Excuse me... kya re?

Excuse me... Kya re? Photo from flickr.com
Photo by Jason Krieger/kriegs on Flickr

Excuse me...
Kya re?
Mera dil tere pe fida re...

So the other day I realized how ugly, sterile and hostile the phrase – “Excuse me” is (in Indian context)! Recently I was maneuvering my parents around Hyderabad, showing them the better side of the city. I was once again struck by their flair for striking conversations with complete and total strangers. While I was excusing my self left right and center, they would always start by salutations like, “bhayya ji, bhai saahab, madam, uncle, aunty, didi, beta, babu moshaae, etc.” Now the difference in their approach and mine is, as soon as I say “excuse me” I become an outsider, an alien, external entity. While salutations, such as what my parents use immediately form a relationship. The moment you call some one bhayya, uncle ji, aunty ji etc, you give them respect, you tell them that you recognize their social stature. Such salutations also assure people that you are one of them, and not a disconnected, detached passer by.

In my opinion people use “Excuse me” for some of the following reasons:
- to show they are refined and have at least some knowledge of English language
- because every one else in their environment uses “Excuse me”
- to create/maintain a distance with the person they are talking to
- due to indecision i.e. shall I call him, uncle, bhayya, papa ji? Better be impersonal hence “Excuse me”
- to avoid embarrassment of being stereotyped as a “UP ka bhayya”, “Bhiari babu” etc. if they use their native salutations

I am sure there may be many more reasons, but the point is, its always better to use native salutation as it creates bonds and opens up people. Its sad that we are so hostile to any construct that would expose or link us to our native past and/or culture. We systematically replace beautiful native i.e. Indian words, phrases and language with english. The problem is, language and culture are so tightly entwined that when spoken out of their realm they can at most be functional. So although, one can use the word “hello” instead of “namaste” its not the same thing. Similarly if Englishmen start using Hinid or any other language as their language of choice/pride their conversations will loose all that is rich and warm to them.

So the point is, we must be very careful and vigilant towards how we talk to people and what language we use. Our own languages are rich and beautiful and we should not feel ashamed to use them. Languages have a powerful way of changing our thinking and behavior, they are the sum total of a society/civilizations evolution and intellect. So while english is nice and all, and we should respect it etc. We should also not forget our own tongue warna “excuse me” ka jawab hamesha “kya re” hi mile ga!

Oh, by the way, did I mention, I really really want to learn Sanskrit. I am reading Max Muller's lectures India: What can it teach us.