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Saturday, 17 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 17: Lost to time...

A few months ago, when I was finishing my purchase at a shoe shop, a man came there with his kids. Speaking in Kannada, he asked the shopkeeper for “Kaalcheela” (ಕಾಲ್ಚೀಲ, काल्चीला). 

For a minute, I was at a loss to understand what he meant; the word seemed vaguely familiar, and I knew I knew what it meant – just that the meaning didn’t come to mind immediately. Then, I got it! 

From the literal meaning, by splitting the word into two – in Kannada, kaal means leg and cheela means bag. So – literally, a bag for the legs (or the feet, rather) – that is, socks!

I wondered at how my mind had almost forgotten the word because it had been a really long, long while since I had heard someone say “Kaalcheela” and not “socks.”

A few days later, I heard my father ask my sister to give him some “Mulaam” for his leg. I had never heard this word before. (For those readers who don’t know my multicultural/hybrid background, my parents are Karnataka Iyengars, so we grew up with a patois made up of part-Tamil, part-Kannada that some people say sounds a little like Tulu; besides, I was born and brought up in Goa, so I learned Kannada itself much later in life after coming to Bangalore.)

But from the context of the rest of the conversation, and the fact that the Hindi word “Malham” means an ointment, I knew my father was asking for a pain balm.

When I asked my sister, she confirmed my interpretation, and we spoke of how it’s not very commonly used today – people mostly say either balm or ointment or cream.

This train of thoughts led me to realize that there are so many words/concepts in our native tongues that are getting eclipsed nowadays because people have begun using their English equivalents more often.

Pondering this, I remembered how amazed I had been about a year ago when I saw this in a supermarket.

Frankly, I won’t be surprised if, in10 years time, some kid comes to my house, he/she won’t know what this is!


  1. I have to admit that I myself don't know how to use the aruvamanai (the one in the pic). So I resort to store bought, grated or dessicated coconut. I feel this generation itself is losing it. Because of people like me, pity the kids of later generations. 🙈

    1. OMG! (Finally I get to use that abbreviation). Now I'm feeling I belong to a much older generation than you, Shilpa!

  2. Very interesting topic! Indeed an apathy that we are so focused on learning International language.... This topic reminds me of an interesting initiative we took in one of the companies I worked ... One day in a week we asked everyone to use only kannada words even if it means literal translation of English words..... One such was Amma Phala.... Guess what this means...he he he

    Madhavi Paranjape

    1. Great initiative, Madhavi. Thank you for telling us about it. By the way, Amma Phala means Mother Board? Or is it something else?


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