17 September, 2011

Can you say that for me again?

This is a question I've been asking a lot lately. I've told people I meet to keep correcting me if I mispronounce their names so I can improve. A few have given me shorter nicknames to try to learn instead, since Indian names have very different pronunciations that can be difficult to remember. I have also found it helps if people will write down the word for me so I can see the spelling, which makes it easier to learn how to pronounce. They and the woman who runs the hostel are also teaching me names of various food items I am trying. Dal, dosa, idli (a sort of compressed rice patty), butter milk (which tastes totally different than cow's milk in America, it is made from curd and has added salt which gives it a salty taste), and fatafat (aka churan) are all foods I have tried, and hopefully that I can remember how to pronounce. Fatafat is like a refreshment served after a meal at a restaurant, like how mints or chocolates are given in the States, it is very small spheres with a slightly spicy flavor.

"Chal bey" I have been taught to say in Hindi is a casual dismissal that means 'just go,' and I've been told to use it if I think someone is making fun of me. I was a little confused when I heard "cracking some pj's" which is a slang phrase meaning that someone is cracking some "poor jokes". I told them pj's in America are pajamas, and are sleepwear. Apparently pajamas in India are loose fitting pants, and women will sometimes have Pajama parties where they wear these to. Sometimes people will also refer to the Indian currency, Indian Rupee (INR), as "bucks." This confused me at first because I thought it was referring to prices in American dollars, and $100 is a lot more money than 100 rupees ($100 = 4732 INR), but it is just another slang term used.

Sometimes when people are speaking very rapidly, I have a hard time telling if they are speaking English or not because the English accent is so completely different, and the tonal undulations how people speak are also different. I think in the Midwest, we tend to end our sentences in a higher pitch. In India it seems the pitch varies more when people speak, and sentences don't necessarily end with a higher pitch. Many people switch between English and Hindi quite frequently at the office, and I can't always tell which they are speaking. Since many people come to Hyderabad for work, it is a mixed culture where the main languages are English, Hindi, and Telugu. I have heard that Diwali is a good festival coming up, the festival of lights. Indian people very much enjoy their festivals, and I heard of a recent one that stretched for 11 days.

Curious about the various signs to tell if an Indian woman is married, I have learned a few. In America, the only symbol is a ring on the left ring finger, but in Indian that is not really important. "Bindi" is a red dot on the forehead that married women wear. It is placed between the eyebrows, considered a major nerve point on the human body since ancient times. Vermillion is a red powder on the hairline. Married women also wear toe rings. Apparently some of the signs vary depending on location in India, and I guess they've become looser now, but these are some of the most common.

There is a mannerism that really confused me for a few days, and that is that I often see people respond here with a sort of horizontal side-to-side turn of the head, which I assumed meant "no" as it does in the States, but it seems to just be a habit when responding to a question, because usually people do not mean "no" by it.

For schooling, Indians go through 10th grade, then they can go to a junior college for two years, then a university for 3 years. The university is equivalent to our bachelors degree. Masters degree is another 2 years, and Phd can be completed in 3 years but most often takes people 5 if they are working simultaneously. It seems there is more leniency in choice of coursework for a degree in India, instead of having more set classes required to take for a program.

A happy discovery I made yesterday, which will greatly amuse my friends from back home, was that my female co-workers had read the Harry Potters books or seen the movies and are fans. It was an even greater discovery to learn that many are also Jane Austen fans (I mean how can you not be a Jane Austen fan, right?), and had read Pride and Prejudice. One said she liked Emma and Northanger Abbey as well, and asked me if I had read anything by Charlotte Bronte. Um, heck yes, Jane Eyre is also awesome!

P.S. In addition to what I wrote about driving earlier, I have been reminded again a few times to be careful of traffic, because I have been warned I could get run over if I don't watch out. When I mentioned to someone that traffic is much different in India, she said it's not different, it's horrible... Apparently buses are the worst because they need to complete their routes in a set time and are on a strict schedule, aka: they will stop for no one. In general, people just drive much closer to each other, in somewhat of a jumble. It is pretty common to only miss each other by a foot or two in stop and go traffic. Also, for those that don't know, an auto is a 3-wheel taxi. I have been asked if I drive back home, and if I drive a 2 wheeler or a 4 wheeler (instead of calling it a car). Since mopeds have 2 wheels, autos 3, and cars 4, it seems to be a pretty common way to differentiate. There also aren't really any traffic lights or stop signs, and if there are they aren't really given any notice. To be honest, I'm not really sure how traffic tickets would be given out here at all as they are in the states.

View from Stairs towards front of hostel

Stairs in the Hostel which connect the rooms from the levels

View from my window

Another view from my window (the roof has an even better view, will post more pictures from there)


  1. This looks a lot like Banjara hills/Jubilee hills to me

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