Today was my first Hindi lesson. Well, that’s not totally true. Before I went to India two years ago I downloaded a learn Hindi podcast and learned useful phrases like, “How are you?” and “I don’t like that movie because there is too much weeping and wailing” (yes i know how to say “weeping and wailing”). I also took a continuing education course at UBC where I learned how to conjugate verbs and was told by my white-hippie-type-teacher-who-lived-in-india-and-was-fluent-in-Hindi that I had a great accent. But today, today was my first private, one-on-one lesson, or “tuition” as we say on the subcontinent.
I arrived promptly at 7:30 and was greeted into a small but lovely one bedroom basement suite. Madame Hindu Tutor welcomed me in and motioned for me to sit. Her arm swept not over the couch as I would expect but somewhere in the vicinity of the refrigerator. This found me standing awkwardly considering my options: I could sit on the couch and be demoted to the floor (See Jesus’ parable about not picking the best seat at the banquet), or sit on the floor and look like a moron. Fortunately, MHT (as we’ll call her henceforth), settled onto a cushion on the floor and explained, “We sit on the floor in Hindi tuitions. Please, sit”. This arrangement was unfortunate for the already stretched knees of my skinny jeans, as well as for my legs as poor circulation resulted in me awkwardly trying to loosen the tourniquet of my jeans and reintroduce blood flow to my lower legs for the entire 79 minutes.
MHT introduced herself by way of family history, educational background and her vision of changing the world through Hindi language and vocal performances of traditional Indian music. I sat soaking up the enthusiasm and joy she exuded as she shared with me her passion for Indian Culture. When it came my time to introduce myself, I began with the best information I could muster up about myself, “I’m American.” I don’t know why that popped out or what effect it had, but perhaps I was inspired by her love of Indian Culture. I proceeded to tell her about my undergrad, my job, my trip to India and how I really want bilingual kids so we’d better get to it. (The hindi lessons, not the children)
She seemed pleased at my cross-cultural marriage and verbalized what, perhaps, you’ve all been thinking, “The east brings so much culture, so MUCH culture! And the west brings organization and motivation. And when the two combine, the culture (here she waved her hands to indicate chaos, or perhaps that’s just my memories of Indian taxi drivers with no regard for lanes) and the organization: wow!”
I suppose you could say that sums up our marriage. But then, you probably haven’t seen our closet. So maybe all we have is culture spiced with motivation. Which results in a white girl sitting cross-legged on the floor for an hour reading children’s books and trying to say “hain” with a nasal “n” not a tongue-touching-your-palate “n”. (Try it, I dare you. See if you can resist the urge to touch your tongue to your palate to finish off that “n”!)