Communication-interesting stories about words! 

Dr Satyanarayan was our Head of the Department when I was studying Metallurgical Engineering; he did his PhD in the UK and was a keen sportsman. He was darling of the students because he understood the student’s side of different issues. Once a few of us went to his office for some concern regarding the sports facilities. One of my friends started speaking in Marathi. After a few moments, I realised that Marathi was not the Doctor’s mother tongue! So, I said, “Sir, I hope you understand Marathi!” In his typical way, he smiled and said, “At least I don’t misunderstand! 

I have read that many of the problems in the world are due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of communication. My experience over a period has told me that most of the issues get resolved if there is F to F meeting (face to face). In the last couple of decades, many buzz words have come into our communications. U gt wat I mn (oh that is the latest language of messages- translation- You get what I mean!) Ok is written as K and thank you is written as ty! Now I am probably too old to learn this way of communication, or I am orthodox! I know that the language evolves over a period. Now we don’t say “Thou art”! But the changes that happen are gradual, and they follow the rules. The rules may be different, but they exist. If you want to change English quickly- yes, “U gt wat I mn” is supposed to be the abbreviation of English words.  

Well, people communicate differently. There is a village in Turkey where people interact with each other by whistling. 

Germans lead the people travelling the world over. When you are passing through some woods or in some distant village in Ethiopia, you will suddenly hear the words Guten TagGermans have become the globe trotters of the world.   

And Germans have several words that reflect their love of exploration. They gave us the word wanderlust, which combines the German words “wandern, meaning to wander, and lust, or desire. Its this word that was liked by the English speakers with a yen to see the world, and the English language borrowed it from the German and have taken it as its own. 

But what if our lust for travel causes us a deep yearning pain, an ache that reminds us that we must get out and see the world? What if we’re trapped inside our homes because of some reason like illness, and we feel despair that we simply cannot travel at all? 

Meet the wordfernweh. Marrying the words fern, or distance, and wehe, an ache or sickness, the word can be roughly translated as distance sickening or far woe – a pain to see far-flung places beyond our doorstep. Think of it as the opposite of Heimweh (homesickness). Its an ache many of us have felt, but we didnt have a word to describe it. We do now. 

English has been a language, which is openended and openminded; it absorbs words from different languages. It becomes more vibrant because of this absorption. 

Langar1

Above tweet is shared by Mr Anand Mahindra on Twitter. (You can see the video on Tweeter) It shows the Langar run by our Sikh brethren in the Queens Village, New York. Fiftyfive volunteers are going to cook and supply thirty thousand plus meals.  

Langar (kitchen), is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian and sometimes vegan. People sit on the floor and eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers.  Jaya and I have eaten Langar food, years back, at the Golden temple.

The word Langar is already in the English language; it is a unique service provided by the Sikhs, the world over. I know many surgeons, bankers, senior officers and many luminaries who work at Langars when they get a chance to do so. The work they perform includes cooking, cleaning utensils and sweeping floor; in short, it is any work that is essential to run the Langar. All these luminaries do this work with humility. They think that all the people are the same in front of God. Why not call all such kitchens Langar in future?  

Many words from Indian language are absorbed in English. Another such word is Juggernaut.  

Jagannath, a form of Vishnu, mainly worshipped at the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha where during Rath Yatra festival thousands of devotees pull three temple carts some 14m (45 feet) tall, weighing hundreds of tons through the streets. These carts seat three statues of the deities meant to be two brothers and their sister for a ‘stroll’ outside after the ritual worship session. They are fed by thousands and thousands of worshipers with holy food as if the icons were living. Early European visitors witnessed these festivals and returned with—possibly doubtful—reports of religious fanatics committing suicide by throwing themselves under the wheels of the carts. So, the word became a metaphor for something immense and unstoppable because of institutional or physical inertia; or impending catastrophe that is foreseeable yet virtually unavoidable because of such inertia. 

Pyjama is another word that has come from the Hindi language into English. It is a set of loose-fitting sleeping clothes, consisting of jacket and trousersthe pajama spelling is used in North America. The word entered English in the 19th century. It derives from the Hindi word payjamah, meaning leg (pay) and clothing (jamah). 

Punch (An iced mixed drink usually containing alcohol and prepared for multiple servings; typically served in a punch bowl). Origin of the drink (named as paantsch) that was originally made with five (derived from paanch (five) in Urdu/Hindi) ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. 

