A Taste Of Chinese Hospitality.............Part 14
Xubing speaks English a little haltingly, but well. He said, he has a little difficulty in understanding spoken English. That is a problem with many of the Chinese, I have come across. I myself can’t fully understand the dialogues of English films or even the speech of Americans or the British. My accent of the English speech is deplorable. It’s heavily Indianized, north-indianised to be exact. English spoken by a South Indian, a Bengali or a Punjabi can sound to a westerner as three different languages. I had my schooling in an English medium school. English medium schools are where the medium of teaching of some subjects like Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology is English.
However, not much stress was laid on learning the correct way to speak it. Although it was a subject, it was left to an individual to develop interest in it. I didn't speak a sentence of English until I joined college. By the way, what is the correct accent of a language that is now an international language? I think Indians who have good knowledge of English outnumber the native British five to one. Within Britain too there are four distinctly different accents. I happened to sail with a Captain who was from Britain and he would come to me for help in drafting his letters to the company. What was worse was that he would ask me the spellings of the words containing more than four alphabets. Most of my fellow (North) Indians will be worse off in Hindi and hardly a few of my Punjabi friends can write in their mother tongue. I am not sure but I think Indians of other states are not so poorly off at their mother tongues. Well, the Chinese see their lack of ability to understand English as a shortcoming and are always apologetic about it. In fact this is mentioned by every one of them who comments on my blogs.
Xubing too expressed his limited ability in spoken English and wondered how much would he be able to express himself to me. I bet, he had many questions to ask and a free conversation between us would have been a welcome thing but it’s not only his lack of ability in expressing himself which was an impediment but my hard of hearing which I personally feel puts me at a great disadvantage too stood as a hurdle between us. To a lot of people at times I appear to be pretty dumb, dumber than what I presume I am, and when I am talking of the people who guess my intelligence on the basis of my facial expressions in response to their inanities, I am not including my wife, for whom there is no doubt, no proofs are required.
But well, I have lived pretty well with my limitations and I am thankful to God for giving me some better abilities than others, one of which is of expressing myself. It may not pass the high standards of diction but it is good enough to get me a few admirers and I am happy about that. I think my hearing ability was never up to the mark. Till I was about ten years old, I would speak ‘na’ for ‘la’. So, my playmates and even elders would teasingly ask me to tell my pet name and I would say “Bhona” for Bhola (innocent- and that very truly describes my personality till this day) and they would have hearty laughs. Perhaps the circuits routed to my brain weren’t wired rightly and my brain was confused over some input signals. It seems to me that sometime in my childhood someone told my mother that I had some hearing deficiency as she would call me from a distance and try to test if I could hear her properly or not and I would take pleasure in fibbing and gesture that I had not heard her even if I had, though one doesn't need ears to listen to the mother, I knew it as did she but we played this game of love that has no use of spoken words.
She didn’t take me to any doctor for confirming her fears and I grew up hearing a mixture of confused sounds. Even at times I laughed, when I was supposed to express sorrow, and it drew inquisitive, complaining and annoying glances, but my hearing deficiency remained a mystery even to me until I got married. As luck would have it, my wife’s hearing is sharper than that of bats or owls who use ultrasound signals for locating their preys in pitch darkness, but the prey her parents had given her on a silver platter didn’t need to be hunted down, it had been trapped and cooked.
However, when she found that her commands and threats had no effect on me, she asked me to get my hearing checked up. I sat in front of the audiologist, for the first time in my life wearing headphones. Not raising my fingers at notes produced by the tuning forks generating different frequencies as he had asked me to, for indicating if I picked up a feeble sound note (in those days, electronic devices hadn’t been devised), I remained unmoved like a stone statuette mostly through his experiment. He would gradually increase the decibels by turning some knobs and as he did that, the lines distorting his facial features deepened. He looked crestfallen to me as if he foresaw the darkness gathering over our matrimonial skies because the charming beauty I was betrothed to, sat on a chair nearby, curiously waiting for the outcome of his experiment. In the end he gave a graph of my hearing ability (or disability you may say), the audiograph as they call it, and it looked like the graph of floundering Indian share market. It made no sense to me, but it sent a serious message across to SmartSulekhika that if she wanted her arguments to be heard, she will have to increase the pitch and she did raise it enough to smoothen all curves and intents.
It’s not for nothing that we in India say that the marriages are made in heaven. Bramha had thought of that when He wrote my destiny. He had written that this marriage would work through storms and gales. My hearing went on a progressive decline. In a way, I think that this impairment was a blessing in disguise because, I can't enjoy TV programmes either, so I read or write instead.
She wonders whether she is married to a moron or a stone but while making light of the serious business of handling complexity of a relationship of marriage between two individuals of different backgrounds and drastically different tastes, I have elucidated a simple rule that works in marriage and that is “overlook”, ignore, which in a simple marital dialect means “act dumb”. Don’t take to heart what and if your partner yells at you. Let him/her do that. It clears one’s throat and mind. What do we do, when our parents shout at us, berate us, run us down? What we do when our siblings fight with us? Ignore and forget, I am sure, all of you will say that. So, why when your spouse gets angry at you, should you feel hurt, look for a moment to hit back? Is marriage a slugfest?
