Vantage point

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Joke I Took Years To Get

When I was six, my family moved to Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh from Mumbai. My dad's company was building a bridge on the Godavari there. Nothing really earth shattering happened during my year in NTR-Raaj. I learnt to speak telugu, attach "Du" after every word, discover cycle rickshaws and eat rice using as much of my hand as possible. I forgot most of those things, but a few things stayed in my mind. The Paper Mill school, Aryapuram, avakai pickles, etc.

But what held the position of utmost prominence in my mind for many years was a joke that I just could not get. Considering that at the age of six I had just started being identified as a "funny guy" by one and all in school, my complete inability to comprehend this joke was utterly frustrating.

I first heard the joke about six months after we moved to Rajahmundry. My aunt and uncle had come visiting us, and my mom was telling her about life in AP. Then with a wry look on her face, she said to my aunt,

"You know what people here say in telugu if they want to welcome you into their house very respectfully?"

"What?" asked my aunt

"Randi, randi!" (pronounced, obviously run-D, run-D)

And my mom and aunt burst out into peals of laughter.

I stood there confused, all of six and a half years old, wondering what was so funny about it. I had heard so many people say "randi" to each other. What was the big deal? I thought about it for a couple of days, tried to figure out the humour in the situation, but failed. I then asked my mother, but she avoided the topic.

A few months later, we moved to Pune. Whenever we would meet some relatives, friend or acquaintances, this same piece of information would be repeated and much amusement would be derived by all. And I grew more and more baffled as the days passed by. I asked many friends, but they were all equally baffled (all being in the 6-8 years range).

For a few months I was engaged in relentless pursuit of the meaning of that joke. But all my sources proved to be useless. It was becoming increasingly clear that this joke was based on a secret that you learnt only when you grew up.

Eventually I moved on. More important things demanded my attention, like schoolwork, the discovery that my hand-writing was horrible, etc. I don't exactly remember the moment of "epiphany" when I learnt what the word "randi" means.

But yes, I get the joke now. :-P