Friday, February 1, 2008

Easy Hindi for the Tourist

Easy Hindi for the Tourist – as well as being a paradox – is a priceless volume costing 100 rupees, which claims to be in its thirteenth reprint. There must be decades between reprints, is all I’m saying.
No less a person than Nehru is responsible for the uplifting introduction. I don’t think he was thinking of prefacing a pocket phrase-book when he said it, he was probably addressing the UN, but it’s highly apposite, and I fully intend poaching it, if ever I write a dictionary. He concludes, “There is nothing that the world needs today more than mutual understanding.” See, I said it was uplifting. It needs to be, if you’re proposing to tackle the arcane delights of Hindustani.
The book’s without doubt a bargain. As well as all the words, you get free advice on what you can bring into the country, so’s you don’t fall foul of the customs wallahs. It’s called, somewhat obtusely, “What You Can Bring.” You’ll want to keep the whole book under your pillow, for this page alone. Permitted in your packing, then: “ portable wireless receiving set, one portable record player with ten records... one canoe provided it is not longer than five and a half metres... one pair skis and two tennis racquets...” What kind of holiday do they think you’re hoping to have? In these uncertain days, though, you’ll be glad to know some weapons are NOT permitted, for example, “.410 muskets; pistols or revolvers above .32 bore...”( And they the gall to have a problem with my tweezers, at Heathrow...) Doesn’t mention anti-tank rifles or intercontinental ballistic missiles, though, that’s a bit of a loop-hole.
Every page positively crackles with more gems, than there are currants in a Christmas cake. For instance, a few telling questions, to help you interview a prospective employee: “Are you clean in person? Do you bathe daily?” No equal ops policy in place here, yet, it would seem. Should you need to repress the insubordinate, try this: “Fetch my stick!” I only ever say this to my dog, and he shrugs his canine shoulders as if to say, “Fetch it yourself...” I’ll give it a go with the Hindi, though...
The best section has to be Hunting and Sports. I’m definitely going to learn, “I’m going to bag a jungle-cock.” How useful will that be? Admittedly, I don’t particularly know what it means in English, but it’s sure to guarantee social advancement, at Ambassador’s receptions, and the like. Although, when was the last time anyone said, “I want to get a tiger,” and survived to tell the tale and sit on the rug? Apart from another tiger, obviously.
My favourite sequence has to be read as one side of a dialogue:
.....“Can we touch this?
......“Is he angry?"
......“Now we must go!
Small wonder it’s “a must for every tourist” – only a fool would take on the sub-continent without knowing how to say, “Send the bearer to my room!” I don’t begrudge a single rupee, and shall treasure it always. Meanwhile, should you need the Hindi for “sealing-wax” or “typewriter-ribbon” in a hurry, I’m your woman. Don’t bother with the cable office, like it says in the book, just text, and I’ll text you right back.