There is a face I make when I attempt to put a concept into words and eventually speak it out loud in the intricate labyrinth that is Hindi.

Frowned forehead, squinty eyes, twisted mouth, you get the picture… This is the same expression my face gets into when someone says something to me and I squeeze every particle of my brain to understand him/her in the love/hate relationship I have with this mysterious, beautiful, language. In the process my English is becoming weirder and it’s making me the mad!

“Wait… are you talking about yesterday or tomorrow?” Because the same word kal -कल – is used for both… so how do you know when the narration actually takes/took place? you have to wait until THE END of the sentence when you hear the verb to put it all together… and of course this process works in reverse, when you want to say something: you have to formulate the whole phrase in your head and keep it all together until you get to the verb. Just FYI it is also possible to place the subject after the verb because in Hindi there are rules and then there are exceptions, which are ALWAYS applicable.

Speaking Hindi is like putting the pieces of a very LARGE puzzle together, no matter how short the concept. Each phrase is constructed more or less like this: 

helping word/s (these are my favorites) 
post position (because there is always one – ok, but which one?-) 
You could also think of a mathematical problem you need to know the formula of in order to solve it:

Let’s see … I want to say this and that = I got the subject, and the object too, I can’t remember if it takes ko, se, par so just to make sure I use ko because more often than not it’s the right one. Then, to not complicate my life, I don’t add anything extra like the helping words such as -immediately, suddenly, actually, in reality blah blah – I’m more confident I don’t make mistakes this way and I go straight to the verb.

Verbs are somewhat safe as they all follow the same rule _or something like that_. You take the root of the verb off (NA) and add the appropriate ending for each subject/object and I won’t bore you with the details. Of course there are irregular verbs, verbs that don’t follow any rule just because, verbs that take the help of other verbs depending on who benefits from whatever it is you are explaining… so even if you have the formula to solve the problem of putting all the words appropriately one after the other while processing all this in your brain you may have forgotten if there are any irregularities on the way and guess what? there are. MORE OFTEN THAN NOT. ALMOST ALWAYS. OK, ALWAYS.

My favorites are the rules you apply if there is 50% possibility that something will happen as opposed to 90% or 100% chance… ok, I let’s say I get it… but then again…everything is possible and there are no guarantees, so how am I to know the chance of something actually taking place or not or maybe?

There are 4 types of Ts with 4 different sounds and spelling… and I didn’t even know my mouth could pronounce them, let alone my ears hear the difference.

The word for “12” barah _बारह _sounds a little (a lot) like the word for “big” bara  _बड़ा_. So you have to be extra careful when you are referring to something big, as opposed to 12 … Like that one time I asked for a big broom, the guy disappeared in the back and showed up ten minutes later with 12 little brooms. And since everything is possible in India, hey why not 12 brooms?
No questions asked. No guarantees.

There are different rules depending if the speaker is a male or female. If the person/thing you are referring to is near or far, male or female, what he/she ate and if he/she is in a good mood (just joking, lol) and are you using the formal or informal way of addressing someone? Just to make sure, i always use the polite way… even when I’m speaking to a kid: I’m choosing the easy way out.

                        and then there is KARNA करण … 

magine this… just the simple letter _A_ can make the difference between the misunderstood warrior in the Mahabharata – Surya’s and Kunti’s son who was mistakenly looked upon as a charioteers’ child, the one Draupadi was secretly in love with, Duryodhana’s loyal friend … and the. verb. of. all. verbs.

KARNA करना 

i LOVE karna _the verb_ although I am also pretty crazy about Karna _the warrior_but that’s another story. 

So, karna the verb means _to do_ and more… Much more! The beauty of it is that it is amazingly versatile and can be used pretty much any time you can’t remember whatever in Hindi but still want to show you got something going on. Simply say it in English and add karna. For instance, “to charge” turns into charge karna. “to spray” into spray karna, “to prepare” prepare karna… and the list goes on . And I won’t even get into the details of the Devanagari alphabet it took me 6 months to figure out and I still read like a 5 year old. Although, I remember my first Hindi teacher, Anil, telling me that to speak Hindi I would have to think like a baby. Makes sense, right?: what do I want to say? Put simple words one after the other without frills or trills and say it out loud! 

Why did I start this Hindi journey you may ask. Honestly I don’t know. Mainly I wanted to be able to understand the people around me, to bargain at the market, to watch Bollywood movies without subtitles. Had I known it was this complicated… I would have started anyway…  

All right, what’s the whole point of writing this?

I wanted to share what with you what _yoga off the mat_ looks and feels like to me. There is this word in Sanskrit, Abhyasa, it means practice and it is one of the main pillars of yoga. Patanjali, the great Hindu sage, in his Yoga Sutras recommends that to apply abhyasa one practices for a long time, without interruption and remains committed to the practice. This course of action is, of course, applicable in many aspects of our life -if not all-.

Every time my head would say, “stop this Hindi nonsense, Elena” I told myself I have gone too far I’m not stopping now. So I spoke -if only to myself- in Hindi, I watched Bollywood movies on Netflix, wrote that new flashcard. Of course I drove my children and the people around me crazy in the process… face glued to the computer screen for my daily Skype session with Anil, translating everything I heard- if not out loud at least in my head (kinda like what I do with people’s English and Italian grammar  anyway-lol). Now that I’m in India I do it in reverse. 

All this is yoga. The yoga of not giving up, of acceptance, of practicing not just that pose I ask my body to perform. The yoga off the mat. The yoga of life. What a journey!

The moral of the story? 

You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.” —Frank Lloyd Wright

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