Monday, February 21, 2011

I can't speak Marathi but I do love Maharashtra

Long ago I wrote a post on the regional rhetoric that some politicians in Maharashtra were indulging in. I was unhappy not only because technically I am a North Indian living in Maharashtra but I am also a hybrid of our beautiful multi-cultural country.

But those were the days when my love affair with Pune had only just begun and soon the rhetoric faded into the background. The salubrious weather, the friendly people...there was so much so beautiful about this new city we'd chosen to call home.

I was so busy soaking the vibrancy of the city that I didn't realise I'd lived here for four years and committed the biggest faux pas of all - hadn't learnt to speak Marathi.

My work involves meeting people from all walks of life. So while some days I am leaving harried footprints in the corridors of the municipal corporation, on other days I am sipping tea in the air conditioned comfort of the district collector's office.

All this while - from the peons to the officers I met, no one was uncomfortable with the fact that I couldn't speak Marathi, although I could understand a lot of the local dialect.

When close friends or well wishers quizzed me on the progress of my language skills, I reassured them that I was on my way. Soon I had promised myself I would be able to speak like any Puneri.

Imagine then my shock and indignation when during a meeting with an IAS officer (a Maharashtrian) I was asked to read a letter he'd written in response to the issue I was sitting in his office and shamelessly raising (much to his annoyance), and I informed him apologetically that I could not read Marathi, he actually ridiculed me for not learning the language!

What irked me was that he, an IAS officer who'd chosen to join the cadre of his home state and not serve the citizens of another state (may be because he doesn't know any other Indian language) had no idea that I am a North Indian who was born and raised in Kerala, had Tamilian neighbours, Gujarati and Punjabi friends and married a Telugu speaking guy, and can speak all the languages of these regions in addition to my mother tongue Hindi and English!

Needless to say, my pride and ego propped me up against his tirade and I informed him rather haughtily that I was able to get by with Hindi and English even in Maharashtra. 

And even as I uttered the words with a I-don't-care-who-you-are demeanour (while I was seething inside), I knew what I'd said wasn't true. I was making a genuine effort to learn the language and I'd often try my limited vocabulary on unsuspecting souls...simply because I love languages!!! 

Now, I am pissed off and unsure. Do I let his ignorance get the better of me, or do I ignore such nasty and unbecoming remarks?

Or better still, do I barge into his office and tell him what I really think???


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