Outside the Delhi railway station, I asked the Auto driver if he will go to Salimar Garden and his face glowed with a smile. Once inside the auto, brother told me it is Shalimar, not salimar. “But I said the same”, I defended.
This was my first day in Delhi and my tongue was hardly able to appreciate the difference between ‘S’ and ‘Sh’, thanks to the years of living in Bihar, a state best known for its rustic ways, popularised by its rustic ambassador, Laloo Yadav.
Delhi had separate tongue twisters for the different ‘Ss’ though. There was a regular S for words like school. Then there was an Sh for Shabd and Shubh. Also Delhites could rightly pronounce Shatkon, which is another S with a variation.
And that too without any formal training in pronounciation. Even we had all those variations of S when we studied the Devanagri script. But never did we learn to use them in our usual conversations.
This was paying off now. I was a laughing stock each time I told the DTC bus driver to stop at Salimar Garden. Once he told me not to maro so many sali (wife’s sister).
I have to do something with my pronounciation – I decided – like several thousand biharis who come to this place – only to make things worse.
Several days spent in twisting my tongue with the tongue twister : she sells sea shells on the sea shore. Irritated my brothers in the process. The end result was Shamoshe…ha ha.
In the end I gave up trying to improve my tongue, or rather using the different Ss at the right places.
However, other transitions were not as painful.
I quickly took up ‘main’ than ‘hum’ used at my place.
So “Hum ja rahe hain” quickly became “Main ja raha hun”. And in a bihari group, I could easily transition into the original version.
Thankfully I didn’t falter here like one of the jokes where a Bihari says “Hum hoon na” instead of “Main Hun Na”.
So proud had I been about my pronounciation – winning at least one elocution contest. The impression was shattered now. I used to make fun of Bengalis who would stretch words like forwaaard and backwaaard. Each time the Gurkha watchman would greet father with a “Shab ji”, I couldn’t help laughing (Unlike biharis who can’t pronounce the ‘Sh’, Gurkhas only have ‘Sh’ in their script). I would bully a Tamil guy almost everyday with ‘ille ille pon’. Also I laughed at a sardar boy for telling ‘sakool’ instead of ‘school’.
Now was my turn.