There is a poem by Kuvempu(*1). The poet dreams that he is dead. He is looking around to find his final resting place. He finds many boards in all languages pointing towards heaven. Suddenly he comes across a board in Kannada(*2), pointing towards hell.
Being a great lover of Kannada, he decides that if a board in Kannada points towards hell, it cannot be a bad place to be in, after all. Whatever the poet’s intentions were, I tried to figure out a reason for the board only in Kannada pointing towards hell. It finally occurred to me. Nobody murders his or her own mother tongue like we Kannadigas do. That is matricide of sorts. So we deserve to be in hell. Don’t we?
There was this Kannadiga gentleman in Bangalore, who had a guest from England. He had arranged to take this guest around and show him the sights. The day before the proposed trip, his boss called up and said that there was an emergency and he had to be at the factory the next day. The host decided to ask a friend to take his place and escort the guest. When he explained the situation to the friend, the visitor commented that he understood all that he had said and that there seemed to be a lot of English in Kannada!
The explanation must have run something like this, with the words in Italics being in English and the rest in Kannada. Hey, I had told you last week that I have a guest from England. I had planned to take him and show him Bangalore. I had made all arrangements. I have booked a taxi. But, Just now, my boss phoned me and said that there is an emergency at the factory and I should go there immediately and that my leave is cancelled. So could you please accompany my guest and show him Bangalore.
That should give you an idea of the number of English words used.
Let us take a look at some advertisements. “simpallaagi cellular aagiri” (Go cellular – simply) exhorts one. “Simply talk maadi” (Just talk) exhorts another. “Simply hellige hogi”(Just go to hell!), I feel like telling them.
There was one that beat them all. "Drishtiyonde saaladu, beleyoo bennu bidadu"! I had to struggle for hours to decipher that one. Translated literally, it means, “Sight alone is not enough. The price too, does not stop following you”. I like puzzles. So I persevered and it dawned on me, eventually. It is a translation, atrocious translation needless to say, of something like “Looks alone are not enough. The price won’t let go too.”
Transplanting English words like time, urgent, rice and salt into Kannada sentences is unpardonable. There is no need to look for Kannada words for car and bus. But asking for a spoonu (*3) of saltu is unpardonable.
As far as I know, we are the only people among whom you find many who are proud to say that they do not know Kannada. Tell a Kannadiga that his English is bad and he will be terribly insulted. Tell him his Kannada is bad, you will find a man achieving the impossible. Looking embarrassed and proud at the same time!
Ah! If you do not like this post, don’t bother asking me to go to hell. As a Kannadiga I perhaps will, eventually.
Notes for non-kannadigas:
1. Kuvempu: Poet laureate of Kannada, a Jnanapeeth award winner. Full name is K V Puttappa, and the Initials, written in Kannada would be Ku. Vem. Pu. Which became his pen name.
2. Kannada – the language of the state of Karnataka, and a person who hails from this state is called a Kannadiga
3. To Kannadise an English word, just add a u at the end. (To Telugufy it, add oo ;--) That is a different story and is perhaps grist for another post.)