Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kannada for the North Indian (Part II): Nada to Kannada

We now present the Spoken Kannada Bootstrap post. This takes you from a non-Kannada speaking person (a Can't-nadiga) to a Kannadiga in a single post. In this, we take advantage of the liberal definition of Kannada in the cities. We will discuss here the minimal disguise needed to pass off as a native speaker.

Wildcard 1: mADi

mADi is the respectful imperative "do" (kIjiyE). Words of any language, when combined with mADi, become Kannada. Scenarios:
  • You are on a bus and wish to get down at a signal; but the door is closed. How do you ask, in Kannada, to open the door? Ans: "Door open mADi."
  • You are a Hindustani-speaking owner of an FM channel. What Kannada slogan do you devise that urges your audience to enjoy themselves with your channel? Ans: "Mast majaa mADi."
  • You are in an autorickshaw and notice your boss a little distance in front of you. How do you harness your indepth knowledge of Kannada in order to avoid him? Ans: Say to the driver, "U-turn mADi!"
You can Kannadise your phrases a little further by throwing in the word swalpa ("a little") as in, "swalpa adjust mADi," or "swalpa A/C reduce mADi."

Wildcard 2: hOgi

hOgi is the respectful imperative "go" (jAyiyE). This is the magic word without which you should not hire an autorickshaw.
  • "Right hOgi."
  • "Left hOgi."
  • "Straight hOgi."
I just realised that, of the languages I can speak, I don't know the native word for "left" or "right" (or even if know the words, am not sure which means "left" and which "right") in a single one.

Wildcard 3: koDi

koDi (the vowel is a short O) is the respectful imperative "give" (dIjiyE). Useful for shopping.
  • "Dairy milk chocolate koDi."
  • "[Your favourite movie] DVD koDi."
  • "Nair, singal cup tea koDi."
You can substantially enhance the Kannada quotient of the koDi-sentences if you know the Kannada numbers. (Click here for a guide.)
"eraDu kilo apple koDi."
If you know the numbers, you can even eliminate koDi sometimes.
"Shivaji Nagar - mUru ticket." (Three tickets to Shivaji Nagar.)


In Kannada, all questions that elicit a boolean response end in the vowel -A. This fact can be exploited as in the following cases:
  • To ask "Is a day-pass allowed on this bus?" -- Bus pass allow-a?
  • To ask "Does this bus go to Majestic?" -- Majestic-a?
  • To ask if lunch/dinner is available at a hotel -- Meals ready-a?
Of course, to understand the responses to your question, you need to know the Kannada for "yes" (haudu) and "no" (illa). And you must now be able to guess what the friendly Udupi fast-food person means when he asks you "Idli sambar-a?"

The A-suffix is also used in framing multiple-choice questions, as below:
  • To ask if someone is coming by bus or auto -- "Bus-a, auto-a?"
  • To find out the mode of payment -- "Cheque-a, cash-a?"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yehudi chala sukhama, Paganini sannidhi seva sukhama

I have read about the Western classical violin maestros: Yehudi Menuhin, Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh and others. Today I was absolutely thrilled when I found their videos on YouTube.

Yehudi Menuhin playing Paganini's Perpetual Motion. It simply takes your breath away.

More Menuhin delights.

Jascha Heifetz playing the Paganini Caprice No. 24.

More Heifetz videos.

I always thought of the violin virtuosi as thin folks with long and lean fingers. With Menuhin and Heifetz, I was proved right. However, when I found David Oistrakh, I realised chubby multi-chinned people could be maestros too.

More videos of the Ranatunga of the violin world.

Other maestros:
* * * *

A couple of days back, I came across the show Italian: The Language That Sings on NPR, which said:
Even when it isn't sung, the Italian language sounds like music...
This programme reminded me immediately of the position of Telugu in Carnatic music. Telugu is also considered a musical language and has been hailed as "the Italian of the East." The poet Subramanya Bharathi famously called it sundara teluGgu.

The musicality of the two languages has been attributed to:
... the fact that most words end in a vowel. Not only does this make it a very suitable language for opera, it also means that once you are familiar with its rhythms, it is a comparatively easy language to pronounce. [Link]
On coming to Bangalore, I observed that Kannada words end in vowels too. Sample:
nArAyaNA ninNna nAmada smaraNeya sArAmRtavenNna nAligege barali [mp3]
Doesn't that sound as sweet? Does it not bleed when pricked?

Probably, their vowel-ending does not fully explain their status as musical languages. On Italian, the NPR programme explains:
So many of these musical forms—sonata, cantata, aria—started in Italy," Hoffman says.

"Plus, Italian musicians were in positions of prestige all over Europe, so it became the lingua franca."

Possibly similar reasons exist for Telugu too?