It’s been quite some time since you moved to the republic of the uncultured and the uncouth, somewhere in north India. Or perhaps you were born here but always felt like a zebra in a sea of donkeys. Donkeys who shout instead of conversing, and in a language so coarse, your sophisticated heart bleats with agony. You haven’t had an intellectually stimulating conversation since India discovered Chinese bhel. Your nose has been up so long in the air, you now suffer from superioritis. Once, when you launched into a discussion on the mysticism of Tagore’s poetry, and the trance-like quality of a Murakami, someone interrupted you with – haina, even I go into trance after a few pegs of this Japanese whisky!
That night you went to sleep whispering, beam me up, Maa Kali, while hugging your paash baalish.
Maybe Maa Kaali did hear your prayers. Or maybe it was meant to be. It was yet another boring Wednesday at work. You were in the washroom trying to cleanse your ears of tera buzz mujhe jeene naa de playing in a loop in the share cab, by washing it with boiling water. Just as you were done with rubbing the last remnants of that awful song from the tympanic membrane, your nose picked up the strong smell of what was unmistakably Boroline. Sure enough, when you turned your head, you beheld this vision in an unmistakably Byloom sari, her eyes blazing like embers on her aloo dom shaped face.
After you’ve pinched yourself thrice to check if you’re dreaming, you stutter hesitantly – tumi ki Bangali? Nazrulgeeti starts playing in the background even before she says yes.
After months of debating whether bus jataa thaa or jatee thee and ignoring the chortling in the background because you said mujhe juice khana hai, you have finally connected with a fellow intellectual who’s as passionate about the pinkness of Hilsa as she is about glaciers melting in Antarctica. How long can one survive this unfriendly city where your simple query ‘aaj menu-ta kee?’ at a restaurant is invariably met with ‘sannu kee!’ Disgusting, I tell you!
Things are not as bad now. Especially after you’ve started accosting random strangers at the metro, Starbucks, Big Bazaar, with ‘aapnee ki Bangali?’ The other day when the dentist said ‘show me your tit’ you almost cried with relief.
You now have a circle of friends who feel like home. Fellow enthusiasts who share the same likes, dislikes, sigh about Uttam and Suchitra’s magic, the wizardry of Anupam Roy’s lyrics, fret about the lack of fresh katla or a decent egg roll. Having a Bengali friend comes with the comfort of knowing that both of you suffer from the same sense of intellectual superiority, often misplaced. It is anchored to a distant past that gave the world intellectual giants who happened to be Bengalis. The present may not be as bright, but we don’t let this come in the way of our chauvinism that thinks the best work in literature was produced in this language.
So, you’ll rarely cross a Bengali who’ll claim, ‘my Bangla is too weak, yaa’ and then proceed to speak broken Bangla in an American accent.
No sire, we are mighty proud of our language and its many clever nuances. We totally agree with you when you say ‘Bengali is such a sweet language, naa.’ And because we are hypersensitive, react quickly, express clearly, our language is full of gems that do a brilliant job of condensing the myriad emotions we feel into sharp phrases.
To express our annoyance we have bede paaka, apod baalai, nikuchee korechee, jyaata log, kebla kaanti, pond paaka to choose from. Since not all forms of happiness are equal, we have fatafaati for extreme, byapok for super extreme, baah, bodo bhalo for medium and le halua for mock disappointment.
Since what Bengal thinks first, India thinks later, we have been giving zero f*cks even before it became fashionable with ‘boye gechhe.’ Plus we have the endearing ‘eesh, o Maa, boddo oshobbho tumi, uff, chhado to – for romance-speak which often borders on nyakami. Don’t even get me started on our cleverly disguised cusses that mostly hover around the nether regions. But if you really want to piss off a Bengali, try – tor maathae gobor bhora (your head is filled with cow dung), amaar paacha tor mukher theke porishkar (my a*s is cleaner than your face). We even have animal friendly cusses like shuorer bachcha (piglet, but with connotations that are far from cute), kuttar bachcha (son of a bitch), bandorer beechee (monkey’s nut)… Even our gala-galis are inclusive.
Is it still a surprise that the Bong guy in your group who has sat through your mix of Hindi-Punjabi-English of what you think is conversation but is mostly chauvinistic crap, will instantly bond with the other Bengali chap who’s 50 feet away and launch into Bangla-speak!
Irrespective of whether we were born in Asansol, Ambala or Janak Puri in Delhi, our childhood was mostly about getting giddy with excitement just before Durga Puja, our moms force-feeding us machh because it’s good for the brains, realising we’ve consumed 50 pieces of mishtee at a relative’s wedding, and singing Robindro Songeet under the starlit sky. As adults it is shared love for afternoon naps and mangsho bhaat on Sunday afternoons.
So yes, we insist on huddling together, and speak in Bangla because that’s our passport to instant connections.
Oh, are you feeling excluded?
Welcome to our world where we get incredulous looks from our north Indian colleagues and friends for eating chicken during their Navratri, which they mistakenly believe is a period of austerity to be observed by everyone in the country. Whereas our goddess Durga wants us to celebrate her home coming with joy and much feasting. We don’t get how ‘machhi khabe’ ‘rasgulla khabe’, are considered friendly overtures. But we’ll certainly laugh over your jokes about Bengali accents because we pride ourselves on our sense of humour!
Next time if your Bengali friends insist on jabbering in their language, don’t grudge them the utter joy to be able to speak in Bangla. Or would you rather listen to her talking about her handsome potty who went to IIT and plays the violin better than Yehudi Menuhin. Potty nahin janta kya hai? Hobby, he’s my hobby! Eeesh, kichhoo bojhe naa. What a bokachoda!
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