Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A lesson in buying garlic

Yesterday I had occasion to run an errand for the farm, Priscilla (wife of Clifton who is the deputy Director) who usually does the cooking for the volunteers was indisposed and Miriam decided to start cooking supper. The cupboard was bare so I was sent off to get a couple of kilos of potatoes and some garlic. Being the savvy, street-smart kind of guy I am, I paused to get the Hindi names for Garlic (I already knew it for potato). You have to be careful who you ask here as the kids have a mish-mash of Hindi and English and speak neither 100% correct so I went straight to the top, asking Ashish, our School Manager who speaks both English and Hindi very well.

Armed with the word “Ardruk” I set off on the motorbike to the nearest Subjee Wallah (vegetable seller). Attempting to use only Hindi in this rare encounter with outside folk I began with “Namaskar, doh kay gee arloo dhanyavad” (Hello, 2 kg potatoes thank you). It worked surprisingly well with the shop assistant diving into a bag and pulling out handfuls of potatoes the size of walnuts. Then I asked for the Garlic “Or cheh piece ardruk” and that’s when things took a turn for the worse – pointing to a large bag near my feet the wallah repeated something or other containing the word “ardruk” which I supposed meant that the garlic was in there, I looked inside to find only ginger. I looked at him and said “nahee, Ardruk” (No..ardruk), he looked at me quizzically and replied “haah…ardruk” (yes…ardruk). To show him he was mistaken I pulled out a piece of ginger and showed it to him triumphantly, expecting him to apologise for his mistake. That was not the case however as by facial expressions, sign language and a barrage of Hindi he let me know in no uncertain terms he thought that I wanted ginger. At this point I gave up on my “Hindi Only” rule and said “Garlic?” He repeated the word but shook his head to indicate he didn’t understand what I meant…this began a long and ultimately fruitless saga where he, the assistant and about 20 others crowded around pointing at different vegetables and saying their name. All the while I kept repeating “Ardruk” which for some reason kept people interested in the ginger. After about 15 minutes I gave up and, after looking at some nearby shops without seeing garlic I scurried home with my tail between my legs…sans garlic.

On arriving back at the ranch I asked Ashish what garlic was called again – “Ardruk” he replied. “I’m sure that’s what I was saying back at the shop” I said ”but they kept pointing me to the ginger!” Ashish’s face dropped and replied “Oh yes, now I remember, ginger is ardruk, garlic is called lesson”.

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