Sunday, February 05, 2006

My Postillion Has Been Struck By Lightning

Last night, my dear friend Mukund leant me one of the prizes of his personal library. Mukund can speak about thirty languages, did a PhD in astrophysics, and is not only a genius but also one of the nicest people in the world. His book is called Hindustani for the Tourist. Second Impression, 1996. Leafing through, you realise almost immediately, and with a slightly giddy horror, that it was originally published much, much earlier. For example: here is a list of things one can bring in, duty-free:
  • Two cameras
  • One pair of binoculars
  • One portable wireless receiving act
  • One portable record player with ten records
  • One portable sound recording apparatus
  • One portable musical instrument
  • One portable typewriter
  • One tent and camping gear
  • Sporting fireams
  • One canoe
  • One pair of skis and two tennis racquets
I'm surprised pith helmet and foxhounds aren't included. Of course, you discover the word 'please' is featured nowhere. And all the orders in Hindustani are in the familiar, 'tu' form. It's an addictive, hilarious, excrutiating, and pretty depressing glimpse into a British-Indian universe of olde-tyme imperialism.

Here are some snippets of the kind of useful phrases a tourist "might need". (I'm leaving out the translations, of course)

At your hotel, rest house or dak bungalow
Can I dine in shorts at lunch?
Can I bring ladies to my room?

Servants you may need and their engagement
Can you write?
Are you honest?
Are you clean in person?
Do you bathe daily?
What pay do you expect?
It is too much
I do not think you will suit me

Directions to servants
Light the lamps
Open my bag
Boil two eggs medium
This egg is not cooked properly
Butter the bread
This is filthy
Carry out my orders
Has this water been boiled?
Are you certain about it?
You are very lazy
I won't stand for this
Don't bring your friends here
Tell them to get out
You are a rascal
I don't like your manner
Now you can go

Sport, Hunting and Fishing
I am a sportsman
I am interested in bird-watching.
I want to shoot small game
I want to shoot big game
Can we shoot green pigeons?
I would like to bag a jungle cock
I suppose we need permits
Where can we get permits
I want a light rod
We shall require beaters
I want to get a tiger
There are many flies here
These ants are a nuisance
Bring my gun
Face the barrel the other way
Load my gun
Do not make any noise
I would like to play golf

The Shoemaker
Can you make a pair of shoes for me?
This leather is poor quality
I want some evening shoes
Can you make golf shoes?
I would like them in suede
I would prefer sambhar skin
Can I get crocodile?

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