How come when the whole world and their uncle speak good English, nobody is surprised, but when a Malayali speaks proper unaccented English, it’s treated like the 8th wonder of the world?
Twice yesterday, by two different people, I got this. “You’re a mallu? But how come you don’t have any mother-tongue influence??!” “I’m sure you wouldn’t have studied in Kerala! There’s no other way you can speak such good English and Hindi.” And when I say that I studied in a KV, they’re like “Aaah!! That explains it!” like they cracked a very difficult code.
When I came to Hyderabad, same story. Scores of people have asked me this. It’s like the biggest puzzle of the century for them.
I mean, seriously, what is with people?? We’re not all that bad ok. Sure, maybe some of us do say Ungil for uncle, andy for aunty, mengey for monkey, wonly for only, vaater for water, etc, but we are not the only ones in the country who have bad accents and the so-called mother-tongue influence. I’m not going to mock anyone else because then I’ll be labeled a racist, but let me tell you, I’ve been called Dibiya instead of Divya by quite many people, none of them Malayalis. I know of people who’ve said Phuck (with an aspirated ‘p’ sound) instead of ‘fuck’. Loads of people have asked me whether mallus eat ‘fis’ every day or not. Have I laughed at any of them? Have I made fun of their language? Well, maybe behind their backs, ya. But never to their faces! I’ve never asked a north-Indian or a Kannadiga why they don’t have an accent while speaking English. And I’ve never heard anyone else also asking a person with good English, who’s not from Kerala, how they speak unaccented English. Why is that not a surprise? Why is it a surprise only when it comes to us?
If we speak in Malayalam, people say that it sounds as though a lot of stones have been put in a steel tumbler and is being shaken. Or that it sounds like I’m abusing someone. And if we speak in English, that also comes under scrutiny. Give us a break, dammit! Four years of being in a non-mallu land, and I’ve heard enough and more about my mother tongue. Well, let me tell you something. Not every Malayali speaks and dresses like LolaKutty. If that’s the image you have in your mind, it’s time you made a visit to our land. I’ve even been mistaken for a North Indian because I don’t have curly hair or don't walk around with coconut oil in my hair. They think we wear only Kerala sari or pattu-pavada. Times have changed. Why do you think only Kerala is stuck is the Stone Age?
And you know something else? We make an effort. Yes, you read it right. Our accent may not be great, but at least we make an effort to speak another language. I’ve been in Hyderabad for four years, and now I can understand Telugu, and speak a bit of it. And that too without any accent. A friend of mine, who’s married to a Telugu guy, speaks Telugu as fluently as she speaks Malayalam. How many of you non-mallus, working or settled in Kerala, have made an effort to learn Malayalam? I can bet not many. Because you claim it’s very difficult. Which is true.
Wait a sec! Now I get it! THAT’s why you make fun of our English!! Because you just can’t get the hang of our language! You’re just plain jealous. :)
I started out ranting, but feel much better now. Yes, I’ve cracked the code.
Next time anyone asks me how come I ‘don’t have mother-tongue influence’, I’ll ask in return “Why do YOU have a bad accent?” Or if that person doesn’t have an accent, I’ll ask them the same question in return, “How come YOU don’t have an accent?”
It’s time for some revenge. Bleddy!