Sunday, February 26, 2012

A sari-clad Gujarati with a cowgirl hat in Nagerkoil? Not your grandfather's India!

We stepped out through the Padmanabhapuram Palace gates and stopped for tender coconut, when a young couple--perhaps in their late twenties--stood next to me and started what seemed to be a verbal fight.  The man barely said five words for every hundred from the woman.  Her voice kept getting louder.

All these didn't fascinate me as much as the language they were speaking: it was not Tamil or Malayalam, which are the local languages, nor English or Hindi. 

I thought I heard a couple of Bengali words or at least that tone.  Or, was it Oriya, I wondered.

I had to ask them to get this cleared.

But, their fight seemed to be getting more and more intense, but I didn't care. 

"What language are you fighting in?" I asked them. 

Nah!  That is the question I wanted to ask them.  Instead, I was polite.  "What language are you two talking in" I asked them.

The woman glared at me.  I mean, if her eyes were lasers, I would have been annihilated right there.  End of blogging!  Perhaps she was having one heck of an interesting fight, and I butted in.  Worse than coitus interruptus, perhaps, is an interruption in a heated argument :)

The man said, "Bengali."  I thanked them and walked away before the woman could launch any assaults directed at me.

This Bengali-fighting-speaking couple fits the trend that I have been noting throughout this strange secular pilgrimage of mine--Indian tourists are everywhere, far away from the lands of their languages. Unrecognizable sounds all over.  Bengali at practically the southern tip of India is, therefore, not a surprise at all.

What was surprising, however, was to see this woman, in the photo on the right. Let me back up a tad, in order to explain ...

There were tourists by the busloads at this palace.  These tourists from all parts of India often seemed to hurry past, so much so that all I had to do was wait a couple of seconds and then have the exhibit all to myself.

There was one group that was majority-female, all middle-aged and seemingly from Gujarat and Rajasthan.  At least, that is my guess based on their saris.

As I was nearing the exit gate, I spotted this woman wearing a sari, sitting with a whole bunch of women, and wearing this cowgirl hat.  In India!  Off Nagercoil!

Times they are a changin ...

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