Saturday, September 16, 2006

trying not to write an assignment on a saturday morning

‘So how many years have you been speaking English for?’

It’s been asked. A few times. Can’t really blame them, can we? Here’s this guy who looks Hispanic/MiddleEastern/not white, stubbornly holding on to this weird accent from God knows where, but speaking perfect English, albeit with a few strange idioms and turns of phrase.

‘Just my entire life.’

Went to a baseball game last Friday, and horrifying enough, knew EVERY SONG they were playing between innings, including ‘I got you babe’ by Sonny and Cher.

Then why does this city still feel foreign?

Because there’s this other language too, that mongrel mix of shuddh Hindi, filmi and shayarana Urdu and occasional Punjabi inflection that is mine too, and I miss it, and I’ve already whined about that.

This is how much – at a desi gathering yesterday, I did the cardinal gustakhi of speaking to a lad from Bihar, stubbornly holding on to his pride and his English – in Hindustani. Three minutes in, I actually apologized to him, saying I really miss the language, and hence imputing that I wasn’t talking down to him by speaking in the patois, as it were.

We desis are weird.

Later the same evening, spent a very pleasurable time with Amreeki ahl-e-zabaan, old India hands, Joel and Joanna and friends of theirs, watching Maqbool. How’s that for irony?

The movie gets better every time you watch it. I found myself reading the subtitles this time and thinking, ‘they’re not bad – you could actually understand what’s happening by reading these.’

I find myself doing that all the time – thinking how things would translate, the jokes, the films, the poetry; the language that is so much a part of me.

How do I translate my being to this city of beautiful strangers?

Ghair ki basti hai, kab tak dar ba bar maara phiroon?

Yes, I know, my emotional life is made up of way too much of the soppy melancholic masochistic KLPD tropes of Urdu poetry. I’m dealing with it.

(And I’ve been reading too much Saussure. You can tell, can’t you?)

Watched Man Push Cart at the Angelika . Disappointing. Met Shougat there, but we parted ways after. Warning - do not walk alone through a brightly lit downtown full of laughing people and seduction rituals, after watching a film in which this down on his luck desi rockstar selling doughnuts in New York loses his son, his wife, his friends, his could have been Spanish girlfriend, his push cart in a very aesthetically Iranian film. It’s not good for sanity.

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