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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Khana Mat Khao" or In Telugu, Rice = Food?

Thanks to the harsh winter we are having, I have been battling cold, cough, and fever for over a week now. Last night, during a particularly phlegm-infested sleep cycle, I had a dream. A nostalgic dream, I dreamed of something from 28 years ago in Andhra Pradesh. Something that had baffled me for years.

In 1986 when I was 6 years old, my dad was transferred to Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh for a year. A couple of months after we move there, I fell ill. Fever, cold, cough, same as now. My dad took me to the neighborhood doctor (the neighborhood was Aryapuram, if memory serves). The doctor was a native Andhra-ite with a very rudimentary grasp of Hindi. We were Maharashtrians who spoke Hindi but with very little knowledge of Telugu. So we spoke in Hindi.

The good doctor examined me, wrote up a prescription for what I assume were antibiotics (that's the trusted way to treat the flu in India), and then proceeded to give me some dietary advice in Hindi.

Doc: Teen din ke liye, khana mat khao (For three days, don't have any food (or so it literally translates))
Dad: Kya? Kuch bhi nahi? (What? Eat nothing?)
Doc: Nahi nahi, khao. Bread khao, roti khao, dal khao, khana mat khao. (No No, you must eat. Eat bread, roti, dal, but don't eat food.)
Dad & Me: ???????????????????????
Doc: (also confused, but repeating) Bread khao, roti khao, khana mat khao (Eat bread, roti, but don't eat food.)
Dad: Lekin........ bread aur roti bhi toh khana hi hai. (But.....bread and roti is also food)
Doc: (looks at me and dad for a few minutes, thinks, and then suddenly smiles) Rice! Rice mat khao! (Rice! Don't eat rice!)
Dad: Rice?
Doc: Haan, bread khao, roti khao, rice mat khao (Eat bread, roti, but don't eat rice)

Now, the medical validity of the doctor's dietary advice aside, for almost three decades, this incident has been stored in my memory banks. I occasionally remember it and am confused. Today after I had dreamed of it, I thought of an explanation. Maybe in colloquial/spoken Telugu, in some parts of Andhra Pradesh (especially Rajahmndry), the word for rice is similar to the word for food/meal. The good doctor wasn;t exactly fluent in Hindi. So maybe it was a translation error.

So I turned to twitter for answers. Based on the responses I got, the verdict is mixed. Half the people say that the words are indeed used interchangeably. Others disagree.

I don't know. But it was fun to get a humorous blast from the distant past.