Pardesi in Chennai

Humour, Language

I recall an absolutely trivial incident — in fact it is not even an incident per se, just a snapshot that had lodged in the recesses of my mind only to be stumbled upon yet again by yet another trivial incident that happened recently.

Many years ago, a cousin of mine who had come down from Srinagar, asked my grandmother, if he were a 'khanabadosh'. To which my granny said something, that translated from Kashmiri, would read like this: "God forbid! No way my child".

Though I knew my cousin had said that only because we (my cousin and I) liked the histrionic sound of the word — I thought my granny's response was against the backdrop of the fact that my cousin had come to Delhi escaping militancy in Kashmir, and calling himself a 'khanabadosh' was like pitying himself. And my granny was quick to dispel that.

Living in Chennai for the last one year, I have faced challenges of communication, that in most cases have self-resolved. However, a few days ago I was in the canteen and the guy behind the counter was fixing a sandwich which wasn't exactly as per my specifications. Jammy, pointed this out, to which I said, "This must be for some other pardesi (me being the first)."

Jammy said, "Thank God! There isn't anyone round!"


"Pardesi, is not something people in Chennai would like to be called."

Apparently, 'pardesi' in Tamil means a nomad.

I tried to rationalize that there is a relation between the words nomad and foreigner. A nomad would necessarily be a foreigner, but a foreigner need not necessarily be a nomad. But I was given a counter-rationale that pardesi in Tamil had connotations closer to 'vagabond', and therefore undesirable.

Thinking about this, I was reminded of the song from the film Henna:

Maein hoon ik khanabadosh, Saara jag mera watan.
Pyaar hi meri zubaan, Pyaar hi mera chalan.

This was another way of looking at things. The Urdu 'khanabadosh', the English nomads, the Tamil 'pardesi' revelling in this status of theirs — where they are unfrettered, and the the whole world is their country!

Just a matter of perceptions, I guess.

For example after seeing Paheli (the Amol Palekar film with Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee; India's nomination to the Oscars), one could see a ghost in every creature, or an opportunity.

Perceptions, I tell you. Or is it 'perspectives'? Naah, I am too tired to get into that right now!


Henceforth I shall have to be careful about the kind of Hindi songs I sing in Chennai, lest I upset someone through the lyrics of the songs!

In the mood for a quick check?

"Pardesi, pardesi jaana nahin…" :: Not on
"Tum toh thehre pardesi, saath kya nibhaaoge…" :: On
"Pardesiyon se na ankhiyaan ladaana…" :: Very On
"Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya…" :: Not on
"Pardesiya, yeh sach hai piya, sab kehtein haien…" :: Not on

Please point out other pardesi songs and help me, and help Chennai.

But what do I do about upsetting someone through my singing talent?

6 thoughts on “Pardesi in Chennai

  1. Jeez::
    Swadeshe not the same as WeDeshe…

    Wow! that’s nice, coz even I’m not in agreement with myself many times

    It doesn’t qualify per (de) se :-)


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