In the Air Force, it is compulsory to speak Hindi to get a promotion. Commands must be given in Hindi.
So my grandfather, a recipient of the AVSM (Ati Vishisht Seva Medal) had to prove he could speak at least a little Hindi in order to be promoted.
The problem was that he could not speak Hindi.
(For my foreign readers: that happens a lot in the south. Many south Indians – particularly in my grandfather’s generation – find Hindi and other north Indian languages hopelessly difficult. No one around them speaks Hindi; it was not even compulsory to study it in school. Sounds, grammar and gender – they’re all complicated.)
My grandfather was told, “Tell that soldier to come here.”
Proudly, my grandfather said, “Idhar aao!”
“Good! Now send him back there.”
That was a difficult one. My grandfather had no clue how to say ‘back’ or ‘there’. So he did the only thing he could think of doing. He went to the place where the soldier had been standing and said, again, “Idhar aao!”
My grandfather got his promotion.