Saturday, April 24, 2004

a rant

The biggest problem with colloquial Kannada is that there is no normal way to greet people you meet. You can't say 'Good Morning' (or whatever) or 'Hello' or even 'How are you?' because it's just not said in Kannada (or other Indian languages, as far as I know) when you meet someone. You can say 'How are you' subsequently, but not initially. You can say Namaskara, the Kannada equivalent of Namaste, but its too stiff for everyday instances. In fact, I say Namaskara only to people I know quite well and also with more than a fair dose of irony because Namaskara implies a lot of respect. Hampered by this problem, Kannadigas, and Bangloreans in particular have come up with the most inane of greetings: 'oota aitha?'. This translates as 'food over?', but is taken to mean 'have you eaten?'. Which might be fine at around lunch time, but it absolutely drives me nuts when the small shop owner, the internet cafe guy etc etc address me with this at any given time of the day. I am normally a polite person :) and I try to restrain my impatience, and say yes, whether I have eaten or not. But it grates. I remember in my hostel days, I used to get asked this question by a North Indian all the time, because he had spent some time in Bangalore and had become quite sick of this himself. So in order to prevent this 'oota aitha?' from happening, I have only one option: ask them the question first. But no, the soul cringes, and besides, I lack the finely tuned instincts of the regular oota aithaers who invariably get the question in first. Or I could try to popularize 'aarama?' which translates as 'are you comfortable?' but then again this is a shade too familiar. It's a losing battle...
On a related note: in my opinion, the Hebrew 'Shalom' (~peace) is the best way ever of greeting people.