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A funny story came back to me the other day. I am not sure if I have told it already here. Anyways I am assuming I haven’t and am telling it.

Those were the days. Fifteen years old. Out of the confines of school and reveling in the freedom of being in college. Yeah, I know, nowadays there no longer is PUC and instead you spend two more years in school before going on to college.

It was a heady feeling being in college and in charge of our own selves. But of course, it was not all freedom. There was always the watching eyes of the hostel warden during study hours, the curfew of 6 p.m., lights off at 10-30 p.m., written permissions to go out/home and more of the sort. It is just that compared to school, where you could not even take a breath without permission from parents, teachers. boarding mistress, yada, yada, this seemed like heaven.

One day some of my friends were having a celebration in one of their rooms. Buying a couple of flavors of family pack ice-cream was part of the plans. The two on whom the duty of getting ice-cream had fallen presented themselves at the restaurant/shop. There was a lone young man wiping the tables. The girls (we were students of a girls-only institution) told him they needed two packs of ice-cream, also gave him the name of the flavors they needed. The boy stared at them open-mouthed. He hadn’t understood.

Oh, did I tell you our college was in Mangalore, and the language spoken there is Kannada? Our group of girls were from Kerala (where we speak Malayalam) and didn’t speak Kannada. So my friends had spoken in English. Apparently the young man didn’t know English. Never ones to be lost for long, my friends made their request next in Hindi. But as luck would have it, Hindi didn’t work. The young man blinked and looked at them uncomprehendingly.

My friends were in a fix. Friend One looked at Friend Two and raised her eyebrows. Friend Two looked back at Friend One and shrugged her shoulders. Like I said, Kannada was a closed book to them. But through the eyebrow-shoulder message exchange they reached a consensus: As a last resort, try their luck in the language they did not speak. Accordingly they put forth their request in the smattering of Kannada they thought they knew. The young man stood winding the wiping cloth round and round his fingers, staring at them blankly.

Now my friends were exasperated and getting impatient too. They simply had to have the ice-creams. Their friends were depending on them to get it. It was getting late. Desperate they tried mime. I-c-e-c-r-e-a-m? This was followed by actions of eating with a spoon from a cup. No breakthrough.

Friend One threw up her hands in frustration, turned to Friend Two and said in Malayalam: “Ee koranganu ethu bhashayil paranjaal manassilakum?!!!!!!” (Which language does this monkey understand)

And the young man piped in: Enikku Malayalathil paranjaal manassilakum. (I understand Malayalam)

Both of them turned beetroot red with embarrassment. But getting what they wanted, namely the ice-cream bricks, ceased to be a problem from then on.

©Shail Mohan 2018

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