Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Slovak Experience

(My friend Amar asked me share this little experience here. Thanks Amar)

In the month of September I had gone to Vienna for a few days. During my stay there, one day I went to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Slovakia separated from erstwhile Czechoslovakia. I will write more about Bratislava some other time. Because there is indeed a lot to write about. But, I wish to talk about one interesting incident. While walking around, on one corner of the city, close to the Danube, I saw a phrase, engraved on the wall. It’s written in the Slovak language; slovenčina. Obviously, I didn’t understand anything, except two names, Dzáwáharlál Néhru (This is the way it was written) and Indira Gándhiova. Even though adapted to a different script, any Indian would understand, who these names belong to. These names could be unfamiliar for hardly any Indian. I took the photograph. I asked a couple of people standing nearby as to what it meant, but unfortunately, they didn’t speak English. I returned to Vienna without any translation. Back in Vienna, I was again busy exploring this beautiful city. Sporadically, I asked people if they knew slovensko, so that somebody could translate that sentence to me, but all in vain.

On my last night in Vienna, I wasn’t able to sleep. I had to catch a flight at 7:30 next morning. Since I wasn’t able to sleep I started walking around, in the vicinity of my hostel. As late as 3 am, I felt hungry and I went to a place Restaurant Mozart, which is generally open from 6 pm till 6 am. I went inside and ordered some rare vegetarian cheese-based dish. Suddenly I remembered the photograph which was still there in my camera. I thought I should get it translated as soon as possible. Because chances of finding someone, speaking Slovensko in Barcelona, were much bleaker. At almost 3:30 in the morning, as the last attempt in desperation, I asked the lady at the bar, if she could speak Slovensko. The pleasant looking, middle aged lady politely said that she didn’t. Suddenly she came back, and said, “Our cook is from Slovakia. He speaks Slovensko. Should I call him?” I was so happy, I couldn’t even say “yes” clearly. I left my seat and walked almost halfway up to the kitchen and met the lady and the cook on the way. The cook greeted me in German. I showed him the camera and asked him to translate. But unfortunately he didn’t speak any English. The lady spoke some broken English. We ended up standing in a very funny position. The lady was standing in the middle with the camera in her hand. He was explaining it to her in his broken German. She was explaining it to me in her broken English. I don’t know how clearly they explained and how well, I understood. In the end all that the sentence meant that “on 20th August, 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi was here for a talk.” Still, it was a nice experience. Both of them were really very nice people. Despite all the problems with language, they showed admirable hospitality on helping me something really trivial. All three of us really enjoyed those 5 minutes of double translations. I remember, in the middle of the translation, the lady had abruptly but quite appropriately said, “We are very international.”
(If anybody reading this post, understands Slovak language, are welcome to send in hir/her version of translation of the text in the photograph.)


Adriana said...


"On August 20th, In these building in the former Kerns restaurant, Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi discussed together with Vladimir Clementis. (Slovak communist politician, died 1952). Devoted to the Indian friends of Slovak and Czech nation by Bratislava - the city of peace."


pal said...

Kandarp! no sabía que tenías un blog! te añado a mis favoritos. Un beso! Paloma

Fedor Macasek said...

Some more details: Nehru, I.Gandhi and Clementis (Czechoslovak Minister of Foreign Affairs 1948-50) met here before an antifascist meetings in Pezinok / Slovakia hold on 21.august 1938. These two personalities also embraced at a 1938 anti-Hitler meeting in Paris.

subhasis ghosh said...

Thanks for the explanation. I too was in Bratislava for a couple of hours of sight seeing, on the way from Vienna to Prague and our guide had pointed out this plaque to us. Thanks for the translation and explanation.