There are just some things in Urdu/Hindi that I will never get. Sadly, many of them I won’t even notice because they are layered cultural references or belong to specific regional accents, and I don’t even catch them. So they are lost on me. Sometimes in a foreign language there is what you understand and there is what people are really saying…and you as a non-native speaker cannot judge the discrepancy between the two. This happens due to a simple lack of acuity with second language listening comprehension skills related to level and proficiency, but also due missed to cultural cues. Other times, you catch the cue and realize there is some deeper meaning at work, but don’t get the reference as a cultural oustider. Some cultural references crop up again and again. But I never ask about them or google them because it would be awkward to stop a group of people in the midst of their chuckle filled conversation just to ask “Who is Mugambo?” “Mugambo KYON itna khush hua?” And in my busy day filled with sporadic net surfing, the name Mugambo never pops into my brain. And so I don’t remember Mugambo until someone mentions this mysterious name again!
Still, I start to paste pictures together. Light bulbs go off months after I hear an expression or cultural reference because its meaning finally becomes clear to me by some uncanny incident or occurence. A realization sinks in. Silently, I will affirm to myself: “Oh, so that’s why he said so-and-so looks like a Pashtoon film star in that outfit.” “Ah hah! So this is a mutiar!” I will know where someone is from when they say “Mereko udhar-ich mila.”
I become ‘in the know’ in that ungainly way of a non-native speaker. It would be too silly for me to use such expressions myself…I would feel disingenuous. I am too much of an “FOB” so to speak. I would be like the guy who says “That is a sucks, yaar!” Instead of “that sucks.” How long would my husband have to live in Texas to be able to say y’all? My New York dialect speaking parents don’t say y’all after 30 years in Texas. Can a des-raised Pakistani say y’all if he has Pakistani-accented English? Is that okay? Does it sound phony? Do you see what I mean? Maybe my husband will love the Texan accent and go Southern all the way when we move there. Yee-haw. He has a des-raised cousin in another Southern American state who has a very interesting convent educated Pakistani English-small town Southern American English accent combo. I think he says y’all. Anyway, I still don’t feel proficient enough to actually use such references or special expressions unless there is some humor in the fact that a foreigner is saying them (maiN teri aisi ki taisi kar doongi!!!), but at at least I will know what the heck the references mean.
And so I keep building my repertoire.
Guess what? There is a blog post that explains Mugambo! If only I had known before. But then I feel sheepish, googling up Mugambo, watching Mugambo youtube videos, just so next time I will ‘get it’ when someone says “Mugambo khush hua.”