As a resident of Alandur, abutting St Thomas Mount, also known as Butt Road in Madras (now Chennai) I had enough opportunities of befriending the Anglo Indian boys (mind you, not girls), Cricket providing the symbiosis glue. However, an incomprehensible challenge I faced was carrying on with their conversational English.
During my visit to the residence of the captain of Butts XI team to fix the sponsors of the next match, I pressed the doorbell under the name plate Honeysuckle Cottage. The door was opened by an old lady carrying a nasty looking cat in her arms. “Look, young man! If you are selling Encyclopedia, 500 inventions that changed our lives or Inside human body (illustrated), you are barking at the wrong tree. Scram. Vamoose, go away, get lost.” Having studied in the Board High school in Tamil medium, I was all at sea in written and spoken English. Though the words like scram, vamoose and the expression ‘you are barking at the wrong tree’ the lady had used went over my head, I read the message loud and clear that I was not wanted.
“Auntie, let him in. He is my pal,” I heard the voice of the captain of Butts XI. The lady softened. “Oh you are a friend of Russel. Sorry, ducky! Come in.”
Ushered into the drawing room, I was aghast to see every one walking around wearing slippers. Preposterous! If I did that, my grandpa, would axe my feet from knee cap down. Releasing clouds of smoke from his cigar, a snobbish gentleman appeared from the room. “Good morning, Sir,”I said. Releasing a batch of fresh smoke rings, he growled, “Morning, Charlie. You are a friend of Russel aren’t you? I’m Mr Hunter, Grenville Hunter, ex-shop superintendant, Perambur loco works, Russel’s uncle. Sit down. Want to have a word with you.”
Mr Hunter waved the cigar at me, the business end targeting the area in between my eyes. “You are the captain of Guindy XI, three time winners in a row. How is it possible, man? Can’t believe the Butts XI would get such shameful drubbing. Gawd! The glorious game of Cricket was born in England. Magical Lord's, Mecca of Cricket and all that. How others can beat us? Unless some black magic was done with lots of mumbo jumbo?”
Hurriedly Russel led me out. “Relax, Jayes. Ignore my uncle. He has become senile and nutty. He thinks highly of Robert Clive, Colonel Dyer and such. Ends his letters with “God save the queen.’ And don’t worry about your English. To be frank, our English is also not pure and ‘propah’ English! We sail in the same boat. Come, let us go and have some biscuits and tea.”