I remember not so long ago, I had attended a workshop on ‘ The Importance of Communication’ in London. Speaker after speaker espoused the need of a good vocabulary. Alas, all these speakers were from the developed countries who didnt know that English is like a meander which flows through many regions of the world but mutates and adapts according to the local need. The meaning may be lost on people like them, but for the locals, it is still effective in communicating. Sometimes if you reach these parts of the world, all your vocabulary and language skill would still make you feel like an idiot.
Once when I was in Pattaya in Thailand, we decided to go to North Pattaya. Tuk Tuk is the most popular transport driven by very polite and charming drivers who can overcome their limited english with oodles of charm. So when the tuk tuk driver raised his eyebrow in question, I told him North Pattaya. He repeated North Pattaya and we sat. Slowly as the Tuk Tuk trudged, I could notice the change in the milieu. We were definitely moving out of the town. After about 20 kilometers there were only two of us left. Suddenly this driver stopped and asked us in halting English where were we heading. I repeated, “North Pattaya”. “But Mister I told you Not Pattaya.” There was nothing I could do so I heartily agreed with him and paid him and enquired how do we go BACK now! He pointed in the opposite direction and asked us to wait. When i asked him if we would find a Tuk Tuk, he impishly smiled and said “Pray”! The moral of the story is that sometimes when communication fails there is always God!
The Indians are a very sensitive lot. They are unable to appreciate the earthy humor of Americans or even Australians and may take it literally. The recent fiasco over Nasser Hussain’s ‘ Donkey’ comment is one such example though he belongs to the prim and proper England.
The other day a father and son visited our store. The father had come to get his son admitted to MIT. He had applied for Mechanical Engineering. I casually remarked that even I am a Mechanical Engineer. The father’s eyes shone and he said I could guide him when he joins. I airily told him not to bank on me. I left engineering at least a decade ago. Today I can’t even distinguish between a Monkey wrench and a monkey’s ass. I saw the father stiffen even as the son was grinning. I knew I wouldnt be seeing the father again. That taught me a lesson. The Britisher’s may have left us, but we still are in the web of their English.
The Prom night is a very important day in the calendar of an American teenager. I once wrote an article in a local portal. One horny kid became my fan only because he read it as ‘Porn Nights’. I wrote a series on it. One young MIT student suddenly felt that he had found a mentor. I am now his official sex cum dating counsellor. Sadly, I haven’t been a very good one. He is even now looking for his still elusive girl friend. Any suitors?
The Malaysians are my favorite customers. But taking their order over the phone can sometimes be challenging. My staff immediately hands over the phone to me whenever a Malaysian is on the phone, not that I always succeed. But I am yet to see anyone as courteous and polite as them and hence they are well received in our store.
My favorite and the last story of a good communication. A bunch of foreigners were coming out of the Agra railway station. Immediately they were ambushed by dozens of guides. Suddenly one young boy went to a young woman and asked her, “ Madam, is your father a thief?” she was outraged. This kid once again repeated the same for more effect. Now he had the attention of the whole party. This young woman was seething. “ Yes madam. Your father is a thief. He stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.” The party broke into applause. Needless to say who became their official guide.
The learning never stops. Some times even an illiterate kid can teach you what the pundits fail to do. That indeed is life.