Unity in diversity


India is unique country as it has so many languages. Unity in diversity is India’s strength. Yet citizens always face some embarrassing moments when they travel from one state to another. I got a nostalgic memory when I came to Delhi 35 years ago without knowing its local lanugage ‘Hindi’.

When I joined my office, I was completely startled to see such a situation where everyone was talking in Hindi, cracking jokes in Hindi, exchanging greetings in Hindi. When they were talking about me I was not knowing whether they were appreciating me or abusing me.  From that moment on wards I started working as a ‘Robot’ doing my work without communicating to anybody.

After having seen my trouble, my colleagues started speaking to me in English. Even office peons after having seen my agony tried their best to convey their feelings to me in a broken English. So in office I had managed somehow to pull on, but outside I still struggled a lot to manage without Hindi.  As people of Delhi tend to reply to  you only in Hindi no matter in what language the question is asked !

Once I told my friend that I am finding it difficult to board Delhi Transport Corporation(DTC) bus, as the conductor asks too many questions which I don’t understand. To reduce my problem little bit, my friend advised me that whenever you board a DTC bus ask the conductor a ticket by tendering the exact coins for the destination. So the conductor would give the ticket and would not ask any questions. According to his advice, when I boarded a DTC bus asked the conductor a ticket by tendering the exact fare. But to my shock, the conductor asked me in hindi ‘Kahan Jana Hai ?(Where you want to go?). Since I was not prepared for the question I started blinking. But fortunately one of my fellow passenger who happened to be a Tamilian came to my rescue and saved me from embarrassment.


40 thoughts on “Unity in diversity

  1. I made my first visit to India this year, and spent two weeks in Kolkata, where I found that many people did not speak anything but Bangla. I was visiting with a publisher and conversation there was usually a blend of Bangla, Hindi and English. I was quite comfortable on the subway, wouldn’t attempt a bus unless I could at least read Bengali script, but to take a cab one needs Hindi. It was my first experience travelling in a place where finding comfortable English speakers was not easy and I had many conversations that employed gestures and a few common words. I enjoyed it.

    However, I transferred in and out through Dehli and the massive immigration hall in that airport is really frustrating. There are so many endless queues and you are ALWAYS in the wrong one at least twice, and only one attendant to provide brusque answers to desperate questions. I’m not even sure Hindi would help in that situation! Good on you for arriving in a strange city without the language. I suspect you picked up some pretty quickly!

    1. Yeah, initially I struggled a lot. After three or four months I picked up few important words out of desperation ! Thank you for the comments.

  2. Great post. I’ve had similar experiences as an English speaker when Ive travelled in France and Italy – I only have limited French and even more limited Italian. People are invariably kind in my experience though – if I at least had a go at speaking their language.

  3. I learned recently how difficult it can be to maneuver without knowing the language while in Portugal. It makes you appreciate other’s difficulties with English. Wonderful post. Regina

  4. I enjoyed reading of the struggles from your point of view. I have never traveled out of country except for one brief foray into Mexico from Texas many years ago. The United States is fast becoming multi-lingual by neighborhood in some areas of the country.

  5. Love your sense of humor, V, telling about your experience on the bus–at your own expense. I did not realize India was still so divided by numerous languages. But I greatly admire your national unity that supersedes the barrier.

  6. Leaving aside the need for clear communication on practical matters, there is no sound quite as intriguing and magical as many voices–young, old, male, female–speaking different languages. I am an old, retired teacher of literature, and for me language will always be music. Thank you for a lovely blog.

  7. I know very little about the languages of India. In America, I think we consider “Hindi” to be the main language of India. But I guess that is not the case?

    1. Thank you for the comments. Yeah, India has 29 States. Out of which only 10 States speak Hindi ! In South India where I belong has 4 States and 4 distinct languages Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kanada.

      1. You know, I bet Canada would be thrilled to know you have a language named after their country. But you do spell it differently! 😁

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