Friday, July 17, 2009

On Being Tik

When I started listening to the Teach Yourself Hindi CDs, I noticed that all the initial conversations were about whether someone was "tik" (okay, fine) or "taka, taki" (tired, in the masculine and feminine).

The characters discuss the long plane ride to Delhi, but then reassure each other "Mai tik hu" (I'm fine)... Ap casi hai? (How are you?).

I concluded that this 14 hr. plane trip and 12 hr. time change would be taxing.

Once in India, however, I found that reassuring people about my status was pretty constant.

Yes, I got soaked in the monsoon but "Mai tik hu."

The overnight train trip was quite a challenge but I'm fine.

It's hot and humid but no problem.

No electricity? Squatty potties with no toilet paper? "Mai tik hu."

One evening we attended a classical performance of Indian music sponsored by NIRMAN on the Assi Ghat (a platform area on steps above the Ganges). See

We sat down at 7 pm but the performance didn't begin until 7:50 after a half hour of tuning the sitar. Actually, I couldn't tell when the tuning ended and the performance began.

Sitar and classical raga singing is an acquired taste.

By about 8:45 pm I was feeling an overpowering desire to lie down (having risen at 4 that morning to see dawn on the Ganges).

I quietly walked from my seat to the shadowy steps and stood listening from there. Then I walked to a darker area, past many sleeping people, and sat down on the step.

Finally I spread out my poncho on the step and lay down. Why not? Lots of other people were sleeping.

I studied the stars and then woke a half hour later to three faces bending over me against a cloud-covered sky.

"Mai tik hu!" I declared, sitting up.

Why did I think a light-skinned tourist sleeping on the ghat at night could pass unnoticed?

As soon as they knew I was all right, they moved away. I reclined again, but twice more I was questioned. I finally sat up and engaged in a long conversation with some young men before returning to the concert as it ended after 11 pm.

The phrase came in handy again as our van was threading Friday rush hour traffic in south Delhi, trying to get back to Suniti's apartment and get three of us to the airport to board return flights to the US.

"Mai tik hu," I told Nita. "I'm fine--we're all fine." We'll probably get to the airport in time for our flights--and if we don't?

"Mai tik hu."

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