Thunda Tupuk Mita Gutuk
“Thunda tupuk, mita gutuk.” It means cold fall, sweet rain. Geeta-ji, the domestic worker, had a smile on her face. She was teaching me her local language, Maravali. It was a poem that she made up so that whenever Shivan, the five year old in the house wanted water he would say it. Remembering the poem was difficult, but Geeta-ji made me say it each time I needed water.
Geeta-ji doesn’t speak much English so our talks were limited to Namaste and again, Namaste when I went to go sleep. She spends her days in the kitchen cooking for the family, cleaning the dishes, and playing with the puppy. She is around 5 foot 2, and on some days, she dawns a beautiful red sari. Her tireless beauty shows in her passionate and hardworking 17 year old son Mukesh.
Last night, we sat in the living room watching TV. She must have browsed through all the channels, none of them she was particularly satisfied with. We stopped at a war film and after everyone died, she changed the channel again. We talked about the city Mumbai, her village, and the guests that have been visiting our house. If I understood her correctly, she will visit the village in August. It was the longest conversation I was able to have with her in Hindi.
Learning Hindi has been difficult for me. The language and culture is not something I am familiar with. When I first arrived, I didn’t know what any of the vegetable dishes I was eating was called. I thought only naan existed and that I was going to have Chicken Tikka Masala every night. I had read the first parts of the Bhagavad Gita so I knew ego, dharma, and karma existed. I didn’t expect statues of Krishna and Ganesh-ji everywhere. Temples are everywhere and cows did indeed exist on the road. And later on, through eyewitness, even elephants and camels exist on the concrete road. I didn’t know rickshaws were a thing until I had to get into one for school transport. And I had watched only a handful of Hindi films in my life. I had come into this world with no language background and no cultural wisdom.