Friday, 1 August 2014

Putang! Putang!!

It was just after few days of our arrival in Australia for the second time in 2008, we decided to explore the surroundings to renew our old memories. Though it was merely six years we left the place, things were changed so much we could not believe ourselves.

"Let's go," I proposed in the sunny afternoon of early winter.
"Where?," nine years old Bishu was perplexed as he was busy playing his handheld console.

"Hmm... let's go out and see if we find some kangaroos," was a funny answer from his dad.

Within no time our team was on the street, embarking on our venture on foot. We walked haphazardly, expecting we would definitely find a familiar place soon. Yeah, we were right! After walking  for about a half an hour we saw a signpost of 'Oakleigh.' We knew this place. However, we were not sure which part of Oakleigh it was. In fact we wanted to go to the Oakleigh Shopping Centre. We were bewildered. Then, my husband spotted someone far away, walking towards us.

It was so much relief to see a human figure walking on the pavement. We felt like finding a person in the middle of a desert when you are desperate to find your way. The closer the person came, our excitement grew and we started whispering, " Good lord! She must be a local, strolling around for the fresh air!"

As she approached the hearing distance, all three of us smiled at her enthusiastically. She smiled back. We felt proud that the first step of silent communication was successfully exchanged. She looked like a South-East Asian woman. My husband asked her politely, "Excuse me, can you please tell us where the Oakleigh Shopping Centre is?" No response, just a blank stare. Second attempt with a gesture, "This is Oakleigh, isn't it?" Again the cardboard expression. Bishu whispered in my ear, "She may not know English." Then I gave a try with a rather louder voice, "No English?" Only a smile. Was she dumb? I wondered. My husband tried once more with a lot of gestures, "Any shopping centre around?"

Eventually came a response, "Putang!" Ah...she is not dumb, after all, but what the hell she was saying? It was obviously not an English expression! We encouraged her to speak more, formulating our questions in a simpler way, using a lot of gestures but with no consequences that we had expected. Every time the nice lady gave us the same answer,"Putang!" "Putang!" "Putang!" She could even not produce the most basic English words, such as 'yes,' 'no' or 'sorry' despite our hard work to make her say something. At last, we gave up on that 'Putang lady' and walked away, waving our hand.

This interesting 'Putang' encounter led me to believe, "No, you don't necessarily need any English in certain circumstances just to survive in Australia. Without knowing a single English word in an English-speaking country one can live happily." Seriously, the lady challenged my assumption that she must have known English. Who doesn't know at least the functional level of English in Australia? Until today I could not figure out what she was trying to convey by repeatedly saying the same word "Putang, Putang."

By the way, does anyone know what 'Putang' means? I'd be grateful if you supplied me the answer.

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]


  1. Maryam Jaffar Ismail : I busted a gut laughing while reading your article. The lady must be Italian or Spanish. Benu...ha ha is one of those phrases you dont really want to know... ha ha haaaa... the meaning of putang!! I learnt the meaning of putang...from Filipinos and Italians :)) ...I have been in the same situation where I learnt about putana /butana/...ha ha haaaaaa Benu you made day.

  2. Ha...ha...Maryam! In that case the lady must be Filipino! As she did not look someone like Italian or Spanish. Thank you very much for your comment, I really appreciate it! Still I'm curious to know the meaning, Maryam!


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