Last night, my family treated ourselves to Indian takeaway. I was planning on cooking something earlier (I absolutely hate cooking), but was feeling ill after my vaccinations. So, I called the local Indian restaurant and ordered a curry.
When I showed up at the Indian restaurant to pick up the food, it wasn’t ready yet so I sat in a chair by the door. The restaurant was empty except for me and the waiter. I was wearing sandals, shorts and t-shirt, and my San Diego Padres cap. He was wearing his waiters uniform (bow tie and button-up shirt). The waiter started to make small talk with me.
“So, are you having a good day today?” he asked.
“Yes. Thank you. Are you?” I returned. I’m never good with small talk. I think this is why I will never be a master networker. I will never attain my junior high school visions of being able to walk down the street and have people greet me with high fives and everyone knows me. I’m just not good at talking when I don’t have anything to say.
The waiter told me he was fine and a few minutes of silence passed. Then I realised this was an excellent opportunity to practice some Hindi. I could actually use some Hindi in a real-life, live fire, situation.
“Aj mausam garam hai,” I said. This means “The weather is warm”. Luckily, the weather actually was very warm– because I couldn’t remember if the word “weather” was masculine or feminine and which form of the word “cold” to use.
He looked slightly amused and asked where I learned to speak Hindi. I told him about taking the class at the local college. He confirmed back to me that the weather is very warm (“bohot garam hai”).
I was pretty impressed with myself that I was having a Hindi conversation. But, I had nothing else to say! I couldn’t think of anything thing else to say that I learned on that 10 week course that I could use. I couldn’t think of anything that my colleagues in Mumbai had taught me. I froze. So, to fill the conversation gap, I said the one thing I used to say to my Mumbai friends which usually got them to laugh– “May thola thola mota hai kewkee may chicken bohot passand hai.” This means “I am a little bit fat because I really like chicken.”
This was just met by an odd look from the man. He didn’t laugh or even smile– he just looked at me as if not knowing what to say. He then told me he was actually Bangladeshi but did understand Hindi. I nodded in understanding and then pretending I was reading a text on my phone.
It got my food and then left.
I’ve been studying Chinese a lot lately and haven’t really used Hindi at all. To be honest, I found Hindi to be a difficult language to learn. I am not fluent by any stretch of the imagination. It will never be listed on my CV. I’m not sure if I will ever have a reason to pick it up again.
I don’t think I’ll try speaking Hindi in a restaurant again any time soon.