How many people can claim that they taught a foreigner a language? I am writing this post to claim that I did. Well, I did not teach a language but helped someone with it. The only change I need to make in the claim is that in this case, I was the foreigner who taught a native.
I spent an hour and a half with a Japanese lady today, correcting her English grammar. She volunteered to learn from me, and I was flattered. I would have planned the teaching session properly and in a civilized way but it wasn’t going to be that way. Yesterday, Hayashi Aunty, as we call her, proposed that I help her with a letter she is writing. I was more than willing. I was flattered because I haven’t known her for too long and she thought it fit to ask me. After all, watashi wa Eigoga wakarimas. It means: I understand English.
As I was saying, I had thought of making the session proper but it wasn’t meant to be. I woke up this morning to bid my husband bye and thought that I wouldn’t go back to bed after that. So, I had my breakfast and sat in front of the computer to attend to the chores in the virtual world. After a couple of hours of sincere work, I needed some entertainment. I watched SATC for an hour and a half before dozing off. Well, I was in deep sleep when the bell rang. The bell rang in my dream and I dreamt on. When the bell rang again after half an hour, and that too, continuously, I realized it wasn’t a dream.
I gathered myself out of the bed to find my neighbour at the door. She told me that Hayashi Aunty would visit me for the planned lesson.
Sleepily, I asked, “When?”
“Now,” she said.
Oh my god, I am not ready. I had invited Aunty to my place yesterday offering her Indian food. And I realized I had NO food ready at my place. Not that it was the focus of the meeting but I was already embarrassed to realize I looked untidy and bad. Plus, there was no food I could offer to Aunty. I could just tie my rebellious hair and put my breakfast plate in the sink when the bell rang again.
After half an hour of grammar corrections, not that her letter needed much, we chatted. I offered her tea. She asked for black tea. No milk, no sugar. As I was pouring the black fluid in the cups, I remembered some salted peanuts lying in my kitchen cabinet. You will not believe how relieved I felt. This was less embarrassing than just two cups of black water!
So, while we spoke about the English language and the Japanese culture over tea, I remembered that she had visited India once. I asked her about that. She spoke about the people and not much about the place. Evidently, she was pleased with the way people in India, Bangalore, to be precise, treated her.
Hayashi Aunty was met by an Indian family, my husband’s colleague’s family, in a supermarket in Japan some three years ago. Somehow, the meeting resulted in deep international bonding. Hayashi Aunty became friends with all the Indian families related to my husband’s office here. She went on to provide her help with the necessary interactions one needed in this country. She would accompany anyone visiting the doctor and feel happy to be the interpreter. She would throw parties for the Indians here and be a part of theirs. I had heard a lot about her from my neighbour even before I met Aunty. My neighbour has a two-year old son and she tells me that Aunty used to bring her food and take her to the doctor when she expecting. I could see the strong bond between them. Aunty visited India for my neighbour’s son’s baptism. That, definitely, is a strong bond.
Coming back to today, I offered to show Aunty some pictures of our house in Bangalore and our Durga Puja trip to the West Bengal village. I must say that I simply adored the way she noticed the details in the picture. She complimented my brother and my father-in-law.
She said I was ‘butifur’. Well, there is no ‘L’ in Japanese. An ‘L’ is usually replaced by ‘R’. She called me ‘butifur’ more than a couple of times and won me over.
Aunty is 73. An amazingly active lady at her age, she made me feel so comfortable I did not feel she was from another country. I could actually converse with her. She does not understand everything I say, neither do I, but both of us try. She is taking English language classes.
She told me that she felt ‘ronery’ and sad to hear that I was not going to stay here for long. I felt good to hear that. There was some bond developing.