Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A lesson of ‘Indlish’...

I had already shared some reflections on the ‘Indian’ English some posts ago (http://www.matteoandmathilde.org/2010/02/indian-dialogues.html). Since then I kept on paying attention and trying to remember those sentences and expressions that sounded ‘different’ or ‘original’.

Here below some that I noted:

- “What is your good name?” means “What is your name?” (as if you have a ‘good’ name and a ‘bad’ name, and the interlocutor is interested to know your ‘good’ name only...)

- ‘Too good’ means ‘very good’. In a way I discovered Indians have a hyperbolic way of expressing themselves...

- ‘Hundred percent’ (often nodding the way Indians nod) means ‘absolutely!

- ‘Updation’ or ‘Upgradation’ is the processes of bringing up-to-date (or upgrading). ‘To prepone’ (as opposed to postpone) means ‘to place before’. Don’t be surprised then if an Indian asks you to prepone a meeting...

- ‘One’ is often used instead of the indefinite article ‘a’ (“Let me tell you one story”). ‘Today morning (or afternoon, or evening) is often used instead of ‘this morning’ (or afternoon, or evening)

- ‘Off’ has been transformed into a verb (“Off the fan, please”)

- ‘Hill station’ means ‘mountain resort’, and in general ‘hills’ are ‘mountains’. Good to know, as I thought that in a country with peaks above 7,000 m, it was normal to consider mountains of 4,000 m ‘hills’...

- And finally a word that can save several men from embarrassing questions: ‘healthy’. So, when your wife/partner/girlfriend asks you how you do find her, you can vaguely answer “healthy”...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The 'Wallas'

In Ethiopia I used to be woken up by the morning birds that loudly chirped at my windows (at 5 am!!!). When I moved to Paris I gained half-hour: my alarm clock was the sound of the garbage trucks that collected the garbage at 5.30 am. In DC it was the first bus on 16th Street at 6 am that woke me up. Here in Delhi our wake-up call is given by the ‘Wallas’...

The Wallas (literally ‘carriers’) are pedlars that roam about the streets of our neighbourhoods in Delhi, by bike or pulling a handcart, selling a bit of everything (mainly fruits and vegetables, but also brooms, gas cylinders, etc.), and providing a variety of services: grinding knives, copying keys, and - hard to believe but true - cleaning ears!!! Armed with gigantic ‘cotton fioc’ (cotton swabs) they remove the cerumen from your ears... iiihhhh, disgusting!!!!

They roam about our streets emitting an unmistakable call (a bit like the ‘cocco, cocco-bello’ in our beaches). The first wave passes below our windows around 7 am. When the second wave passes around 8 am it is time to wake-up...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indian breakfast

In the middle of Madhya Pradesh (2)

Certainly one of the things that surprised me the most when I arrived in India was to realize how little Indians actually speak English. Probably deceived by the fact that India has been for long time a British colony, and that English is one of the two official languages of the Republic (the other being Hindi), I expected Indians to be fluent in English.

However, this has soon proved to be a false myth. It’s true, educated Indians can be extremely articulated and refined in English. But the majority of Indians do not speak (or speak very poorly) English. And I am not (only) talking about the taxi driver, the petrol station attendant, or the shopkeeper in Old Delhi. I am also talking about several middle-management Government officials, hotel owners, and other categories of people you would expect must speak English for their day-to-day business.

One of the questions I always had thinking to the fact that English is the official language in India was how it was possible that in a country so rich culturally and linguistically, and at the same time so nationalist, a foreign language (the language of the colonizers!) became the official language. Interestingly enough, it was exactly because of such richness, diversity, and nationalist pride that English became (or, better, remained) India's official language.

In 1950 in fact, after the independence, the Indian Constitution declared Hindi, widely spoken in the Northern part of India, to be the official language of the Republic, and envisaged the gradual phasing-out of English (which was still used for most official purposes) over a fifteen-year period. However, towards the end of this interim period, several non-Hindi-speaking states, particularly from the South, strongly opposed to the end of the use of English. Basically, these states feared that the consequent adoption of Hindi as sole official language would have sanctioned the political supremacy of the North over the South, and progressively undermined their cultures and autonomy. As a result, the central Government decided that the use of English as official language of the Republic would have continued, and at the same time it allowed each state government to choose its own official language(s).

Today there are 22 'official' languages in use in the 35 states and territories. English has remained one of the two official languages of the Republic, mainly for political reasons, even if it is not one of the 22 official languages used in the Indian states, and even if no-one (or just a minority) actually speaks it.

Bizarre.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How to fly from Delhi to DC avoiding the effects of the volcanic eruption in Iceland

In the era of globalization, even a volcano eruption in Iceland, almost 8,000 km faraway from Delhi, somehow ends up affecting our lives.

Mathilde was supposed to leave tonight to DC to attend the CI Center for Conservation and Government’s Annual Meeting on the Lufthansa flight DEL-FRA-IAD. However, as you all know, all the airports in Europe are temporarily closed because of the ashes of this volcanic eruption, and all the flights from India to Europe are cancelled until at least Monday.

