“Aa se Aam”
“Haa se Haam”
“Ee se Imli”
“Hee se Himli”
“Eeee se Eenth”
“Heeee se Heeeenth”
A little girl’s parrotting of the Hindi alphabet floated through the air, thickened with her flawed accent and the humidity of a Chennai summer. I was reminded instantly of the summer vacation many years ago when my grandparents’ next door neighbour requested me to help his young daughter in her English lessons. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the project. My knowledge of her proficiency in the language meant I was to spend lesser time with my beloved books and siestas meant especially for a long holiday. Eventually though, I took it up most grudgingly.
I don’t remember much of those lessons, except this one particular poem, which I think was titled Dogs.
Her task was simple- she was to memorize the poem from top to bottom, perhaps for some oral revision test of some sort. So one balmy July evening, we seated ourselves on the rooftop of my grandparents’ house; me with her book in hand while she recited away. Word-for-word, here is how it went:
The dawgs Ai knooew,
Hafe meny shaphes,
Fawr sammaaar biggundd taaall,
Und sammaaar smaawwlll,
Und sammaaar theeeen,
Und sammaaar fhat und shaaaarrrt,
Und sammaaar leeteel beets aaf phluphh,
That hafe no shaphe at aaawll.”
I could make out that at parts, she would linger over the visual image of the words she had in her head, and piece them together as she recited. I don’t think she understood what she had been learning, but as her young tutor-friend, I did try to tell her.
I chuckled to myself as I had previously on numerous counts of remembering that evening; turning the corner to the now diminishing sound of that Hindi lesson;
“Haie se Haiinak”….