Big Gora Learns Hindi

Big Gora Learns Hindi

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dushman Ke Bare Mein

I've had this notice up on my office bulletin board for five years now.


It says दुशमन नहीं है [dushman naheen hai/(literally,) enemy not is].
I had just barely learned the alphabet at that point. Look at the last letter on the first line, and compare it to the first letter of the second. They're supposed to look the same. In print, in my Teach Yourself Hindi book, they look like the upper example; the lower is the more stylized way you see in handpainted signs. It would also probably be more elegant to take the straight vertical line out of "dushman" make it दुश्मन.
This is one of the first attempts I'd ever made at a complete sentence. I see now what I didn't then: it's not. Word for word, it says "enemy not is." At the time, some soul-searingly horrible political stuff was happening in my department. Never mind all that; it's a long, boring story. But it left me feeling alone and pursued for things I never said or felt. These words--"dushman naheen hai"--came out unbidden, a kind of covert protest. They let me whisper, "You think I'm the enemy, your enemy; I'm not, and please don't think of me as one."
What I thought I was saying here, and wanted to tell people but without buttonholing them and forcing the issue, was: "He [the officeholder, viz. I] am not the enemy." It amuses me now to see that it doesn't quite say that; there's no "He" or "I" in there, and how else could anyone tell I meant myself?
What it actually says is, "There is no enemy"; "The enemy does not exist."
I want to believe that. Now the sign gives me a daily reminder to choose to do so.
In any case, it's not me and never has been.