Monday, December 27, 2010
School Concert Sideshow
The concert went off fine, not as untuneful as I had expected, but the sideshows were more entertaining. I had plonked myself in the middle of a row to the mid-left facing the stage, while another desi mom appeared to have done the same in the row before mine. As others walked up, staking claims to more and more seats with jackets, purses, and scarves to mark their territory, she thought the better of her seat and got up to ask me if the one next to mine was available, and sat down.
Barely five minutes later, another desi lady moved into the row behind and started up a loud conversation with my neighbor in what sounded largely like Hindi to me, until the generous references to 'Mian' cued me in to the fact that they were speaking in Urdu. At some point, another friend of mine stopped by "Eppo vandel?" ( 'When did you arrive?', in Tamil, to which I naturally responded in Tamil), moving back to her seat on the other side of the theater after a brief exchange.
My neighbor didn't bat an eyelash, continuing with softer responses to her loud friend behind us. They made free with all and sundry in their conversation, ranging over after-school activities for their kids to flaws real or perceived in what their Mians did or didn't do.The decibel level was getting so high, that the people in front turned to look at us, me sitting there silently, trying hard not to laugh, my neighbor and Mrs.Loudvoice. From the expression in their eyes, I wonder if they were annoyed at the loudness or the fact that it was in a language unintelligible to them. Maybe they were considering alerting Homeland Security, for all I know.
It was getting harder not to laugh out loud, and I did chuckle audibly while continuing to eavesdrop (not my fault, of course, it is impossible not to overhear when the dialogue is right next to your ear.). At which point, my neighbor and her friend suddenly realized that I could understand what they had been saying. The lady behind looked miffed, my neighbor a little less so. I suspect that she may have been having a hard time with generating enthusiastic responses to her friend's comments. "You can understand Urdu?", she asked, as it dawned upon her that just because I spoke a different language didn't preclude the possibility that I might know their language.
"Yes, Hindi actually, but I can probably follow 90% of your Urdu."
The conversation continued, a little more muted in tone and tenor, now that they knew that I could understand, and it stopped entirely as the school band and orchestra took to the stage for their first item.
The concert proceeded with very little ado, ended on dot, and everybody heaved a sigh of relief as they collected their budding geniuses from the stage and headed back home.
My entertainment for the evening was gone with the crowd.