Garfield all over again...
After asking everyone at the mess table, pleading not to play a prank on me, finally I was convinced that it is, in fact, एक्ज़ाजरेशन. Still I was full of surprise, and disbelief! Also the gang made it very clear that it not even something in the murky areas of pronunciation. They stressed that nobody else in the world would pronounce it that way! It is just not natural!
Challenge accepted! I will trace down the problem to its roots!
Called up my school friend (mech. engg. final year) and asked "what do you call अतिशयोक्ती in English?" First shock: he did not know! Not giving up, I asked, "That's OK, tell me this: How will you pronounce e x a g g e r a t i o n?" "What?" came the reply. I patiently repeated. He had no clue! Apparently, this was the first time he heard such a word. What a bummer! Called up Dad then. I couldn't believe he didn't know either! I had hit dead-ends one after another.
It was time to make "the call". Someone I can't be more proud of, the only living thing smarter than me whom I am not jealous of: Snehal, my sister. I asked for the English word for अतिशयोक्ती and she said... wait for it... एक्ज़ागरेशन! Attagirl! Making her brother proud as always. I was so relieved! You are not alone Mr. Sujeet, thought Mr. Sujeet.
So, I was making some progress. I didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out my next target : my school English teacher. Tak tak tak I dialed his number, tring tring tring rang his phone and there I was... so close to finding out the root of the mystery. Now, the question was how to ask! Not being able to figure out quickly, I talked about this, talked about that, a lot of chit-chat. Finally, I just put it bluntly "Sir, em... so... I called to... I was wondering... there was this thing... Sir, I was thinking about a word for अतिशयोक्ती... exa-something..." "एक्ज़ागरेशन!" came the reply instantly. There you go!
No sooner did I cut the call than Snehal called up again. "Dada, I asked my friend from Baramati. She has been studying in an English medium school since beginning. And everybody has a general impression of her as someone with good English skills. Guess what! Even she says एक्ज़ागरेशन!" Down went crashing my joy of solving a mystery!
Meanwhile, I had this incident as my gtalk status message. Many people pinged and asked about it. Shiva, a friend of mine came up with this bizarre statement "Not at all rare. I think almost all Telugu people pronounce it that way." Then I went a spree to ping Telugu people and ask. Negative. Nothing. Wrong theory. I had started to think that it might be some Maharashtra specific thing. Interactions with many of Marathi people here at IITM said otherwise. In final desperate attempt to find some pattern, I sent a mail to all my classmates asking whether any of them made the same mistake as me. One replied affirmatively. So here I am, clueless, without a conclusion and blogging about it just so that I won't feel it was a total waste of time...