Lingua-franca Conundrum by Preeti

Blog post by Preeti Swaminathan

When you live in metropolis like Mumbai, to be a multi-lingual is not a surprising fact! You will see appavi Kuzhandaigals speaking tamalyamindiarathiglish! This is not an alien language neither you can find this word in dictionary or wikipedia.

All you’ve to do is firstly ease your vocal chords, do some gargling, floss your tongue clean, hold your breath and say it at a one go… Tamil+Malayalam+Hindi+Marathi+English… Now you understand, why am I addressing Kuzhandaigals...paavam?

When you’re parents for years has been away from their hometown, it is quite obvious they’ve been missing the food, culture, tradition and their beloved mother -tongue…to be precise the dialect! One thing is assured, you are the scapegoat! They will liberally pour their love and also give you some gyanam /proficiency in their respective language with an élan. If that’s not enough, teacher/professor expects from you to speak impeccable English because madrasis speak good English (rombha avashiyam!), friend’s converse only in hindi and the bhajiwala/walis (vegetable vendors) speaks local dialect.

The end result: You speak a weird dialect which is a mix of konjum idd and konjum ada…

The matter gets worse when your cousin, mama, maamis and the extended family speaks to you in shuddha tamil. You just look at them with a paavam face. At times you also become their point of jokes. Konzhandai puriyeliyo? (Face Palm) At that moment, you feel like thala-mudi picchi-idutify!

But knowing multiple language has its advantages too. Like me and my sibling does, when we wanted to hide secrets from our cousin during our childhood days. There used to be verbal volleys and war-like-scene between the hindi-speaking cousins v/s tamil speaking cousin. We still have a hearty laughter for our childishness. After all, memories are meant for that!

Even today, I and my sibling start our conversation in Tamil, swiftly shift to Hindi with a hint of Marathi and ends with an argument in English! How we managed to speak multiple languages in one dialogue? That’s a mystery, words just flow lucidly with the conversations.


6 thoughts on “Lingua-franca Conundrum by Preeti

  1. Very well written piece. Although I never grew up in Mumbai, have lived there now for two decades plus. Languages are a casualty. It is in my opinion a clear inability of parents to inculcate a love for the mother tongue. I remember as a school boy Tamil was never a subject for me, but at home my elders – parents and grandparents inculcated the habit of learning and speaking in Tamil. Also as a result I was encouraged to read Rajaji’s Vyasar Virundu on Mahabharata in Kalki. This helped me learn the language well. So somewhere this lack of initiative and Charta hai attitude corrupts beautiful cultures/ languages.


  2. My daughters were born and brought up in Delhi. They understand Tamil they and would speak in mixture of Tamil/Hindi/English. But when they fight with one another they would quickly shift to Hindi. I was quite surprised and one day inquired why. The answer was strange “Papa, normally we can talk with one another in civil terms. If we do not know an appropriate word in Tamil for something we can”soch’ karo and say it out. But a fight is another matter. For every remark an equal and effective repartee had to be given fast. No time for thinking. Hence we go for Hindi when arguing” . Interesting.



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