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In the last issue, we mentioned how the barrier of language was overcome while interviewing Remadevi (G4S facility services). But when CIJ was talking to Subrat Jana, housekeeping staff of ISS Integrated Facility Services Pvt. Ltd there was no one to translate his Oriya to English. He was quick to admit that knowing spoken English is a must. However, he managed to convey one of his interesting experiences to us.

It is an year-old event but it is still fresh in my memory. As a housekeeping staff at Henkel India’s guest house at Goregoan, my day starts with regular cleaning and other maintenance work at the guest-house; this is followed by assisting the cook in the kitchen. All these years, I never felt there was a need to learn any other language other than Oriya (mother tongue). But after landing in Mumbai from my home-town (Orissa), I felt the need to learn and speak in Hindi but English was still a distant dream.

One morning, after my regular cleaning work, I went to the kitchen to assist the cook. And there… I was all alone with the entire responsibility of the kitchen. I was elated but on the other hand I was also nervous. I was rather worried because of my inability to handle English.

Yes, the telephone rang. I turned cold in the warm kitchen, my mouth went dry and I was blank. I did not know what to say, if the guest placed an order. I still attended to the call. The order was for ‘buttermilk’, a word I have not heard before. So I checked with him if it was milk that he had ordered. The guest repeated buttermilk and this time I heard butter. I was confused, still took the order. As the cook was not available on site nor were his colleagues, my doubts were left uncleared. I thought it was safe to offer a glass of water instead of taking butter or milk to the guest’s room.

As I was leaving the kitchen, the cook came in. He saw my baffled look and started questioning. While I was explaining to him about my dilemma, I saw the cook having a hearty laugh. He clarified that the order was for buttermilk and not for water. That’s when I realised how important it was to converse in English.”

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