Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sunday Scribblings - "Omen"

Would you believe that once upon a time, I thought that the Malayali name “Oommen” was a phonetic Mallu way of spelling “omen”? I know, I was ignorant. Or innocent. I’ve coined a new word to describe the complete lack of worldliness which was my lot at age 20 – “ignocence”. Or possibly “innorance”.  

Which brings me, by way of a vague segue, to my first encounter with an authentic Mallu from deepest darkest Kerala. I didn't meet him until the first month or so of my apprenticeship in the Indian Express in Madras. Basheer was a sub-editor with a couple of years’ experience who was assigned to show me the basics of page-making and other editorial duties. He did this cheerfully even at his busiest. And since he was a friendly chap, he took it upon himself to try and draw me out of my shell (I used to be painfully shy).

The problem was that I found Basheer virtually incomprehensible. He must have thought me really slow because there was usually a bit of a gap between him asking me a question and my reply to him – mainly because I was scrambling to decode what he’d said. But I’d say I managed ok, most of the time. A question that completely threw me early on, and I remember it vividly, was “What do you think of God?” - except, of course, Basheer said “God” to rhyme with “goad”.

I must have looked like a total idiot, and I felt like one too, as I blinked at him. I was also panicking, because I had no idea what "goad" was, other than the literal "prod", and that didn't make any sense in the context. It could have been  "gode" or something else altogether, it could have been a editorial/journalistic term that I should have known, or something that I’d possibly missed in some previous conversation with Basheer or even, for all I knew, somebody that I'd been introduced to.  

I didn’t know how to respond – saying “yes” or “no” could have been the wrong response (as it undoubtedly would have been, with hindsight) and might bring on more disaster in the form of “what do you mean by ‘yes’ (or ‘no’)”. In the end I compromised with a weak smile and non-committal shrug and hoped like hell that it would do. Thankfully, it did – mainly because someone came up to him with a question... and just like that, I was off the hook. I didn't figure out what "goad" was until the next time the topic of religion came up in a conversation Basheer was having with Master - and then the lightbulb finally went on in my head.

I never did get to tell Basheer about my thoughts on God, though.


Anonymous said...

I am having similar problem with a yorkshireian! He has asked me to learn "yorkshire"!

Anu said...

"Omen" and "God" in the same blog post - but not really referencing "The Omen". Nice.

What do you think of the American way of pronouncing God - (goes sorta like "Gaad"!!)

Passed by "Vargeese's" desk today and thought inadvertently that must be the plural of "Vargoose"...and NO that wasn't even meant to be a lame joke -just a reflection of what the environment can do to your thought process...

Shammi said...

Prema: Haha, I sympathise. I met my first Yorkshireman at a pub in Ireland. I didnt get a SINGLE word he said. I thought he was drunk, but Pete later told me he was just a Yorkshireman :D

ANu: "Vargoose"??? :D :D And no, I dont like the way the Amreekans say "gaaaaad". I loved the movie Ben Hur and I love Charlton Heston, but every time he said "gaaaaaad" I wanted to punch him!

Anu said...

Shyam - Goody - someone who finally shares my dislike of pronouncing "Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad"