The other day, a bunch of us were talking about Indian cities and their quirks. Here’s something a colleague of mine remembered that totally cracked me up.
She’s from Delhi and has recently moved to Mumbai. The first month that she was here, she noticed that Mumbaiites were rather abrupt in the way they spoke Hindi. Being from Mumbai ourselves, a couple of us couldn’t really understand what she meant. So, she helpfully explained. Suppose someone’s talking to you and you don’t catch what he or she said. A Mumbai person would say, ‘Kya?’ as opposed to a Delhiite’s ‘Kya bola aapne?’
Okay, so they talk in complete sentences. That’s nice.
But then she went on to say that Mumbai’s Hindi (I love the way we personify everything!) has a vocabulary all of its own – and not simply the kind used by the underworld or the ‘kaanda-batata’ variety.
One evening, she took a rick from Andheri station. The auto fellow, being friendly or bored because he didn’t have a music deck, started making small talk with her. He sympathetically looked at her and asked ‘Train mein gardi thi?’ My friend didn’t seem to understand, so she mumbled something that the rick guy didn’t want repeated. So that was that.
The next day, her bai comes in late and launches into a huge narration, the moot point of which is, ‘Bahut gardi thi.’
My friend reaches office and hears two colleagues commenting on the horrid route to work. ‘Itni gardi mein kaise koi time pe pahunchega.’
She is now wondering what ‘gardi’ is, because she hasn’t heard that word before – ever. Not in Delhi, not in Bangalore, or Indore or Bhopal, or wherever else she has traveled. So she reasons and thinks back, going through all the Hindi words she has learnt and used. What could ‘gardi’ possibly mean?
“I’d heard of garmi (hot climate) and I’d heard of sardi (cold climate). I thought an intermediary season would be ‘gardi’.”
The next minute, one Mumbaiite was laughing so hard that he had snorted cold coffee all over the table. I had fallen off the couch and the third one had tears rolling own her beetroot red face.
Can’t fault her logic though! In fact, given the contexts she’d heard the term in, gardi could very well mean some mysterious intermediary season that pervades stations and causes bais and office colleagues considerable discomfort. It was much later that she came to know that gardi meant crowd – the rest of the country apparently refers to that as ‘bheedh’.
So, that’s how we learnt a new word…two is company, three is a ‘gardi’ or a ‘bheedh’ depending on where you are.