While most Chinese are trying to figure how I am Indian, some colleagues at work are trying to dissect my Chinese ancestry. They are hell bent on making me prove, that I am indeed of Chinese descent.
“You are Chinese!” exclaimed one colleague, as he started yakking with me in Mandarin, at the speed of 100 words per minute. I, of course, didn’t get a word of what he said.
“Haaaah...so you don’t understand or speak Mandarin, aaahhh?” chuckled my colleague.
I explained, “I do not speak Mandarin, but I can understand a lot of it because my dialect is similar. However, for that you need to talk at half your pace.”
“If you don’t speak Mandarin, what do you speak?”
“I speak Hubei khwa (loosely translated, it means I speak the Hubei dialect)”, I said.
“Ok then, we will find someone from Hubei to converse with you,” he said.
A few days later, I happened to drop by that colleague’s department again, and he promptly called me over. When I went up to him, he called upon a reporter who was doubling up as a copy editor, for that day.
Pointing to the reporter-copy editor, my colleague said, “He is from Hubei, a proper Hubei person from Wuhan (its capital). Now, he can talk to you…”
Turning to him, my colleague insisted, “Say something to her in Hubei khwa.”
“Kao Mo Seeh?” the reporter-copy editor said.
“What? Say it again,” I told him. He repeated but I didn’t understand.
“What did you say?” I asked him.
“It meant, ‘What work do you do?’”
I said to him, “But in our language, we say it as ‘Ni chao sung sih?’”
By this time, a few other colleagues had gathered around to get their dose of amusement for the day.
The reporter-copy editor asked me, “Are you from Wuhan or from another county in Hubei? You know, the Hubei dialect in the north and even other parts of the province differ from that in Wuhan.”
I smiled at him and said, “I don’t know which county I come from. I just know that my great grandparents were from the Hubei province.”
The crowd laughed...
By this time, I was tired of their ragging and so I said, “This is the first time I have ever come to China, forget the province and the county I hail from! I am Indian and I just look Chinese!!!”
My colleague who started this whole prattle, laughed and said to me. “Ok, find out which county you are from and we will find a person from your county.”
In retrospect, I should have told him, I speak Indian Chinese.
Now, let me see him getting someone who can speak that dialect!!!