Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Linguist

I was assigned to man the classifieds section of the newspaper that day. It was a peaceful setting, and one, where I thought I could work on some ideas for an Op-Ed piece that I had promised my editor I’d deliver within the week. As I was writing and striking off ideas that were popping in my mind, I was interrupted by a group of youngsters who appeared in front of my desk.

The guy in the center introduced himself and his friends to me and said to me that he wanted to post an obituary in the next day’s newspaper about his grandfather’s brother who passed away a few hours ago and he inquired if I could direct him to the right section.

“You are at the right place” I said. Pushing a pen and piece of paper towards him, I said, “Do write down the matter to be published and hand it over to me. You can pay the fees at the counter on the ground floor.”

No soon as I had pushed the pen and paper towards the group, their faces lost the ring of purpose with which they had come in. His face switched to reflect a confused state and his peers were looking at the ceiling and floor of the building with a new found esoteric interest.

“I do not know how to compose in Malayalam sir. I studied in an English medium establishment.”
Aah so this explained the tectonic behavioral shift of the group.

“Not a problem. You can compose it in English, I will translate it into Malayalam for you and give it inside.”

Now, the expression on their faces switched to chaos. One of his friends muttered from behind, “Hey man, do what they want and then come back down. We’ll wait outside, near the car park.”

Before the young man could open his mouth, his friends around him vanished. And he was back to staring at me, with a flushed look at my face. It was starting to dawn on me the reason for this unique group behavior. Neither himself nor any of his mates was confident enough to draft the same in English as well, the language over which they supposedly command over!

As he stood before me coyly, with his feet drawing imaginary circles on the floor below, my face betrayed no emotion. “What’s the matter?” I asked, feigning innocence.

“Please excuse me sir, I just remember I have an urgent chore to attend to. I’ll compose the matter from home and be back shortly.”

Saying this, he turned back and almost ran away from my presence.

I caught the back side of his T shirt when he retreated out of sight. It read “I was born intelligent but education ruined me.”

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