We are learning Maori, my friend and I. We’ll be having a class a week for 10 weeks.

Our first day of the course was not without its moments. We left work at 5:00 p.m. for the 6:00 p.m. class but reached the class late by 25 minutes. While we were caught in the heavy traffic, my friend joked that we would miss the introduction and the revealing of the secret of Maori and would be lost in our ignorance for the remaining 10 weeks of the course.

We hurried into the class and tried to figure out what was happening. We were given booklets; thankfully, the teacher seemed to have just started. I enjoyed the class and was able to follow most of the lesson. However, I was surprised to see the speed with which my peers were able to read.

It was not till we were driving home that I realised that I must have indeed missed at least one secret of Maori—there are no diphthongs! My friend mentioned it to me, and that too most matter-of-factly, as if it were no big deal. But it was. Even then in the darkness of the car, my enlightened eyes must have gleamed. Once I knew that and knew the sound of the five Maori vowels, I COULD READ Maori. An ‘au’ in Maori is not a diphthong but an ‘a’ sound and a ‘u’ sound one after the other. Phew! But for as long as the lesson lasted, I desperately jotted down the vowel sounds in the margins in Tamil and Hindi scripts.

After his lesson, the teacher took attendance. The names of my friend and I were not called. It was then that we had the horrible realisation that we had been in the wrong class all the time. Next week we will have to find our own class. I will miss this teacher.

We then went to the marae and learned a waiata (song) with actions. I was too short to see the actions or the board with the words. Watching my friend do the actions and trying to cope with it myself, brought the giggles on, which was hardly proper for that setting.

I have been working at my reading and memorising all week.

If there was one word that was used over and over again during this first lesson, it was the word ‘kupu’. I was familiar with this word because interestingly I had briefly looked at John 1:1 in an online Maori Bible a few days before. “I te timatanga te Kupu.” Can you guess what‘kupu’ means?