The curious case of Ra-da-ification


Now, you  may ask me what the ‘Ra-da-ification’ in the title means. I feel this is best to explain by means of a simple social experiment.

Call up one of your South Indian friends and ask them to pronounce the name ‘Rathore’. The friend will dutifully pronounce it as Rathore.  Well, yeah, we know our English-Vinglish Phonetics well.

Call up one your North Indian friends (what my twitter brethren would friendly call as an ‘Amit’). He would without hesitation pronounce it as ‘Rathode’. Yes, as in Cathode.

Ah. I see half of my south Indian friends stare in disbelief at the apparent ‘wrong’ pronunciation; and the other half smiles smugly with a ‘been-there-given-up’ look.

When I encountered this for the first time, when I was working in Noida, I, being the freshly minted engineer, tried to use my maximum level analytical capability (however low that may be, but the fullest of it) to try to get to the bottom of it.  This *ahem* curious case of ra-da-ification happens in several words and not limited to nouns (which purists might argue need not be bound by rigid phonetic rules). The one other similar word that still brings a terror among engineering folks from the South to an esteemed college in Uttaranchal – Roorkee. Yes. Roorkee as we all called it, but were shocked to be corrected as Rudkee. Unfortunately, having given up the fight quite a long while ago, I do not remember any non-nouns to list in this blog post today.

I tried asking my Delhi friends about this, since it seemed to be a very Delhi specific thing. But soon, I realized that it is not a geographical problem, but a linguistic problem, that I had set out to solve. Even those who were not from Delhi, but went to their ‘gaon’ for their holidays – aka other folks from North India who worked in Delhi.

Some folks tried telling me that, it is a special kind of ‘da’. But tell me, is the phonetic for the English letter ‘D’ closer to (whatever kind of) ‘da’ or is the phonetic for the English letter ‘R’ closer. My 4 year old will tell me ‘D for ddadadaaada’.

It must also be noted that, not every ra is da-ified. It is slyly made so on in unsuspecting areas. And yes, I did research deep into finding if there are any grammatical rules when I should say it as da vs ra. Is it got to do anything with masculine or feminine? Nope (thank God, that is another of those difficult things in Hindi – A bus is masculine whereas a train is feminine – Dont ask !!). So, does it got it do with nouns only? Nope. At last I thought I found it. It is da only when there is already a ra in the word preceding it – like in Rathore and Roorkee. The hindi fraternity pointed out a few exceptions with ease. Back to head bang time.

I still recall distinctly the day I gave up this fight. It was the day when one of coworkers took pity on me and made this comment —

There are no rules for this thing. It just comes to us over generations. We call it rathode because our grandparents also called it so. It is a neat way for us to figure out the native hindi speakers from the non-native hindi speakers.

Phew, Not only did that prove to me that this was an intractable problem, but also gave me a false sense of bravado. The sense of pride that, some of us were so good at Hindi, that they needed some complex codification solution to figure us out.

There are still some times, when it gets me – like for example – Ninja Hatori is a Japanese comic character that plays regularly on the Pogo channel. When you turn it to Hindi voice over, the great folks at Tata Sky now call it “Ninja Hatodi”. Aaaahhhhhhhhh.  Just for the sake of getting back all of those frustrated moments, I now take sporadic revenge by making my North Indian friends say Vaazha pazham in Tamizh.

Round-off Error Comedy

It was 630AM on a cold wintry day. Well, until you experience anything else (perhaps like the cold wintry 4 deg Celsius days of Noida), even Chennai’s December mornings are cold and wintry. My dad had dropped me off at a decrepit rundown school on Venkat Narayana Road. This was the venue where I endured IIT Maths Coaching torture for 2 years, every weekend.

There was deathly silence. It was test day. One of those tests that left your brain sponge dry after the event. But there was entertainment close by always. There was this jolly chap named Krishna (name changed for obvious reasons). This fellow was attending the classes because his parents were forcing him to. Well, there were several of the guys in that category, but this guy unashamedly accepted it, spoke about it, and planned on how to get himself kicked out by the professor. Now you see, where the entertainment part rolls in.

The professor matched every appearance of how an eccentric IIT Coaching professor should be. Hair unkempt, loose fitting clothes, beard, and several such idiosyncrasies, that you come to expect out of folks in this learned profession.

Now, back to this fine Saturday morning. The professor sighed and wheezed up the stairs, with his question paper set. In his typical manner, he asked the rhetorical question of how prepared all of us were, and of course started the villainous exercise of distributing the papers.  After giving out the question papers, he again gave the toothy grin and asked if any of us had questions. I had one, but I dared not asked this one — why was the paper in Greek, instead of English. I saw very few English alphabets in it).

Our fine friend Krishna raised his hand high proudly, and asked – “Sir, if I score 49.5 on 50 in this paper, would you round the score up to 50?”

The class roared in laughter, but the dear professor was not amused.

—- Fast forward to one week later —-

Same scene as above. Same tension, if not more, since the professor typically gives out the graded scripts fairly quickly. And true to this name, the professor did wheeze up the stairs, with the..graded..answer..scripts.

He came and smiled his toothy smile as usual. He was searching for someone. Why ? Who was he searching for?

And he said – “Where is Krishna ? Ah ! There he is.”

He sighed and said with a wicked smile – “You have gotten 0.5/50. Should I put it as zero or round it up to 1?”

The class roared in laughter. And then was silenced quite quickly thereafter, when we got our papers. Krishna got kicked out after the first year. He was on top of the world. Some of us continued on to the second year. A few of us got into the IITs. No, not me. You kidding? But hey, those were the years.

Saggy pants Saga

Every once in a while, you read a news item which makes you laugh so hard that you fall off the chair.

An Alabama man appears to have deeply offended the fashion sensibilities of an Autauga County judge. LaMarcus D. Ramsey showed up in court Tuesday to enter a plea on a charge of receiving stolen property, but before the 20-year-old could say “undie alert,” he was carted off to the slammer for his saggy pants. Circuit Judge John Bush cited Ramsey for contempt of court for wearing his blue jeans too low and ordered him to spend three days in jail. The judge warned Ramsey that when he gets out, he’d better be wearing pants that fit — or at least put on a belt.