Saturday, October 13, 2007

Starting a conversation

- By Janaki Krishnan
Perhaps it is the frequent weather changes in the UK that make the Englishman begin a conversation with remarks about the weather. Indians with their diverse customs and climate have different ways of starting conversations.

In fertile Kerala, the southernmost state, people tend to begin conversations with remarks about the activity involved at that moment. For example, if you're bathing in the river, and someone stops to chat with you, the conversation begins with 'Kulikyya?' (Bathing, eh?). Or if you're resting, then it's 'Kidukkua?' (Resting, are you?).

In North India, even before starting a conversation, people touch the feet of their elders saying 'Pai laagoo' (Hindi) or 'Pairi pauna' (Punjabi). This greeting literally means 'I fall at your feet', and is a way of showing respect to older people. The usual response is an affectionate blessing - 'Jeete Raho, beta' - may you live long, child.

India has many ways of saying even the common 'How are you?'. In Gujarat it is 'Kem chho'. The Maharashtrians say 'Kasa kai', the Bengalis 'Kaimon aache' and the Tamilians 'Eppudi irrukenga'. It is impossible to list greetings of all communities. With 22 official scheduled languages, and 415 other living languages, India has among the most diverse spoken cultures in the world.

Often, greetings involve the names of Gods. In Maharashtra, the standard greeting in villages is 'Ram Ram' - referring to the God Rama, hero of the epic Ramayana. If you meet someone of a higher status, you add 'Saheb' to it, to acknowledge the difference in status - Ram Ram Saheb.

Muslims in India, in general, use 'Salaam aaleikum' - Peace be upon you. Many Hindu religious organisations have evolved greetings of their own. If you call the ISKON temple, you'll be greeted on the phone not with a 'Hello' but with a 'Hare Krishna'. The Chinmaya Trust uses 'Hari Om', and devotees of Sai Baba say 'Sairam' as a form of greeting.

And so it goes on. The manner in which a person starts a conversation provides clues to the identity of the person. In a diverse country like India, this can be quite useful!

Mumbai, of course, has it's own style. The busy Mumbaite, rushing to catch a local train, has learnt how to begin and end the conversation at the same time - 'Hi yaar, how are you, chal, see you!'


Girish said...

the article`s is very nice. Brings out the greeting culture very well.

thought shd tell about the commonality in the bidding goodbye tradition in different cultures

Adios in spanish - A = To , Dios = God
Adieu in French - A = To , Dieu = God
Just like Khuda hafiz in urdu
and Goodbye - some told me it came from God be with you.
The last statement brings the import of all the above seeing off words used


Joy said...

The same one liner is good enough for Delhi too - "Hi ? Kaise ho, Chalo milte hain fursat se?" When will that fursat come, God only knows.

anish said...

and 'jai matadi' hehhe

but again if the local train is relatively less crowded, people do take out their mobiles and start talking to their friends.

some conversations also start with a slap on the shoulder or back and -'kya be, kaisa hai?'

nice post!

Sumana said...

Very well written and in kannada it is:
hengidiya? yen samachara?

Jai said...

kem cho