language


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Is this something I should be writing to the NCW¹ about? How can any civilized society tolerate the stripping and vulgar display of watermelons – and that too around a pole? Melons too have feelings.

Stripped watermelons are against our culture. We want decent melons, with good values and morals. Not ‘sugarbabies’ and melons that reveal too much. This is India, not the decadent west.

1. National Commission for Watermelons

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And shame on those of you who read the title and hopped here expecting something else!

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A friend of mine related this hilarious story the other day. Her charming and social mother-in-law, quite the lynchpin of their family’s business enterprises, while talking to her about an error made by one of their managers, said “..and when I learnt about what happened, I went to his room and banged him!” Stunned silence from my friend B., before she realised that her MIL was using the term as a synonym for ‘reprimand’. Suppressing a giggling fit with some difficulty, she then explained to her MIL that not only was the usage incorrect, it could also be completely misinterpreted – and how! The MIL, a formidable lady, is fortunately not without a sense of humour. She burst into laughter and said “Now I understand why, a few weeks ago, I got a few strange looks from the (mostly young) sales team when I told them that whoever did not meet their targets would be banged by me!”

I desisted from asking if the sales went through the roof that month.

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B’s story reminded me of an incident involving my friends K and M. K’s been brought up in the US, and after she and M got married, moved to Mumbai with him. A few days later, they were both at the butcher’s, and K, watching the mutton being cut into pieces for her, told the butcher “Arre Chutiya, thoda liver bhi dena”. The butcher’s hand – tightly gripping a bloody cleaver – froze in mid-air as he fixed her with a stare, unsure of how to react. M, for all his portliness, turned a sharp 90˚, not quite believing his ears. With one wary eye on the butcher, he furiously hissed “What did you just call him? Do you even know the meaning of that word?”

Long story short, apparently K was under the impression that the C-word was a synonym for ‘bhau, bhai, bhaiyya, brother’. She’d apparently used it earlier with some rickshaw-drivers, with no adverse reactions. (I can’t figure out why….were they deaf?) Anyway, M apologised profusely to the butcher, citing K’s unfamiliarity with the language as the reason for the gaffe, and they both retreated. With the cut of meat (and some liver), of course. Gaali or no gaali, lunch is lunch and dhanda is dhanda!