Thursday, June 17, 2010

Overheard in a "Steel Kadai" in Bangalore

This one was one of those quaint little shops whose shelves were
crammed with stainless steel pots and pans, plates and glasses, idli
stands, pressure cookers and the ubiquitous Corelle tea-sets. Steel
buckets and some large drums were crammed at the entrance and rows of
shinning ladles of assorted shapes and sizes were bunched together on
the sides of the shelves with coir ropes. Also crammed into the shop
were the Proprietor and his two assistants as well as a young boy of
about 11 or 12 who served as a general dogs body.

The proprietor had shiny obviously dyed hair slicked down with copious
amounts of coconut oil. He was dressed in a white shirt and a equally
pristine white dhoti. He had just finished sticking agarbathi sticks
into a bunch of bananas on a little ledge that held a idol of Ganesha
and a garlanded photograph of his deceased father when I walked in to
buy an idli stand.

As I stood waiting for one of the assistants to unearth the elusive
stand in the size I was looking for, I saw a middle-aged lady walk in
with a tall girl.

Proprietor to Lady: Vanakkam …Soukiyama? {Welcome and How do you Do?}

Lady: Vanakkam Saar … (pushing the girl forward) – idho ival namma
pona wala mara magazh ( Let me introduce you to my future

Proprietor: Romba Santosham…neenga yaar uda “would-be” – US le irraka
paiyyana? {That’s great …are you the US guy’s intended?}

Lady: Illae…illae … avan chinnava … ippotha padikirthiku poi
irrakaan. Ival naama Ravi --- adho UK le irukanae ---avanwuda Mrs.
{No, no the US guy is too young he has just started studying there.
This girl is for our Ravi who is in the UK}

Proprietor: Adhu seri? Kalayan yeppo vechirkeengo? {Oh I see.
When’s the wedding?}

Lady: Aduthu maasam… appotha Ravi ki leave kadikirithu. 17th vara
pora – kalayano – 23rd – choultry kadikilae athanala Gateway hotel le
arrange pannirko. { Next month coz that’s when Ravi will get leave.
He’s arriving on 17th and the wedding will be on 23rd. We couldn’t
get a Banquet Hall at such short notice and therefore the wedding will
be at the Gateway hotel}

Proprietor: Very good. Romba Santosham (to girl) Unga pear yenna ma?
Bangalore karan ah? { That’s great …what’ s your name? Are you from
Bangalore as well?}

Girl: Naan Vaishali ... namba yella Chennai karan…nethuktha ingae
vande. { I’m Vaishali, we are from Madras – I just came in last

Proprietor: (Before he can stop himself) – Aiyo --- kalyanathaku
munnadiyae mamiyaar veetlae thangirkeengla. {What the… you are
already living with your in-laws even before you are married?}
(suddenly realizing he sounds so crude) – Excellent, excellent – athu
seri neenga yenna padchitirkeengu? {Excellent, excellent – what have
you studied?}

Girl: Naan engineer.

Proprietor (with a knowing grin) – ah Software ah?

Girl: Illae – Civil.

Proprietor: (grin replaced with a puzzled look) – Appo Raviyoo Civil
thane? {Is Ravi a Civil engineer too?)

Girl: Illae – avar MBA pannikara – ippo periya Financial companylae
valae paathitirkaaru. (No, he’s completed his MBA and is currently
working with a reputed Financial firm)

At that point my own idli stand was finally found and I was forced to
tear myself away and focus on business at hand. I did manage to hear
some stuff in between that told me the girl had come to buy some
tumblers (glasses) and they spent a long time in making their
selection. By then my transaction was complete and I walked away with
this little episode etched in my memory.

Out here if I wanted to buy some crockery I would head to some
soulless chain store, pick out what ever is placed on the shelf with
no friendly salesman to discuss the merits of “it may have a nice
design but the steel is low-grade” or “that set is excellent and our
overseas customers have no problems putting it in the dishwasher”. If
I am not happy with my purchase I can always return it to the grumpy
looking customer service rep with an attitude to match. She couldn’t
care less whose marmagazh I was unless of course I happened to be
Jennifer Aniston!


1) The "steel kadai" is a mom and pop store that stocks and sells stainless steel utensils, cutlery and crockery

2) Tradition dictates that a bride-to-be may not enter or step into her in-law's house until the wedding ceremony is over. In fact there is a special ceremony to welcome the newly wed into her new house. A few generations ago - the date and time of the bride entering the house used to be picked out some 15 to 20 days after the wedding ceremony!!

3) Hopefully my "Tamil" rendering makes sense - methinks it may be slightly better than Aishwarya mouthing dialogues in "Raavannan" - lets wait and see.


  1. your tamil not only makes sense - it gets a thumbs up too! :)