Nishi Malhotra

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Good Evening, Eavesdropping

Good Evening, Eavesdropping

It’s the season for evening walks. Come 7 p.m. and city gardens teem with walkers, talkers, joggers and strollers as everybody — but everybody — comes outdoors “to eat fresh air.” The fat and the fit, the loners and the gossips, the infants and the fogies -- they’re all out there as twilight swallows up the heat of the day and a gentle breeze begins to stir the fauna.

While a typical morning walker is likely to silently meditate on the dawn or knot himself up in yoga exercises, evening brings with it an energy that desires company and conversation. People stroll in pairs and groups and a lone walker like me has plenty of opportunity to eavesdrop (unintentionally, of course!) on tantalising snippets of multilingual conversations. Here are some that I overheard – a few made me smile, others had me concerned, and several had me weaving stories around the sentiment expressed. 

Newly married bride to husband: “Acha aapko jaise apni Mummy achchi lagti hain, to hamein apni Mummy pyari nahin?”

Guy in tight Puma t-shirt to companion: Computer wala bandar to nachta hai...woh kisi par hamla thode hi karega?”

Middle aged lady to her old mother/aunt: “Main jadoon Manchester paunchi, te pata chalya ki o te pehlan hi vya kara ke baitha hai…”

Pregnant bahu with mom-in-law: “..................”

Small boy hanging from tree branch to surprised kid standing below: “One, two, three...I, do, po-tty.”

Three grandfatherly men parked on a bench: “Twade ghar kinne meter lagge ne?

“Mere ghar? Tin.”

“Achcha, ona meteran nu tusi check kara lao….”

Tall, fiftyish Sikh gentleman impressing another Colonel-looking type: “I told the District Commissioner; ‘Why should I take on the headache?’ Karega jidda kam haiga….”

 Teenage girl complaining to disinterested mother:Ghar se bahar to nikalne nahin dete mujhko….”

Trendy young woman with friends: “No, he has to get me the Lancome moisturizers! These local creams don’t suit my skin….”

Energetic mid-thirties man with two girls and wife, talking over his shoulder to old mother trailing behind:Twadiyan dardan sirf exercise naal jaan giyan….”

College boys ribbing a fellow student: “Chance nahi hai. Panch lakh rupaye ka donation hai tere baap ke paas dene ko?”

Pregnant bahu and mom-in-law again: “................”

Prim, grey-haired lady in salwar kameez to very old husband/father shuffling with cane:Hun ais umar wich asi onoo wekhan Vancoover shancoover jaiye?”

Two sweat-soaked, middle-aged, male joggers: “she’s coming (Huff!)....but not regularly……”

Ice cream vendor singing to simpering woman in green polyester sari: Akele hum, akele tum….” 

(This article was first published in my weekly column The Way We Are, in Chandigarh Times, Times of India, in 2001.)

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