The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

There was some excitement in the household over the past few days. The boy's homework assignment was to learn how to say 'hello' or 'good morning' in another language. Because he has French lessons, 'bonjour' was disqualified by the teacher. The wife pondered our move.

'How do you say 'good morning' in Hindi?' said she.

'I don't think anyone says 'good morning' in Hindi,' I said, after due consideration.

We thought about it some more. Is there an Indian language with an expression for 'good morning'? I couldn't think of one.

We discarded the relevant phrases in Bahasa Indonesia, Russian, and all the Romance tongues. We also abandoned 'Wipchadiz shoo', which is how you would sneeze it in Adyghe. We settled for 'Namaste'. Yup, that old chestnut. I'm still not clear about what it means. I bow to you? I worship you? Indeed.

'Hey, boy,' I said. 'Fold your hands together and say "Namaste".'

The imp obliged a few times until we were convinced he'd got it.

An hour later, he was walking about, declaiming "We must stay!" every time he caught our eye. 'How cute!' said the wife.

Another hour later, we were heartily sick of hearing his dulcet tones maul the expression.

'Silence!' I roared.

'You better learn to say this properly,' I added. 'This is your homework, not fun and games.'

'Wife,' I went on, 'Take care of it.'

But, of course, nobody listened to me.

Meanwhile, the wife had been coopted by the school to explain the rudiments of Diwali to the kids. She was very excited. 'I will tell them all about Rama and Sita and the exile and the return and the sweets and lights lit up in celebration in Ayodhya,' she exulted.

'But wait,' she said, presently. 'I can't talk about evil stepmothers. Many of kids there have stepmothers. I can't malign them.'

She rushed off to Tooting and (a hearty masala dosa later) returned home bearing little earthen diyas. She then made up a chart that showed how the festival is celebrated, and got me to print copies of rangoli patterns. She planned to get the imp and his classmates to colour them in. She was to make the grand presentation on Tuesday.

Monday morning found the imp greeting his class-teacher with a correct bow, folded hands and a cheery 'Namaste.' The teacher looked at him, puzzled. She led the wife aside and said, 'I thought we agreed that your Diwali presentation would be tomorrow?'

'Indeed,' said the wife. '
This is his homework.'

The confusion cleared from the teacher's face like mice scurrying for cover. 'Ahem,' she said. 'I forgot all about that.'

In the evening, I asked the tyke how it went in school.

'I said 'Namaste' to my teacher,' he said, 'And she said, "Wha?", and I said, "NUM MUSS TAY!"'

(We rolled about laughing.)

(Well, you had to be there.)

The next day, armed with all her charts and patterns, the wife arrived at the class to explain the glories of Diwali to a bunch of four-year-olds. They sat around her and listened attentively.

When she talked about the exile, a boy said, 'Ooh-ooh-ooh.'

When she mentioned 'Ayodhya', he piped up again, 'Ooh-ooh-ooh.'

'Stop it,' said the teacher.

The boys then coloured in the rangoli patterns.

At last, the diyas were brought out. The boys showed off the ones they had made - all glittery and bright and beautiful.

'Ours are nicer than yours,' said one little fellow.

'Yes,' she said, agreeably. 'You have done very well.'

'When you go home,' said the boy, very kindly, 'put some glitter on yours.'


Guru said...

you are right there on the meaning of namaste; funny one never thinks of it. But thinking of its meaning I am filled by awe - Kabir said more or less the same thing - 'har ghat mein sayain' which Christ also said around 2000 years ago 'Ye are the temple of living God'. Sorry if I have unleashed the agnostic in you! ; )
Firstly I must bow to your excellent teacher who thought of this - she must be one creative woman; not many would have thought of this great idea. Then I must say namaste to Nina for following it up not with your normal 'O what the heck, I must say something now that they have pushed me into this damn thing', but trying to make it creative to the young ones to hold their interest. I am sure they loved to colour the lamps - did u buy earthen lamps for the whole class.
Lastly I must say namaste to you, for sharing this so humourously!
Happy Diwali mate and yes NAMASTE!

km said...

"Silence!", I roared.

Lulz, pure Lulz.

//A most wonderful Diwali story, btw.

Maddy said...

boss - a little clarification here.

In most south indian languages, it is Suprabhatam. In Hindi it is Suprabhat. In fact most Indian languages have some equivalent for this.

Dutchie said...

There's a weekly Hindi TV programme on Sunday afternoon. The pretty announcer always bowed with clasped hand. I assumed that Namaste is similar to that of the Thai with Sawadeekup !

I still dont get the joke on Num Muss Stay - pls enlighten me (~_*)

Kids can be such fun with their nuances. How abt "ek-cue-me", mac-noug-ner" .... Those were the words of my baby nieces - haha.

Fëanor said...

Sorry folks for tardy response to comments - was gallivanting on holiday and unlinked.

Guru: neat connect betwixt Kabir and Christ. didn't know that one.

KM: glad you liked the story.

Maddy: thanks for clarif. But surely nobody greets anybody by saying 'suprabhatam'? at least, i've never heard it being used in that way. (frankly, i've only heard the word in the venkatesa suprabhatam, heh.)

Dutchie: the joke wasn't really on 'num muss stay', which is just how the word 'namaste' sounds when split up like that.

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