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Current location: Neuilly-sur-Seine
Member since: Fri Apr 28, 2006, 11:13 PM
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"However, the monkeys still control the cabana" -- voicemails from my landlord today

(Linguistic note: Hindi and Marathi are written in Italics, as are my comments once the messages start. the symbol "~" in a Hindi or Marathi section simply represents a nasalized vowel; say it like you were from Boston.)

So, my building has this gee-whiz intercom/PA system that lets the management leave voicemails for us tenants, either individually or en masse. It also lets us hear the mass announcements in real time, though we rarely leave that on (security has an annoying tendency to leave the button pressed).

The building is a mix of foreigners (like me), Gujuratis, Marathis, and Bengalis, so the default medium of communication is Indian Business English (a fascinating dialect/register). (Interesting side point: if you count all levels of fluency, India has more English speakers than the US.)

I was home working on my book today and enjoyed the following series of messages (and later real-time announcements when I could not resist listening in). Time listed is in military format, Indian Standard Time (GMT +5.5):

0847: "Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize. A troop of monkeys has taken residence around the pool. Please avoid the pool until further notice."

0852: "Ladies and gentlemen, in response to a question, these are bandar, nuhi~ langur I repeat nuhi~ langur"

("bandar" generically means "monkey", but also specifically means a macaque, as opposed to "langur", which specifically means the larger langur family, and has religious significance for many Hindus as representing the deity Hanuman. "nuhi~" means "not" -- strictly, the proper word order is "langur nuhi~", but most of the staff speak a very Anglicized Hindi/Marathi). -- Recursion

0901: "Ladies and gentlemen, the monkeys have driven away the dogs from the grounds."

0903: (a different voice from the normal announcer): "Kutte tik hai~. Kutte tik hai~. Danyavad"

(Marathi or Hindi: "The dogs are ok. The dogs are ok. Thank you." The grounds had been home to a pack of street dogs that many of the building kids have befriended; apparently the dogs -- having more sense than the humans -- just went to the abandoned mill next door.)

0912: "Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate the patience you are showing and your many calls of concern. I stress we are doing the needful. We have called the langurwallah and he will be coming today."

(You already know "langur", "wallah" means roughly "vendor". A langurwallah carries one of the larger monkeys around to scare away the macaques. That's a job here.)

0937: "Ladies and gentlemen, while it is too early to speculate, in response to your many questions I offer the hypothesis that these monkeys have come from the national park. However, there have been reports of a troop in Breachcandy, so this cannot be discounted as a possibility".

(Breachcandy is a beach neighborhood nearby, which to my knowledge hasn't seen a monkey troop in years. Monkeys in general are not that common in central Mumbai, but the train tracks we live between include a lot of trees and go straight up to the Gandhi National Park where several thousand monkeys live and, occasionally, decide to go see the sights of Maximum City.)

(long period of no messages.)

1211: "Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you we have cordoned the pool area only for your safety. Need I remind you the diseases monkeys carry? Thank you."

1302: "Ladies and gentlemen, the langurwallah has arrived! He should be clearing the pool area shortly."

1320: "Ladies and gentlemen, the pool is clear. I say again the pool is clear of monkeys. (slight pause) However the monkeys still control the cabana. Please avoid the area until further notice."

("Cabana" is the word they insist on using for the two picnic tables with umbrellas between the pool and the cricket pitch. Also, at this point I could not resist turning my monitor back on to hear these announcements as they happen...)

1357: "Ladies and gentlemen, the langurwallah has reported the monkeys are fouling the cabana, and throwing filth at him. Inconvenience is regretted, and we wish to resolve this as quickly as possible."

1442: "Ladies and gentlemen, the inconvenience has been highly regretted. Jai ho! The entire grounds are now certified as free of monkeys. Please go about your day."

("Jai ho"; "let there be victory", roughly. A sanskritized phrase that is often used in sporting events.)

1502: "Ladies and gentlemen, please avoid the cricket pitch until we can remove the extent to which the monkeys have befouled it. Thank you."

Ah, India...

I made cornbread today

But I can't find collards in India; mustards will have to do.

I'm thinking of making hopping jenny this weekend, but I may add some Indian chilies because, well, that doesn't really need a reason...
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