Mission Delhi – Uma Parvathy, Indian Coffee House
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Just a few years back, the lady from Kochi was scarcely speaking a single word of Hindi.
But after living in Delhi for a while, Uma Parvathy now navigates easily in her new language, as she deftly orders a mango shake here at the Indian Coffee House. “When I came here to study I wasn’t thinking about Hindi at all,” laughs Ms Parvathy, 26, whose mother tongue is Malayalam.
She was enrolled as an English Literature student at Delhi University’s Miranda House, which meant that Hindi was very far from her mind.
“But then my roommates and new friends all spoke Hindi, and they made fun of me when I gave the language a try with a few broken phrases.” She once referred to a roomie’s boyfriend in the feminine gender, earning her a teasing reply: “Kam se kam mere boyfriend ko to chhod do! (At least spare my boyfriend!)” But they all encouraged her to move ahead with the new language, earnestly correcting her grammar.
And while still studying at university, Ms Parvathy joined an NGO, a job that required her to chat with folks who weren’t comfortable speaking English. She’d tell them: “Look, I’m from Kerala, my Hindi is bad. Please excuse my mistakes.”
That was then. Ms Parvathy now speaks Hindi as well as any Delhiite. “Although! I still get confused whether the gender of a kursi (chair) is male or female!”
But of course, it’s male gender… right?
[This is the 211st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A Hindi speaker’s portrait