Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chinese in India

India’s national language is Hindi but most people speak the dialect of the state.  In Mysore, which is in the state of Karnataka, they speak Kanada.  The Muslims here also speak Urdu.  Strangely, if an Indian meets another from a different state, they speak English to each other first, rather than Hindi.

So, what have I been speaking in Mysore, other than English?  Ironically, it is ... Chinese!

This isn’t a one-off situation.  It’s my 3rd year now.  The 1st 2 times, I was hanging around with a couple from Taiwan, Axl and Gladys.  They are more comfortable with Mandarin versus English, so I ended up speaking (or trying to speak) Mandarin to them.  This also happened when we met up the subsequent year (with the addition of another Singaporean who also spoke fluent Mandarin).  To top it off, a Taiwananese lady, daughter and niece were my housemates for a month.  That gave me a gauge of the level of my Mandarin – worse than a 5 year old’s!
They were all amused by my bad Mandarin; I was embarrassed; but needless to say it did improve whilst I was here.

Although Axl and Gladys are not here this year, the shala has been invaded by the ‘Orientals’ (for lack of a better collective name) this year.  There are lot of Taiwanese here, some Japanese and a few others whom I can’t identify.  I used to be a minority race ... but not this year and it’s nice to see the increase in Asians coming here.  I think our Chanting teacher can’t tell us apart because he picked on mostly Asian females when checking our registration dates.
This year I’m speaking ... Cantonese, which is worse than my Mandarin.  One of my girlfriends here has lived in Hong Kong for years so she’s always speaking to me in Cantonese.  The only Cantonese I’m fluent in is from Mum scolding us when we were young; so things like ‘you’re so clumsy, silly, etc’ – not quite the vocab for polite social conversation.  No surprise that my friend is always remarking about how bad my Cantonese is, what a weird accent I have etc ... and this coming from a Filipino whose accent isn’t that authentic herself is even more ironic.

This week, another lady from Hong Kong arrived .. Oh no .. more Cantonese! Thankfully (I think) she can speak Mandarin  and probably prefers my bad Mandarin to my even worse Cantonese ... so here we go again ... Mandarin in India!