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Accents of home

By Nickunj Malik - Sep 27,2017 - Last updated at Sep 27,2017

I have been living out of a suitcase for the past two and a half months because of various reasons and for the eleventh time, in that span, I find myself walking fast to keep pace with my luggage trolley, which is being pushed by an aggressive porter. I am pretty capable of manoeuvring the cart on my own, but somehow this person convinces me that he is better at the job. He tells me that I do not even need to pay him anything, which is all balderdash since I know that he will continue to keep a watchful eye on my purse till I hand him the requisite tip.

Rather than take charge of my belongings like I should, I allow him to load my bags in the boot of a hired taxi. The cab driver shows up after a few minutes, adjusting a crisp white peak cap on his head. It has been raining incessantly in the city and the endless downpour creates havoc in the daily life of its inhabitants. Therefore, most people prefer to take a leave of absence and stay at home, which results in the roads being eerily devoid of any traffic.

The driver is an elderly gentleman and the moment he greets me I pick up his accent immediately. It reminds me of the dialect that was spoken in the remote coal town, where I spent my childhood and before I can stop myself, I spontaneously use the same intonation while replying. We develop an instantaneous connect which makes my husband look at me in surprise because he has never heard me speak in this manner before.

The cabbie is very chatty and inundates me with questions. My response is slow because I keep forgetting to refer to myself in the first person plural, which is the very essence of this vernacular. I call him “aap” that is the same as “thou” but when it comes to calling myself “hum” or “we”, I falter. Not only that, I have to keep reminding myself to not use any singular form of the first person, which is quite a difficult task. 

Soon I get the hang of it but by now my spouse gets increasingly confused. Every time I say “us” he thinks I am including him in the conversation and speaking for the both of, well, us. I try and explain to him that this “us” is not that “us” and “our” is actually “mine”. Needless to say, he does not understand any of it, and decides to look out of the window, ignoring the both of us. 

Meanwhile I learn everything about the migration of the cabbie”s family, from his remote village in Bihar to this teeming metropolis. His children go to good schools and have integrated into the local community but he continues to miss his home, where he played with glass marbles and ate the famous Malda Mango, straight from the trees. 

He has got a box of the delicious fruit and asks me if I would like to go to his home and try some.

“We are sorry, we won”t be able to make it,” I decline politely.

“Why are you apologising on my behalf?” my husband questions. 

“Think of it as the royal we,” I hiss at him in exasperation. 

“Who is the royalty, you or your friend here?” my spouse hisses back. 

 

“Thou should know that wives are always regal sir,” the cabbie concludes.

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Comments

Superb combination of the best turf, your childhood, woven into the here and now. Could listen to the conversation across the front and back and the "singular" sotto voce going on in the back seat alone. Delectable read.

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