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Thursday, September 27, 2007


I wrote this when in the UAE slightly modified now
For somebody with an inborn deficiency for languages , the middle east sounded like the mother of all babbledoms ( I coined this word just now for a place or kingdom wh...ere continuous babbling in unknown languages takes place and onslaughts one ).
In other words it is language largesse
Even though born in India a country with so many languages and dialects my linguistic faculties and the grey areas managing them were of inferior quality ,th creator in his infinite wisdom never doled out ladleful’s of the stuff to me when he made me !
In short I knew very few languages and wasn’t adept in learning new ones ,
English was always my favourite ,
with a voracious appetite for reading anything and everything and having spent more evenings in dark libraries rather than playing cricket , English reading and writing has been a pleasure to me always .
Malayalam being my mother tongue it grew on me ,though my Chennai childhood gave me a distinct Tamil accent much to the amusement of my kerala born cousins when I made summer holiday jaunts to naddu ,but which disappeared with adulthood spent all the time in kerala .
Tamil was a language I was fluent in both reading and writing and could rattle Madras basha in style anytime
with this limited three languages my capabilities ended .
My pidgin Hindi was a disgrace though I loved to hear it being spoken fast and secretly wished I could do it one day too, loved melancholic Hindi songs and ached to know their lyrics ,I always imagined myself reeling off Urdu couplets on moonlit nights with a faraway gaze in my eyes but it wasn’t to be at all .
so when I came to UAE I was wary of this deficiency of mine .
The hospital I worked Tawam Hospital a johns Hopkins managed one had more than 75 nationalities as its staff.
Arabs in flowing robes jostling with Palestinians ,Jordanians ,Syrians ,Iranians and Iraqis ,indians ,sri Lankans ,north Africans ,Filipinos ,Europeans British Americans .australians and Kiwis
Arab to me sounded a bit guttural, the words beat on the ears with hardness and seem to be extraordinarily lengthy ,for example when we talk to Arab patients the translators take such a long time to tell the short sentence told ! and both the translator and the patient gets carried away in the pleasure of their conversation that like the ubiquitin UN observer in an international conflict I am left hanging in the middle in suspended animation waiting for the endless talk to end .
The Filipinos who infest the place are nice people, friendly and harmless ,but the squeaky lullabies that emerge from them sounds to me like scratching nails on walls !
They had typical accents and some words fell soft and thudding to the floor for example they call me " oh docthor Haaaary ,did u writhe thha preeescriiptioh forr thhe pathient inn roomm thhreee plleeeese ccann uuu ",didh youuuu ordhher the medihicionn ? thold you ssso "
so unlike the guttaral docthora haari of the flowing robes ,
The British nurses Aussies and New zealanders have a similar tone ,to me not very different but not to them as I did discuss this with them once and they said they were entirely different .How could I cmpare them with anyone else !
" doctor haary wud u mind writing this pleese ,ahum ....well u know we did decide in the rounds ..wud u mind ... pl do write "typical British stiff upper lip with all wahs and ahums punctuating , a trifle unnerving those polite pauses .
HHHaarry dahling I would kill you if u gimme me more work

the hospital always resounded with good mornings
how are you today how was the week end and so on
Arabs were generally into lengthy introduction for example a phone from the switchboard would go like this ,hello dr haary how are you today ? the urologist would like to talk to you and then the urologist would say docthor haary how are you keeping ?( he would be talking to me for the first time mostly ) nothing wrong of course but i have to get used to this lingual luxuries ,to them i should sound brusque as i just get to the point at times
So hows your family
Hows work
though real time yankees from johns hopkins in the US whose umblical cord made us breathe visited us often and give us the real dose of yankee talk ,
some consultants who had thier education in the u of s had thier own versions which was not bad at all to listen "hey guys u know we could screw up the whole thing ,yu know one haas to be caareful i say you guys buck up huh "and so on and so forth during meetings scoring thier points in yankeeblab ,it was like a free Hollywood film !
of course I was happiest with homebred mallu nurses and the rare mallu doctors who talked mellifilous malayalam ,or my favourite Tamil
the Pakistani colleagues were happy with
Urdu and wich was like hindi ,to me both were undecipherable ,my attempts at urdu with the huge Afghan taxi drivers make them talk back to me in Angresi in pity
Moving from UAE to Brunei in Borneo was another experience ,the filipinos here were not an issue as I was used to them but our housemaid was definitely difficult to comprehend as her english sounded more Tegalo than English only analogy I can think of is aMallu speakingenglish which mostly is Malayalam with English words as the soul of the communication is Malayalam
Malay was a different matter to me and at times both the patient and me rattled off in our respective comfort zones rarely meeting each other excpect when the go between translator nurse decided enough was enough
Chines e was of course Greek to me the only thing I came to realise was the Chinese are as fast in talking as they are in everything no wonder china is where it is now !
The Bruneians themselves are relaxed kind souls with all the time in the world and a great sense of humour ,I did find this also with UAE nationals some of them had a real sense of fun in their conversation
so dear folks I have always been caught in the tempest of these lingual aggressions ,
at times the continuous noises of unknown languages unnerve me that I just rattle off in soft tones "onnu poda "and look around innocently .
Terema Khasim ( thank you


Rakhi said...

DEAR Dr HAARY (as they call you)
I 'll just say "survival of the fittest" and I'am sure you would be fit.

harimohan said...

tks rakki

Maddy said...

Harry bhai - I can be in tune with the whole blog as i spent 7.5 years in Saudi!! tagalo, phew..and Arabi ugh....the rest were ok for me, I chuckled at the last line- probably you meant 'poda patti' actually at certain times?? as they seem to say jovially in kerala these days? for some reason i thought of mohanlal saying it...

harimohan said...

u were absolutely right there

maheshwari said...

Daer Hari
language is for communication!!!!! if the patient understands you, what more could you ask for??? glad to see you enjoying yourself!for a change , let the world learn our language,mallu or tamilissed angrezi!

harimohan said...

tkks maheswari

raj said...

dr.hari has got the natural skill at mimicking different dialects and tones; here in the post he has gone a step further and demonstrated his control over the modulation of real filipino accent by mere text in a humorous and effortless fashion. ‘filipino’, and ‘tagalog’ are the two major languages in Philippines; the alphabets of these languages consist of english letters,they do not have their own alphabets! The filipinos hold the pen in a peculiar sytle hence their handwriting is very identical.The women have the prominent role in filipino families and they are supposed to be the bread winners as well. Among the asians the filipino girls can boast of having the best maintained hair; the smartly dressed,slightly built, chirpy and vivacious filipino girls in the streets really represent the mood of the festival city,dubai!

Nanditha Prabhu said...

that was an interesting reead!
i too have had plenty of oppurtunities when I was stuck in between babbledoms!though not in saudi , i had to juggle with japanese and chinese and african languages !

Naveen said...

i could identify perfectly with your post ... for i am one of those hapless UN observers u mentioned in the post ... leave aside peace making between the warring groups (which is a real test of patience) ... one has to deal with colleagues who hail from great britain to gabon ... all of whom sit in the same room ... one gets automatically trained in sign language ...& when frustration creeps in resorts to the same technique which u've mentioned ...look into the guys eyes and blabber out some favourite "theries" ....with a smile fitted in as a safety measure .. :-)

harimohan said...

tks nanditha prabhu and naveen for your comments

harimohan said...

dear raju
tks for your brilliant in depth account on filipinos in dubai ,i find them vedhy vedhu achurathh

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