Married Indian-Mind Your Language


wedding-couple-cartoon-illustration-100148922On the morning after your wedding night, how embarrassing is it, when your bride’s sister does not understand what you are trying to say? 

When I was in college, I opted for French as my second language. We were amused with what in French was called “Faux amis,” which means ‘False Friends.’ English and French have many similar words but some of them have meanings that are very different to each other. Like ‘Attend’ in French means ‘Wait‘ and a French ‘Formidable’  is actually ‘admirable’ and not the reverse. Library in French is a Bookshop and not a place from where we borrow books.

Among the Indian Languages, Tamil and Malayalam are said to be very similar. But there is one word Vilikuthu, which has completely contrary meanings in the two languages. I learnt the difference in an embarrassingly amusing way.

My sister Rani, got married to a man from Kerala, where Malayalam is the predominant language. We speak Tamil at home.

On the morning after their wedding night, my new brother-in-law opened their bedroom door and said to me:

Rani vilikuthu”

In Tamil, Vilikuthu means, ‘to awaken from sleep.’

I was surprised that a new groom was announcing his wife arousing from her be-decked wedding bed.

  I said, “Oh! Good. Shall I get some coffee?”

He gave me a funny look and said again, “Rani Villikuthu.”

I was surprised. How many times was he going to advertise this simple act? Was she Sleeping-Beauty coming out of a 100 years of slumber?

But I said again, “Okay. Fine. I will get the coffee.”

When he declared it for the third time, I had to investigate. I went into my sister’s room. She was up and bathed and was summoning me to help her wear the heavy saree. She was miffed that I had not rushed in to her aid.

“How many times should my husband call you?” she said indignantly.thoughtful-insomniac-cartoon-lady-10084449

That’s when I was discovered that Villikuthu in Malayalam and Tamil had distinctive interpretations.

“Rani villikuthu in Malayalam meant, “Rani was CALLING me and not that Rani was stirring from bed.

Blame it on the timing and the context, but I had misconstrued my brother-in-law’s SOS, as ‘infatuation with his new bride’s every day activities!’

 It was time to learn a new language!

As told to talkalittledo By : JR – Written By: Gulsum Basheer


Photo By debspoons   and 
 Sicha Pongjivanich,

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7 Responses to Married Indian-Mind Your Language

  1. Alison Cowie, Ireland says:

    This is so funny! I wish you would compile a list of words with contradictory meanings in different languages.

  2. Priya D'costa, Nairobi says:

    Your story reminded me of one I had heard when I lived in Chennai. In Tamil, I understand ‘Valli vidu valli vidu’ means ‘give way, give way?’ And I understand in Malayalam the same phonetics mean ‘Please fart, please fart’!!!!!!!!!

  3. Asiya Omar says:

    Mami, Here in U.A.E. -thadukki vilunthal malaiyali thaan,,me too sometimes confused of such words like his..Nice sharing.

  4. TBM says:

    I’m finding in London, words I used in America should not be spoken here and vice versa. It is amusing when I learn about my mistakes. Life can be funny.

  5. mvshan1 says:

    Funny story. I am reminded of my Sindhi friend who went vegetable shopping and was then telling us that the Shop Keeper looked at her weirdly while she was placing her order , in Tamil. We made her repeat what she had told him and realized that she, with her North Indian accent , she had mispronounced a word which made it sound like a bad word. Poor girl was so embarrassed and we never let her hear the end of it. I don’t think she shopped at that store again.

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