LanguageMy struggles with

As befits a teacher of English, I have a keen interest in language, always have had. Whenever I plan to travel somewhere, the first thing I do is try to pick up a smattering of the language. Sometimes, it can be the spur to travel: a chance find in a secondhand bookshop, 'Teach Yourself Persian', led to my later trip to Iran. Even a handful of simple phrases can help make the travelling smoother, as well as break the ice with people along the way.

I can't say I got very far with Hindi. Maybe a little further with Urdu, essentially the same language, but I tackled it first through the written form, which uses the same arabic script as Persian, simpler (if less beautiful) than the inscrutable curlicues and washing line of the Devanagari script of Hindi.

The following pages detail some of my travails with the local dialects, including Inglish (Indian English), which was often as cryptic as Hindi, Kanada, Tamil, or any other languages of the subcontinent.

The following are the articles in this section.

  » How to say 'GPO'

  » The origins of 'juggernaut'

  » Some basic Tamil

  » Two butters

Read on...

Read the first article in the series, how to say 'GPO'.

"General Post Office?" I ask the first rickshaw man, enunciating the words as clearly as I can. The GPO, in the heart of the Hazratganj area, is about the only real landmark in central Lucknow, a tall clumsy building set in large grounds, with a statue of Gandhi outside. My guesthouse is only a stone's throw away. For all my care, however, the rickshaw man doesn't understand me. He gives me a blank stare, a forlorn shake of the head. I try the second one. "General Post Office? On Vidhan Sabha Marg?" The same blank look. He shows me his tumbledown, betel-stained teeth, a hopeless, helpless grimace.

Available for purchase now

Sheldon's account of his overland travels around India, A River of Life, is available for purchase now. Buy the e-book from or, or the paperback from or (also available in other countries, search Amazon for more information).

The first instalment, A River of Life, Book 1: Travels in the North, is available separately (e-book format only) via or The second instalment, A River of Life, Book 2: A Tour of the South, is available via or


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