Archive for February 19, 2004

27 Zilhaj 1424 And today, for your amusement, a…

27 Zilhaj 1424

And today, for your amusement, an interesting story from a little while back.

While talking to a friend I was reminded of my first brush with think accents. Two very different sets within a span of nine hours (Yes). It was on my flight from Karachi to New York via Manchester. When we got down from the plane in Manchester I realized that I was in England (Wait for the importance of this issue). No, no, it was a very big thing for me to be in Britannia. I also knew what I had to do, since I was on English soil. Oh. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about – I had to go and buy a Lilliput Lane house or other structure. I found the perfect cottage and went to the counter. I asked for the price. The gentleman said something. Now I was pretty sure it was not English. So I told him that I can only speak English or Urdu and what was it worth. He made a longist reply. During the course of which I checked for different languages. Something to the tune of English-No French-No Urdu-No Persian-No Arabic-No (It was a long sentence). I was at Arabic when I realized that this will not do (Hey you! at the back! Stop making fun of me! I can differentiate between these languages). I thought he was using Gaelic of Welsh and I decided to take matters into my own hands. We started writing on paper to communicate. His first sentence was “You dont understand my accent”. We decided paper is better. But I did one thing. I used all my reserves of vocabulary to show to him that I do know English. A simple transaction took about 15 minutes. I always blamed my English until recently when I was told that the Mancunian accent is nasty.

After seven hours.

Haggard, tired and extrememly capably of chewing the heads of sabre tooth tigres I entered JFK International Airport in New York City. The initial greeting was a series (and I mean ad nauseum) of long passages. Completely white and with no openings. The feeling inside me grew a bit more. Then we finally reached immigration. The lady there said something. I looked at her. I am sure I must have had an impression of bewilderment to shame the best of actors. She immidiate said something else. I was in shock and panic. I realized that there may have been a couple of English words in there. But I had no idea what she was saying. To which I tried to talk to her. To my surprise she understood me perfectly when I was saying “I can’t understand you” “I can’t understand you”. By this time all the frightening prospects started to hit me. I was told that the immigration people are tough and that I will not get a long enough visa if I mess anything up. By now I was half way to a nervous breakdown. My sister intervened. She talked to the lady. Then they passed a flurry of notes. All the while I sat there and cursed her odious accent and her lack of an education.

Thank God the same did not occur on my return journey. Of course living in the US for 2 months helped.

A regular reminder that my Urdu blog is here. Where I have started to try to teach Urdu as well.