the Hindi saved me

So this is kind of off the usual subjects.

And kind of, as usual, not.

My Hindi saved me today.

Now to understand the absurdity of that, you have to understand that I have not spoken Hindi with any kind of regularity for over a decade, and have never ever been proficient, much less fluent.

To understand the logic, you must know that I am in Portugal.  And I speak a little French, but no Portugese except please and thank you.

So today, I decided to have an adventure.  And in adventuring, I walked to the next town over, which is farther than I expected.  I bought a real fish (pictures posted tonight, probably) with its guts still in (and then when they offered to clean it I said yes), and some cilantro and savoy cabbage.  And then I needed a taxi back to my hotel so I would have time for lunch before class.

Only I don’t speak enough Portugese to ask for a taxi.  And the helpful people and I couldn’t pantomime sufficiently.  So…I was in a pickle.

I was looking around for some way to figure out the taxi problem.  The center of town, where I believe there is supposed to be a taxi stand, was nowhere to be found.  One sign pointed left, and the other pointed right.  But there was no taxi stand or anything else in the middle.  The lady at the restaurant didn’t understand my interpretive dance.  There were very few people on the street.  And it was about to rain.

And lo!  There it was!

A tiny little Indian market.

So I went in and looked around. It mostly carried regular Portugese stuff–cookies and bottled water and so on–but they man at the counter looked Indian.

So I asked,

“Ap Hindi boliye?”

Do you speak Hindi?

(It’s a badly constructed sentence.  But I KNEW it had enough of the right words in the right places to be understood.  More than I could say for my Portugese.)


(yes.  In Portugese.  Whew.)

Hum ko chaiye ek taxi.

(I want a taxi.  I think that sentence is even constructed right.)

He asked where to.  I had to ask him to repeat it.  I don’t remember how to say it in Hindi, but he did.

I told him.

He told me there’s a bus… and then realized that I really just wanted a taxi.

He called me a taxi.

And while I waited, I bought Indian groceries–spices, chickpea flour, and dal.

When it came, I ran out and hopped in, calling “Obrigado!” over my shoulder, just as it started to rain.

Thank you.  Thank you shopkeeper, thank you taxi driver, thank you serendipity or universe or happy coincidence.  Thank you for my trip to India; thank you for playfulness and creativity and for the fresh fish and food I now have for dinner.

Who knew?

Hindi.  In Portugal.

You really never know.