Oct 21, 2011

Shawnee Trip V: Lost in Translation

Recently I went on a camping trip with the university. Not only was the trip a whole lot of fun, but it also exposed me to a lot of interesting aspects of communication. So many things that we take for granted are perceived differently by people of different cultures. Here are a few examples of intercultural communication.


We waited inside the van as people trickled in one by one after lunch. Nimitta was pretending to punch Dan to pass the time. “Dhoosh! Dhoosh! Dhoosh!!”

“Hey don’t call me names” said Dan.

“I wasn’t calling you names!” Nimitta was outraged.

“You just called me douche!!!”

“No, I didn’t!!!” Nimitta enlisted my support. “Sewa didi, in Nepal, don’t we make the sound dhoosh dhoosh when we are pretending to hit something?”

“Sure we do, all the movies say so too” I agreed. But Dan would have none of it. And in fact, he and Nimu argue to this day about the meaning of Dhoosh Dhoosh!!

Could only find Tanaak and Dhadaak but I am sure Dhoosh is out there as well


“Ringa ringa roses, pocket full of poses

Hassa, hussa, we all fall down” Nimitta was singing.

“It’s not haasa hoosa!! Its ashes, ashes” said Dan.

“Well, in Nepal we just say Hassa hussa, don’t we di?”

“Yes, we all grew up playing that game and falling down at hassa hussa” I agreed.

“The ashes must have got lost in translation then” said Dan.

“Do you know what it’s actually about?” asked Grant. “It’s about the black plague in England. The ring of roses is actually talking about how people get red cheeks when they get the plague!!”

“Most of the nursery things are about scary things like that” Brandon added. Now this was something I had to research. I found that it goes like this:

Ring a-round the rosie

Pocket full of posie

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

The “pocket full of posies” refers to herbs that people carried in their pockets to ward off the plague, “ashes, ashes” refers to the cremation of dead bodies, and the “we all fall down” refers, of course, to death. And I also found that this rhyme has numerous other versions, including

Ring a ring a Rosie,

A bottle full of posie,

All the girls in our town

Ring for little Josie.

A ring, a ring o' roses,

A pocket full o’posies-

Atishoo atishoo we all fall down.


At night, sitting around the fire, Kensie showed her tattoo of “Om” on her wrist. She was surprised that I recognized it, and told me that she is very attracted to Hinduism and wants to become a yoga master. “I know the story of Shiva and Ganesh” said she. “About how they had to cut his head off and replace it with an elephant’s” . Wow, it was really nice to find someone so interested in our religion. “I like eastern religions because they are not pushy. Are there any female deities?” she further asked.

“Yes, many.” I replied. “Shiva’s wife Parvati is a major one, then there is Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.”

“So is there only deity for one thing? Is there no god of wisdom?”

Hmm, this one stumped me. “It is not a fixed rule. There might be local deities of anything” I answered. “But in the most popular Hindu deity family, the only deity of wisdom is Saraswati.”

Trisha was working very hard to build the fire. But she still found time to converse. “Do you find the caste system strange? ” she asked.

“Not strange” I replied “I grew up with it. But I certainly dislike it. It is changing nowadays, my roommates are all of different castes. It’s not like what it used to be, older people, for example, won’t even eat at the same tale with people of other castes.”

“It’s the same like here, where many older and traditional people refuse to change their ways. People are afraid of change, and it is not specific to any single society” said Brandon. I couldn’t agree more.


At night we went for a walk by the lake, and sat down to watch stars. Trisha, Grant and Brandon identified so many stars that it was mind boggling. Brandon and I had a hard time hearing the other two though.

“Why don’t you come around to where we are?” Grant suggested.

“Can we cuddle?” Brandon asked.

“No” Grant seemed pretty firm on this one.

We identified the North Star, which I expected to be on the top of my head (fried brains that I have), but it was obviously on the north side.

“It’s the brightest star on the horizon, right?” I asked. I thought I remembered something about Dhruva tara.

“No, the brightest star is actually Sirius, the dog star, that is why Sirius Black changes into a dog in Harry Potter” that was Trisha.

“Yes, and there is also a constellation called Lupus which is called the wolf constellation, that is why Remus Lupin is a werewolf” I added.

“There is also a constellation for Draco Malfoy” Trisha informed me “called the Draco constellation” now that was news to me. I excitedly followed Trisha’s imaginary dragon in the sky.

And then we went on to identify the big dipper and the little dipper (Big bear and little bear to Native Americans, Saptarshi and Krittikas to Hindus), and Cassiopeia, the vain queen who boasted of her beauty. The Greek gods punished her by stringing her across the skies. I did not know what Lupus and Draco are called in Hindu mythology, but I did remember the story of Dhruva, the Hindu north star. The mythological character Dhruva, as a child, prayed patiently to Lord Vishnu for five full years. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Vishnu put him up in the sky as the North star. Hence, to Hindus, it represents constancy. Like Dhruva, the dhruva tara never moves in the sky, and all others stars are oriented around it (from the earth’s point of view).

“Even though the brightest star of the horizon is actually Sirius, the North star is a very important star” said Brandon. “The story goes that when Christ was born, three kings knew that a great prophet would be born and they would find him if they followed the North Star. They did and came upon Jerusalem, where Jesus was born. They story goes that they were the earliest astrologers....Then they gave Jesus three gifts, Myrrh, Gold and Frankin....”

“OH SHIT!!!!! DID YOU SEE THAT?” that of course was Melissa, who had seen a shooting star. Too bad I missed the star, but everyone enjoyed her comment immensely.
“Oh shit did you see that, that was awesome, that was the quote of the week” said Brandon, after the laughter had died down. And that is how ended the star watch.


Yug zee Tah said...

I learn so many things from each blog. And i especially love the pictures. It's like reading a graphic book. And no wonder how old we may be, I guess we will always like 'chitra' bhako 'katha'.

sewa said...

wow, i m so glad u like it, now i will make efforts to make every story a "chutrakatha" :)

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