I had a call at around 9:00 PM. A lady was on the line. She said, "Hello, is it the Doctor?". I replied "Yes". She immediately blurted out, "Good night!". Now this was something special; calling a Doctor just to say Good Night! I too said a polite "Good night".
I was about to hang up when she came around with, "See Doctor, my child had fever this morning...". So this is how I had to understand her. She had called me at night and had to wish me. It wasn't morning, wasn't even evening. So she began with Good night! I just couldn't control my laughter and am laughing nonstop. I just had to share this with you!
I was laughing too. I said, "Well, she probably doesn't know you also can start a conversation with Good evening even at midnight!. But anyway, she was nice and polite". Murli quipped back, "That she was. She was nice!". So I said, "Good then, take care and ... Good night". We both were guffawing before we hung up!
This shared tidbit took me back in time when I was working in a small private hospital in a small town in central Kerala in 1996. I was still new to Kerala those days and had serious problems with Malayalam. My experiments or rather misadventures with Malayalam is a material for a full size non-fiction hardback. I hope to deal with that sometime in future !
We had a fellow Doctor who worked as Resident Medical Officer [RMO] with different hospitals around the place. He was pretty good with his work. He was a 'Freelancing Consultant Duty Doctor' to any hospital that called him and he sure was a much wanted man.
But there was a problem, he was too fond of Malayalam, his mother tongue. I often suspected he hated English the same way Kalaingar Karunanidhi and his cronies hate Hindi. With my limited vocabulary in Malayalam, I preferred to talk in English to all the Doctors. Some of my colleagues didn't like this, but were magnanimous enough to let me continue in English.
People naturally never conversed in any other language but Malayalam in and around Pala. Most of the discussions between Doctors in IMA Scientific Sessions took place in Malayalam. For the uninitiated like me, this was amusing !
One fine morning I saw our friend Doctor outside our bachelor's quarters. Since it was too early in the morning, I asked him, "Hey, so early ! Quite long since we saw each other. What are you up to? Where are you heading to? Are you off duty or on leave? Or do you have night shifts going?".
This series of questions was too much for our man. He never liked this English part of me. He just stared at me and pondered over for as long a time as Shoib Aqthar takes to mark his run up. And then he came out with his deadly bouncer, "I offed and went to house yesterday. Today night I climb night at MMC. Today, tomorrow and tomorrow after tomorrow night. Three days I am night only. Thursday I get down".
If my friends from Karnataka and other parts of the world can't understand the fun, it definitely is not lost in translation. Only a Malayalee can understand this. But all Malayalees will admire me for not laughing out loud in front of him, right then, right there.
Honestly, I had my reasons to remain calm ! Our man was a very well built hulk who could have eaten little me for breakfast. At 7:00 AM, I wasn't sure if he had finished his morning grub !