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I Cannot Speak Hindi. But I Try, Man



Mera Hindi choosta hai.

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I've studied Hindi in school. But I'm still only learning what's what. In fact, TIL, trains don't go choo choo in Hindi. They fak fak (fak-fak, fak-fak; fak-fak, fak-fak). And this is just basic Hindi. I'm Catholic, or rather, I was raised Catholic. Which is why Mera Hindi kharab hai. No, wait...

Mera Hindi choosta hai. 

I can string some words, some sentences together and get by with my day-to-day life. But, “Bhaiya, kaisa diya kela,” and “Aage side mein lena,” only get me so far (as the side of the road). And these are sentences I've practised five times, under my breath, before actually saying them out loud. 

And I still fak them up. “Bhaiya, aage side mein kela!”

Throw me into an unplanned Hindi conversation and I'm fakked playing catch up. Not because I don't know what to say (I understand Hindi). I'm just always looking for words, ending up at a loss for them. For udharan: Somebody once asked me for directions. Sucks for him, I was new to the place myself. Sucked for me when I helped with, “Mein yaha nahi hoon.”

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My Hindi is so bad I am now a regular party joke: Say something in Hindi - “Mera naam Dominic hai...” Hilarious. “Now say 'only cow' in Marathi.” Fak that guy. Or better yet... 

Uski Maa Ki Something... 

You know, it is odd – cursing in Hindi comes naturally to me. I can curse with the best of them – yes, Jackie Shroff. Every little curse – from C, to C-ya, to BC, to MC, to CMK, to BKL, to R, to BK, to MML, to PFA – flows effortlessly, from my mouth. It's like The King's Speech, but not as boring. When I'm cursing, I speak better Hindi. So curse all the time, right? That's my fix. 

“Ek medu vada, BK, sambar alag se...” I've been named after a 14-year-old Catholic saint. 

A few years ago, I was the first Catholic a friend of mine had ever met. He was 26 at the time, from Delhi. A quarter of a century, and he hadn't met anyone practising the most practised religion in the world. That's understandable, apparently. But Dominic, how do you not find people to talk to in Hindi, in India, the most (only) Hindi-speaking nation in the world? 

I do find people – but these are the conversations we have:

- “Tu... Aap Bandra jaoge?”
- “Haan.”

- “Machine se chota kaatna.”
- “Ek number?”
- “Do number.”

- “Kitne ki hai?”
- “Chalees rupaiya.”
- “Dozen?”
- “Dozen.”

- “Naam?”
- “Dominic.”

But I'm not that basic also:

- “Saab, main aisa kyun karoonga. Main thode hi mand insaan hoon...”
- “Mujhe kya pata tu kaisa insaan hai. Side mein kela.”

- “Mere anusaar, aapko highway lena chahiye...”
- “Anusaar? Wah Taj.”

- “Rickshaw!”
- “Meter kharab hai.”
- “Ricksha-a!”

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What I need is... No, not Bollywood. What I need is for people to understand where I come from. Like literally – Bandra. I don't speak Hindi well because I've barely had any conversational experiences growing up. I don't speak Hindi well, and it's totally circumstantial. Not a choice. It's the same problem anyone from a vernacular medium school has with English. Except, holy shit, it's not PC to fak with someone who can't speak good English. God forbid they feel bad. 

But Dominic, tu toh bada angrez nikla... The worst part is, my English isn't fantastic either. I can string some words, some sentences together and get by with my day-to-day life. But, “How much for bananas,” and “Stop ahead, at the side,” only get me so far...

As the side of the road.

God. Don't even get me started with my on-road Hindi. I have never gotten out of a traffic fine, and I probably won't, ever. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is the fact that I just cannot get into arguments on the street. Picture this: I've been rear-ended by a white Creta. At a signal. I can clearly see the Learner's 'L' sticker on the wind-shield. I'm in the right, I know what I want to say, but I don't know how to say it. Fists clenched, teeth bared:

“Kaisa diya kela?”

Considering the giant, red 'L', I expected a kid, or a woman to step out. But no, out walks a portly, bald, pale man, about 52, I presume. He surveys the damage, looks up at me, which is when I realise where this man comes from. I see his little Faravahar sticker next to his Learner's 'L'. The Parsi replied:

“Main yaha nahi hoon.”


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of

By Dominic S.
Cover Photo credit:

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