The last one but an interesting one is Baniya, spelt in English as Banyan. A Hindu merchant, or shopkeeper. The term Banyan is used in Bengal to denote the native who manages the money concerns of the European and sometimes serves him as an interpreter. At Madras, the same description of a person is called Dubash, which signifies one who can speak two languages. 

To me, Juggernaut, Dubash in Madras, Punch were big surprises. I have a friend Dubhashi who is a Maharashtrian, but I never imagined the word could have evolved with this difference. Punch is another such word. I assumed that its evolution would be from the meaning, punching someone. So, when you sip the potion, you get a kick or a punch!  

Words and their evolution are a big subject. I will surely come back on the subject. In the meanwhile, please share with me some such words that you might have come across. 

 

 

 

 

 

Transient State of Life!

I wrote a blog about Indices of Life and tried to analyze how we can define our status in life and our well-being. However, a friend Jay felt that we cannot define this so easily, as life is much more complex than the way I have tried to analyze it. Yes, it is not only complex but various states discussed are transient. When I said that if the sum total of life’s indices is nearer to 30, the highest number as per my definition, that number is over a period. It is not an absolute number and is transient like our life. The aim of Indices blog was to analyze all things in one basket at my today’s age and find where I stand. In this blog, I am trying to review,  at what stage I got the “feel” of the various indices.

Till the age of 20 only two Indices come into picture Happiness and Sadness but I somehow remember that Empathy was peeping out from the age of 10 or 12! Empathy probably is not so much related to age, as we think. I remember an event, I had gone for lunch at a family function. One kid from our family, all of ten years old, was standing at the counter with the serving staff. He was handing over the plates to each guest; with everyone he would make appropriate conversation! Pramodji make sure you will have Rasmalai, you will love it. Jayaji make sure that you don’t eat that so and so subji, it’s a bit too hot for your taste! He was talking with each guest appropriate things and let me tell you there were about 200 guests! Imagine a ten-year-old kid waiting, doing this for almost an hour and a half! He could do it only because he had tenderness, kindness and sensitivity within him, which is the hallmark of a person with Empathy. He has taken up  dentistry course now and I am sure he will be a great doctor, with 6.0 in empathy index!

Around the age of 30, I started my own business. In the initial phase of business everything was new to me. During that phase there were many friends who gave me orders just because I was Pramod! I started getting the feel of gratitude as well as humility. I am sharing one experience with you because it happened with a stranger! I was given a big order by a friend of mine working in a large organization. He specifically told me that he will place an order on me which will benefit his organization by about 15%. The item that I was to supply was a hardware item, it was not in my normal business lines. But my friend said, “Pramod, you supply for three months, the original vendor will fall in line during that time, and reduce rates drastically; Pramod you won’t ever be able to match the new rate”. That was my friends aim! So far so good! I went to the market and randomly went to a shop and met the owner, who was an experienced old man. He offered me tea; I explained to him my requirement; the rate he quoted was more than our Purchase Order rate. He smiled when he looked at my face. When I told him the quantity, he reduced the rate drastically. I smiled but again there was a problem. I did not have money to pay advance. When I told him the problem, he said I know that young man! But I believe in you. You pay me the day you get money from your customer! This incident activated the feelings of gratitude and humility in me. The owner also told me that these are my baby steps in the world of business and he felt that I would do ok in business. He said that my personality is that of an honest human being! Over a period, I meandered into different things in life, but this incident started thoughts about gratitude and humility in my mind!

In next ten years, I needed to adapt to various changes that were taking place and I developed an attitude to learn and use new things and techniques. Even though my Master’s Degree was in Metallurgical engineering, I ended up running my own software business. This was the result of  combination of attitude, adaptability and agility. Probably by another five years or so current persona had evolved in me and then remained stable. I did go through a major medical treatment when I was treated for cancer about four years back. But with my stable persona, I could take it in the right spirit and handle it as if was just one more serious incident in life!

Friends I started with a theoretical definition of life’s indices in my last blog and ended up finding how I evolved over a period. This is another self-analysis going into some  details of life, of my own experiences, and the things that I observed during the journey! I am sure you will also attempt to visualize the same and realize how fascinating our life’s journey is!