My afterthoughts reminded me of an incident which happened some weeks back. I was in Chennai and had called for a cab to drop me at the airport to catch my early morning flight to Bangalore. I had asked the security to direct the cab to the rear gate of the building which was closer to my room. As I approached, the driver got down the cab and offered to put my bag in the boot. He said something in Tamil for which I replied in Hindi expressing my ignorance of Tamil. He immediately said “No problems sir. I main gate only standing; watch man telling stand here”. I nodded but could not hide my smile. Once we were in the car, he asked “Mumbai or Delhi flight sir” for which I replied “Bangalore”. After a few minutes of silence, he asked me something in Tamil mixed English. I could not decipher but thought he was asking me if it was my first visit to Chennai. I replied in Hindi saying I had been in Chennai before. Not sure if he understood; he immediately put his next question – “Chennai negative Bangalore negative?” which scared the daylights out of me. I was somewhere in Chennai with no knowledge of Tamil and was posed this question. Unsure of how to react, I responded in a way to make it look like I did not understand his question all the while thinking of what to answer. He put the same question again - “Chennai negative Bangalore negative?” I then assumed a meaning and replied “Bangalore native”, for which he said “ok”. I think he just wanted to know which my native place is. Whatever was his question, my remaining journey went fine. He voluntarily started explaining me our route to the airport. Whenever we approached any building he would explain its importance. He took great pride in explaining the things around and how good Chennai is, but all his explanation was in English and not in Hindi. I asked him a few questions purposely in Hindi, using long sentences at times. In spite of my repeated tries, he struck to his English and did not utter a single word in Hindi.
I reached the Bangalore airport and called a cab to drop me home. It was a different situation with the cab driver in Bangalore. He started the conversation in English and I responded in Kannada. For quite some time he stuck to English while I would purposely respond in Kannada. This went on for a while until he finally gave up and started responding in Kannada.
I was thinking – “Why can’t we, just be we?” In the name of employer and customer satisfaction we adapt to things so quickly which are unnatural to us and also stick to them. I have come across many, who, not sure have adapted or just show off, but seem to genuinely take pains to look and speak different or maybe act as a non-Indian
~Narendra V Joshi