A Newbie’s Adventure

A Newbie’s Adventure

Sixteen years ago Andhra Pradesh, the then undivided state, became my state-in-law. The state was not new to me. I was accustomed to the tales of Tenali Rama and the taste of Hyderabad Biriyani. But marriage did bring many new engagements. Telugu language was one of the more challenging ones. 

I didn’t have much appetite for learning new languages. If babies can manage with their cries and giggles, why can’t I armed with Hinglish. But, being a responsible son-in-law of the state, I did feel obligated. 

“Movies are the best way to master any language”, I told myself.

Since both my better half and her worse half were pursuing higher studies at different locations, with former being in south India, travel by overnight video coach buses gave me a welcome opportunity.

After watching a handful of Telugu movies during my journeys, I found all of them to be alike: the boy fell for the girl, whose gangster brother or father did not approve of the alliance. All family decisions were taken at the veranda with the omnipresent bedridden grandfather. The larger-than-life characters always moved with twenty-odd same model SUVs whose doors invariably opened in sync. Violence erupted and vehicles flew. The hero’s best friend or sibling got killed. In a gory fight, the hero could neutralize uncountable hooligans with dangerous weapons through superhuman acrobatic moves. Proceedings would end with yet another group dance number. 

I lost interest in the monotonies of these movies. Every time I consciously tried to watch to pick the language, I slept.

“Why don’t you stay with our family for a few days? You will pick up the language in no time.” My wife suggested. 

The Telugu TV industry is so evolved that at my in-laws’ home everyone listened to everything including international news in Telugu. Staying with them for a long weekend, I ended up hearing a lot of Telugu, but understanding none.

“How about ‘learn in 30 days’ book?” My brother-in-law gave this idea with a twinkle in his eyes. 

I could not go beyond the first few pages. Instead of Telugu, I ended up revising my basic spoken English.

Looking at my predicament, my mother said, “You learn the script. That may be an easier route for you”. 

“Telugu scripts are more like Jalebis.” I smiled.

“Stay away from sweets. Your dad is diabetic.”

“Mom, actually the script is the stumbling block for a newbie. Had all languages had a common script, it would have been much easier.” I asserted. 

In the meantime, my marital life went smooth. But, I could not pick up any Telugu. 

On second thoughts, I discovered, my illiteracy in Telugu was actually the reason for my marital harmony. 

Thereafter, I chose to remain a perennial newbie to Telugu. ‘Not knowing one’s in-laws’ language is indeed a secret to peaceful marital life.’

Relationships are a fine balance between understanding and ignorance. In case of in-laws, it is better to understand things as much as they want you to.
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