About three years ago, when Xubing first contacted me, I learned that he had compiled all my blogs translated in to Chinese and posted on various Chinese websites where they appear often, I was overwhelmed. Ever since I have come to know that there are many Chinese who love to read my blogs, I have felt a kind of effervescence of gratitude, shaking my heart, make it hum thanks for those unknown people, whom I may not ever get a chance to meet, who cannot express their selves in the language I understand but I can feel their emotions, their love, conveyed through their comments translated in to a gibberish by online translators. And to know that they are from an alien background, they speak a different dialect, their thoughts are governed by wisdom handed down to them by different sages and above all they are citizens of a nation with which we as a nation haven’t had cordial relationship and thus for liking me, they have to raise their feelings above layers of scum of hatred stirred by petty thoughts of race, religion and nationality, I am filled with thanks and gratitude all the more.
For U.S. President barack Obama's brother lived in China for 12 years, instead of freedom and democracy in India, what do you think Indian friends??
Thanks Navneet, for another one of your wonderful travel blogs.
Many of your writings and cartoons here, made me laugh.
My hearing as well has not been good for very many years. However it does seem to be about the same over the last five or so. I am glad for that. A progressively worsening thing would concern me.
So I get by. I am still fighting wearing glasses which is a continual battle.Life is certainly not for the weak of heart. Always there are troubles to work around.
In any event, thanks again. You have once again lightened my day ;)
I was wondering, perhaps, what is your feeling on the economy there? Is it one step from disaster as some here in the west paint it? Or are things, to your knowledge, through friends and contacts, somewhat normal?
I am delighted to know that my blog made you happy. All of us have some weaknesses, shortcomings and eccentricities too, but we try to overlook our defects and be judgmental and critical about others. Yes, surely, here the impact of slowdown is visible but it's not as bad as you say ( one step from disaster). They have a huge internal market, which China until recently didn't try to tap. In fact, Chinese until recently were by and large poor. It's only now that they have some money to spare and they believe in showing it off. Moreover as I see on the TV China is investing hugely in Africa, so as far as I can see, the slow down is there but there doesn't seem to be a fear of an imminent disaster here.
Too bad about your hearing. Then you can safely watch Arnab Goswami on TV. But hearing problems would keep you away from good music. As for Brahma deciding how a marriage would go on, the poor chap himself couldn't save his own marriage. He is fighting a divorce case against his wife in a Pushkar court.
very interesting full of wit and wisdom!
Thanks Daksha for liking it.
Navneetji, good one. I always thought that language is a medium of communication. It is the thoughts behind the words which matter. And the thoughts are kind of divorced from the language which is being used. Some one thinking greatly in Polish is not stupid. May even win the Nobel prize !
Yes I agree Prasad Ji- but language is a medium for conveying those thoughts and using a language well is a skill that can be honed. The expressions of the trained writers are better but the stuff they write is not always interesting :)
Hi,navneet,the way of consideration by Chinese people is different from English,so if u don't communicate with English very often u can't react to other very quickly. when I had my postgraduate like listen to voa special English because its speed is very low. I still remember when u in my car,u asked what thevehicle traveling data recorder was, I can't respond to u correctly,maybe u take it as something to monitor people by go nment.
Nice to see you here after a long time. I can understand the difficulty of the Chinese and for that matter all non-English speaking people (including me). After I discovered that I enjoyed writing and slowly gained confidence in writing in English too, I wished that like my sister I too should have studied English. She did M.A. ( Masters in English) and taught English in college. She has read so many good books that I am awed. In comparison my knowledge of English is ordinary and I have to make effort to express my thoughts which come to me in my mother tongue. BTW what was that travelling data recorder for?
data recorder is a loop recorder with gps chip radar detector,when u drive on the road,it can recorder the image and notice the speed limitation on this road and precaution the traffic light
Ah, that's a good device. I am not sure if Indians too have it in their cars now. I don't have it but there is a trend with the younger generation to go for the latest gadgets. I think Indians would love to have a device that can tell them about where all the police has set up a barrier for checking breath alcohol level :)
Yaar, even i like yr blogs, and now the chinese like too eh ! You are very talented, and if u took writing seriously, and if u had a sindhi manager like me, today u would be richer than Karishma kapoor's husband u see !!!!!
Superb one this, just loved it, the advice of ignorning what wife yells, is true.You are a wise man,a wisened husband perhaps>
Kamal Ji- You were among the first ones who started reading my blogs, I can't forget that. As regards having a Sindhi manager- abhi bhi der nahin huyee hai, try kar sakate hain, but mere or Karishma Kapoor ki soch mein bahut fark hai.