For those who well know Mathilde, you can easily imagine how she reacted this morning when she was informed that her flight was cancelled (‘no panic, no panic... ok: panic’*).

However, arguably one of the qualities of Mathilde is that she never gives up. And so, after three hours at the phone with the poor Sanjay, one of the operators of www.makemytrip.com, during which they went through all the possible routes that could possibly link Delhi to DC (with the poor Sanjay that was repeating ‘no possible, no possible’), she finally found probably the only itinerary to DC that is not affected by the effects of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull: Delhi-Dubai-Manama-Kuwait City-Washington DC (with three different carriers: Emirates, Jet Airways, and United).

Mathilde will be leaving on Monday and will land in DC on Tuesday morning, right on time to attend the second day of the annual meetings. Hoping that in the mean time the ashes of the Eyjajallajokull will not reach the little Kingdom of Bahrain as well...

(*) Does anyone recognize the 'erudite' quotation?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mt. Everest-Washington DC via Delhi

Delhi is like a seaport: hard to believe it, but it seems that everyone, sooner or later, passes by here.

On Saturday we hosted Paola, on her way back from Nepal to DC. For once not on an official World Bank mission, Paola was in Nepal to unofficially participate to the ‘Epopeya Everest sin Limites’, a Colombian expedition led by her husband Juan Pablo whose main objective is to bring for the first time a man with an artificial leg on the top of the Everest (without oxigen)*.

The story of Nelson Cardona, the man with the artificial leg, is quite impressive. He had a mountaineering accident four years ago, while he was training to climb the Everest. His leg was so seriously injured that the doctors gave him two options: to either keep it, but without the possibility of bending it and therefore of climbing anymore, or to amputate it, but keeping the possibility of climbing with an artificial prosthesis. Nelson was extremely divided, but he finally made his choice, and today he’s trying to fulfil his old dream.

Paola (and Simon Pietro and Antonia, her six-year-old child and eleven-year-old stepdaughter) reached the Base Camp (5,100 m) before taking leave of the rest of the group and returning to Kathmandu, and then to DC, via Delhi.

Their stories and pictures tickled my fantasy: who knows if one day...

(*) Have a look at their blog: http://www.epopeyaeverestsinlimites2010.org/

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mathilde enters in her thirty

Sorry, we haven’t updated the Blog for a while. But a few events worth being mentioned have happened in the past days, and, as good bloggers, we are going to duly report them.

Last week we celebrated Mathilde’s thirtieth birthday. And as you are thirty only once in your life, we celebrated the event properly.

On Sunday evening, our hosts in Bandhavgarh surprised us with a proper Indian birthday celebration, complete with Indian birthday cake and Indian ‘happy birthday’ jingle.

On Monday evening we treated ourselves by going to what is considered the best Indian restaurant in Delhi. Apparently Clinton had a four-course dinner here during his official visit in 2000, and the four-course meal he ordered is now presented in the menu as the ‘Presidential meal’. For the records, Clinton had a heart attack in 2004 (and,if I am not wrong, another one more recently). We thus limited ourselves to one-course only.

The evening concluded with a surprise party at our home, during which Mathilde had her chocolate cake and her thirty candles to blow out.

Ah, there is no better way to conclude your first thirty (or to begin your next thirty) than with a chocolate cake!

Monday, April 12, 2010

We saw the tigers. And so did they...

Pictures of our trip to Bandhavgarh National Park now available on: http://picasaweb.google.com/mmmarchisio (please, be indulgent if the tigers look small in our pictures: we only had my portable camera with us. But be assured they were pretty close!).

Do also have a look at two short videos we took: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfSAvAkpJU0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNy-N-sA8FE. They are not Discovery Channel’s documentaries, but still they give you an idea of our close encounters with those - as an Indian mama defined them - "big orange cats with stripes"...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mission accomplished: seen them!

Eleven tigers (two cubs) in two days, some of which so close that we could almost stroke them.

The two topical moments on Saturday late in the afternoon. First, when four tigers coming from four different points converged almost where we were. One of them passed just aside our four wheel drive, not further than four/five meters from us - we could feel its stomach's grumbling (and Mathilde’ shaking knees)... Thrilling!

The second one when, on our way out of the park, we saw by chance two cubs hanging on a rock just above us. We could have literally touched them! The two cubs didn’t seem overawed at all by us. On the contrary, they seemed enjoying to pose for us... Divas!

Friday, April 2, 2010

In search of tigers

One of the dreams that we had when we decided to come to India was to see a tiger. We already failed in Periyar in January*, and in Ranthambore in February**.

We have therefore decided to risk everything on a single throw, and today, armed with tuna***, we leave to Bandhavgarh National Park, in Madhya Pradesh, the park with the highest density of tigers in India. O la va o la spacca (It's do or die).

We’ll be back on Monday, and we will let you know then if we’ll have succeeded in fulfilling our little dream…

(*) http://www.matteoandmathilde.org/2010/01/periyar-wildlife-sanctuary.html

(**) http://www.matteoandmathilde.org/2010/02/how-to-spot-tiger.html

(***) http://www.matteoandmathilde.org/2010/02/tigers-would-do-anything-for-tuna.html