daughter. Which I shameless must admit was a gift to myself, just as a reminder that I had to become one.

In between cleaning the apartment and flashing toothless smiles, Muniamma would also run some errands for me, especially the times I was having 16-hour days at work.

So this day, I was going over my vegetable and grocery list with Muniamma with our smiles, hand gestures, nods and the typical of bobbing of the head, which could be interpreted as yes, no, can’t say.

IMG_3574 I reached number six on my list which was phoolgobhi/ phulkopi/ cauliflower.

I mouthed “phool” and “gobhi” opening my jaws wide and raising my hands to shape a cauliflower. Muniamma looked puzzled. I quickly drew a big cone with leaves sprouting out. Muniamma peeked, lifted her glasses to look at me and giggled. I realized I had humiliated my way to bad drawing. So I leapt towards a blooming flower in the balcony, hoping she’d get some connection somewhere. Anywhere.

IMG_3573 After being stuck on number six for a few exasperating minutes, Muniamma rolled the hundred rupee currency note in her hand, opened the front door and knocked on Mrs Uthappa’s door. Mrs U lived across my apartment and she took it upon herself to rescue me in my crisis situations from time to time. I quickly briefed Mrs U on the communication whirlpool Muniamma and I were stuck in and said – I am trying to tell Muniamma to bring me a C-A-U-L-I-F-L-O-W-E-R.

My utterance of the world “cauliflower”  seemed to have hit Muniamma with a flash of brilliance. She took a few steps forward, slapped her right hand on her wrinkled forehead and repeated the word - C-A-U-L-I-F-L-O-W-E-R, and added the not-to-miss “aa” after it, making it sound like a question.

I could only stare back and join the jubilant Mrs Uthappa and the wickedly intelligent Munianna in a heartfelt laughter.

IMG_3586 IMG_3583 Each time I look at a beautiful head of cauliflower or make my alu gobhi or phulkopir alu chorchori, I am reminded of a beaming Muniamma and my life in the silicone city of India.

And I still do not know the Kannada word for Cauliflower. Do you?

21 comments:

GB said...

ROFL the "aa". I can hear it in my head right now!

PS: how do you make loochis? I have yet to get them perfect--I get regular pooris just right but always struggle with loochis. what's the trick?

Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy said...

I m just giggling-aa!! Loved the write up.This gobhi sabzi looks yum.

Aankhi said...

Funny post!:))
I had similar troubles too although I spoke a smattering of Kannada. I believe that the locals just call it flower-uu... The uu being another versatile alphabet to know :P

Pushpa said...

Love our diverse Indian dialects,can't wait for my next India trip.Nice read and aloo gobi dish looks yummy.

Home Cooked Oriya Food said...

haha! or should I say haha-aa.... It was very well written, had a nice laugh here...
Love the clicks too...

purplehomes said...

I spent two lovely years at Bangalore. Though I was staying at Blore I used to go to work to Hosur which was in Tamil Nadu. You took me back to those lovely days "maccha":)

Sayantani said...

porte porte hese garagari khachhi. amaro same abostha even amar kache der bachor kaj korche ami er naam tao jante parini. jiggesh korlei akgal hasi. tabe amar cheler sange ki bhab...dujone kato katha bole. amma thik korei nieche je amar cheleke telegu sikhie charbe...tabe ei aa er byaparta akdom thik.amrao route direction jiggeh korte age himshim khetam akhon akta aa jure dile motatmuti whole south e nischinto.

Sayantani said...

jeta bolte elam oi onion crackers 3-4 din moto rakha jay...tabe promise atodin rakhara moto somoy pabe na.

Rambling Bookworm said...

Pree, the Kannada word for caulifower is Hookosu

Kosu is cabbage and Hoo is a flower. So Hookosu

Sulagna said...

Lovely write-up..Sweet,little memories which can light up any dark day :)

Cham said...

LOL - That is a funny post! The cauliflower curry is simply delectable!

Satrupa said...

Left ...... aaaa Right ....aaaaa........ Can't stop giggling. Having stayed in Bangalore for almost a year these words are ringing in my ear :) lol
The food aaa ...... I mean Cauliflower .... aaa looks yumm.

Thanks aa for this lovely post.

Kuntala said...

:) nice story Pree. Can you believe somebody told me about this -aa trick yesterday?

Priya said...

Nice story, delectable cauliflower curry..

Sanchita said...

Cant stop giggling!! I lived in Bangalore for more than half a decade and this is making me feel nostalgic :)

sulagna ™ said...

you got that mug for yourself !! :)

Sanjeeta kk said...

Lovely space, came here from Sayantini's blog. Good to be here. Hope to come for more of your delicious treats. Best wishes.

sayantani said...

Pree have tagged you. please check at my space.

pramod said...

very hilarious post.
great

PreeOccupied said...

Thank you all! :-)

GB, to make luchi, I mix together 2 cups of all purpose flour, half cup wheat atta, one tablespoon vegetable or canola oil, and knead with little tap water. Make sure the dough is hard. Keep it covered for 30 minutes at least and then knead again. The sign of a good luchi dough is that if you poke it with a finger, it should bounce right back.

Make little discs with the dough and heat oil for deep frying to almost smoking. Slide each disc in the oil- one at a time and lightly press with your slotted spoon to fluff them up. Each side should be cooked for about 7-10 seconds. Your Luchi is ready!

Arch said...

I'm from Bangalore and now in Ahmedabad...I never knew the Kannada name for cauliflower, but this -aa and -uu suffixes to English words can instantly become questions and answers, thankfully because most people in Bangalore understand English...This post reminds me so much of my beloved city...Your space is really nice Pree, will visit more often !