Tahlee vs thali – only in India

The best thali in India

Thali in the Golden Temple AmritsarThis was one of the funniest repeated interactions we had with local people during our travels in India and it never ceased to make me smile.

When you travel India you know that one of the most delicious and affordable meals you can have is a thali – meaning ‘plate’.

Usually a round platter, either segmented or filled with small bowls, used to serve a selection of smaller dishes that complement each other. Our experience was usually rice or chapattis, a couple of curries, and something sweeter to end with. The more extravagant ones include chutneys, yogurt and pickle.

Thalis are delicious and filling. They’re designed to be never ending (much like Dal Baht in Nepal) and we loved them. They are a reflection on where you are – the regional foods, flavours, and sometimes quality – and we never left hungry. We even found a German thali at Heidi’s beer garden in Anjuna, Goa. Bratwursts, potato salad, coleslaw and chips. It was amazing!

A German twist on a thali in Goa

The thing is, my name is Tahlee and it’s pronounced the exact same way (and no, I was not named after an Indian dish). This lead to some very funny conversations with locals we met along our way.

Here are a couple of the best Tahlee vs thali moments:

While watching fire puja at Dashashwamedh (main) Ghat in Varanasi.

Watching fire puja at main ghat in VaranasiMick and I had found ourselves a distant perch to watch from and not long after an Indian man came and stood beside me and struck up a conversation. He was very nice and we had a quick chat, he welcomed us to Varanasi (his home town) and then he asked for my name.

“Tahlee. Like your lunch,” I said, making hand gestures to describe a plate.
“Like plate?” he said with a big smile.
“Yeah, like plate,” I replied.
“Ah, you know that means,” pausing to find the right words, “many choices,” hand gesturing to indicate picking up many different things, as if from a plate.
“yeah?” I said questioningly.
Then he looked past me for a second to see Mick standing next to me and said, “ah, your husband is very lucky. He will never go hungry!”
We all laughed at this. He gave us a head wobble, shook our hands and said goodbye.

While on a train travelling from Hampi to Palolem, Goa.

On a train in IndiaaMick was on the upper side bunk and I, near the window in the normal compartment (as it was a day train the bunks were folded down). The Indian rail people came around to order, and then later deliver, the food we had ordered. We both really enjoyed the food done by Indian rail – Biryani or Thali, you can’t really go wrong.

Both times the Indian rail (IR) men came through, Mick did the speaking as he was closest to them, and I was sitting with my headphones on watching something on my iPad.Thali at the ashram in Rishikesh

“Tahlee?!” Mick said, calling for my attention.
“One thali,” the IR man repeated, thinking Mick was ordering.
“No, wait no. A biryani for me and, Tahlee?!” Mick said, gesturing to the men sitting next to me, “can you tap her shoulder?”
“One biryani, one thali,” the IR man replied.
“No, wait hang on. Tap that lady on the shoulder. Tahlee what do you want to eat?”
By this point I finally realised they were standing there and what was going on.
“Oh, I’ll have a biryani,” I said to Mick with a smile.
Mick, looking exasperated, just turned back to the IR man, “two biryanis please.”

When the food was delivered the conversation went almost exactly along the same lines.
“Two biryanis,” the IR man announced to check the order.
“Thanks. Tahlee?!” Mick said.
“One biryani, one thali?” the IR man questioned, looking at Mick.
“No, no, two biryanis please, can you tap that lady on the shoulder…”

Tahlee enjoying a Thali in HampiThese interactions still make me smile today while writing this. Even thought it caused confusion during our travels, India still has to be one of the easiest countries for me to explain my name to people in.

I know most people won’t experience this sort of situation, after all not everyone has a name that means something odd in another language, but you never know what your Tahlee vs thali moment will be. India will deliver them, you just need to go there and be ready to receive them.


Have you had any funny lost in translation moments while abroad? We’d love you to share them with us below

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