Saturday, December 1, 2012

Outside Eating Anyone?

When Mallika came to Singapore 25 years ago, she didn't speak a word of English. Employed in a Tamil household, it wasn't a big issue initially. All she needed to learn was enough English to deal with shopkeepers etc. Over the next 12 years, she learned a lot more and could carry out basic transactions everywhere she went, but Tamil was still the language she conversed most in.

Then she came to live with us 13 years ago. English is the only common language in our household, so it required Mallika to extend herself. I remember initially she used to have a tough time expressing any complex idea, but soon she devised ways to be understood and to understand us. The keyword here is "devised", because the English that Mallika speaks is not any English you would hear anywhere. It is not even Singlish. It is something else.

But I am not complaining because I understand her perfectly well and that's all that matters. In fact, I am so used to it that it took mom and Anu on my last DS trip to point out how funny some of what she says is. See for yourself. I had to pay special attention to what she says in the last couple of days to capture some of these.

  • The fish cannot see the color brown stone brown brown. (This is not about color blind fish, but brown-colored fish that can't be seen because their color is so similar to the brown rocks in the water)
  • Otherwise I will switch it off the TV not saying only. (A common threat to Aloka)
  • No problem. We walk walk talk talk. Ok Aloki ma? (Telling me how she will keep Aloka engaged on the walk to the market)
  • Aloki, you eat so much sweet you rolling rolling rolling roller coaster like that. (Talking about sweet-induced hyperactivity- I think)
  • All these coconuts coming die die. (Feeling bad that no one plucks the coconuts from the tree while they are young, and by the time they drop, they are dry inside)
  • She put kutti white mouse soooo small small on Aloki hand and aiyyo kaka already on hand. (Context is Aloka's visit to the small animal farm)
  • Aloka, eat after going to sleep OK? (Setting some candy eating rules for Aloka- means first eat then sleep, though it sounds quite the opposite)
  • You see the below room lights nice. (Appreciating the lighting in the basement of the DS house)
  • Aloki, don't up up pull your skirt, coming small small small.
  • Voice coming different already. (In response to how Aloka was feeling the day she had sore throat)
  • Puja outside eating? (Now that's for you guys to guess! All I can tell is that it's got nothing to do with el fresco dining!)

(Click here to read another post about Mallika:


  1. "Puja today outside eating" - Sounds like she means to say that are you ordering food from outside?

    Whenever I have met Mallika she has always been extremely active, talkative and energetic – very unlike folks of her age. Wonderful person with an extremely positive attitude in life.
    Mammals of any age group (humans or dogs ;p )….she is always excited to interact and spread the joy

    1. Arun, outside eating means "Are you eating out today"?

      She is indeed a wonderful person and a key member of my family. I made her read the post and she was thrilled to be the topic of discussion and said "Puja what to do my English broken broken like that only".