Learning a new language is an interesting experience. It can often result in embarrassing moments. Many years ago, I worked as a young Personnel Officer at a cement plant in the interiors of Gujarat. It was useful for me to know Gujarati , the local language. With the enthusiasm of youth, I plunged in and tried to learn the language the best way- by trying to speak it.

We had an industrial canteen and often stray dogs used to gather in the vicinity of the building, no doubt attracted by the waste food. The Canteen was one of my responsibilities. One day, I dropped in to see how things were going on there. I was accompanied by the Security Officer, the Canteen Manager and a few other staff. All of them were veterans -considerably older than me.

On our way, I saw a few stray dogs hanging around the building. In the strictest voice that my 23 years could muster, I told them in Gujarati ” There are many dogs here”. There was a horrified silence and they looked at each other in shock. I realized that I may have said something wrong. I asked why they were not speaking at all.

The hushed silence was broken by one of them telling me ” Sir, you have just told us that all of us are dogs”!

I remember the incident 34 years later with amusement. At that time, I felt awfully embarrassed !