Vegam Vegam Malayalam

Lesson #5

Autorickshaw Phrases

Just before you get into the autorickshaw, the driver may (according to Arundathi Roy's The God of Small Things) "click his ticket-puncher." Alternatively (more commonly), he (usually the driver is male) may just ask: 

engngOTTaa?                                            Where to?                                        BG? Listen!

Or, if you're in the Central Kerala, they may ask something like:

njnjengngTaaN(u)?                                 Where are you going now?                    BI? Listen!

Either way, just tell him where you're going. These may be some handy phrases you could use:

...eviTaaNennarriyaamO?                Do you know where...is? ...߿K? Listen!

...arriyaamO?                                        Are you familiar with...?                        ...? Listen!

vazhi                                                            the way                Listen!

If you want to ask the driver if he's familiar with a particular road, just say the name of the road followed by the word arriyaamO?

kaTa                                                             store/shop              Listen!

chantha                                                        market                L Listen!

At markets, you can buy anything. If you're thinking of going to the market before another destination, don't be surprised if the market is being held at that other destination! (Markets are often held near people's homes.)

kaLL(u) shop                                                bar, alcohol shop         UM Listen!

These bars are ubiquitous in Kerala. However, they're not really like the regular kind of bar you find in the West, with beer and wine. In fact, beer and wine are practically unheard of in Kerala. The drink made here is what Malayalees call kaLLu, also known as "toddy" in Indian (and perhaps British) English. "Toddy" is, more or less, the fermented juice of a certain flower found on coconut trees (and yes, it is alcoholic!). 

hOspital                                                    hospital                               xW Listen!

aaSuthri                                                    hospital                d Listen!

Both of the above words mean the exact same thing and are equally understood, although aaSuthri may be the preferred word used by most Malayalees. If you're reading the Malayalam script, note that, although aaSuthri is spelled aaSupathri, the /pa/ is usually omitted in everyday, spoken Malayalam.

bOrma                                                   bakery                           V Listen!

The above word literally means "oven" in Malayalam and comes from Portuguese formo (thanks/sorry, Appa and Achicha!). My dad claims that the bread there used to be very sweet, but then this new, "modern" bread started selling, although it tasted horrible! (My mom adds that no one at her school would willingly eat the new bread.) 

irrachchikkaTa                                    butcher's                                                 A Listen!

palacharakkukaTa                            grocery store             ܺAᵿ Listen!

Normally, a "grocery store" sells dry foods, such as rice and flour (although not bread!). If you want to buy fruits and vegetables, you can probably find them fresh at the market or peddled on the street. There are some small stores specializing in fruits and vegetables, but my parents don't seem to remember just what they're called...

marunnukaTa                                    pharmacy                 Kᵿ Listen!

thuNikkaTa                                         clothing store               A Listen!

If you want to go to a jewelery store, just ask for the jvallazhs (jeweler's; b). Listen!

That's probably about everywhere you might need to go (if you don't know what street they're on)! Now, before you even step into the autorickshaw, you might want to decide on the price so the driver doesn't cheat you. On the other hand, if you want to be more generous or something, you can let him cheat you (this wasn't my idea!):

ethraa?                                                How much?                d? Listen!

...ruupaa                                               ...rupees                 ... Listen!


(Above left) A one-rupee note; (Above right, clockwise from left) Two coins of 10 paise, a 20-paise coin, and a 50-paise coin. In India, there are 100 paise to one rupee. The singular form of the word "paise" is "paisa."

Sari.                                                        OK.                    . Listen!

sammathichchu.                                    Agreed.               Nߺ. Listen!

If you want to bargain on the price, try using these phrases:

...ruupaa tharaam.                     I'll give you...rupees.           ... ޢ. Listen!

...ruupaa pOraayO?                   Isn't...rupees enough?      ... ? Listen!

athu kuuTuthalalle!                        That's expensive!        ! Listen!

The driver may respond with phrases like these:

vENTaa (saarrE).                            No (sir).                          I (). Listen!

ath(u) pOraa.                                That isn't enough.                        . Listen!

...vENam.                                        I want/need...                                             ...â. Listen!

When you get to your destination, you may have to get the driver to stop:

iviTe nirthth!                                    Stop here!             VJ! Listen!

iviTe nirththaNam.                            Please stop here.       VJâ! Listen!

And, finally, the matter of paying him:

thENTE!                                               Here you go!              I! Listen!

Sometimes, even if you already agreed on the price beforehand, the driver may try to cheat you. If this happens (and you don't want to be cheated), these phrases may come in handy:

...rupaayO?                                           ...rupees?               ...? Listen!

athengnginaa?                                    How can that be?          B? Listen!

nammaL vila sammathichchillE? Didn't we agree on the price?  NZ Nߺ? Listen!

If he looks like he's getting angry, just pay him and say, "Bye-bye!" in plain English. He'll understand that much. 

Now, how about a trip to the market?