"Raat ko Rajma Chawal mat diya karo. Ho gayi na gas."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

(First post from Paragraph. Pending for nearly a week, now. If you're a Mac user, a writer at that, you must get your hands on it. Puns intended. Many thanks to FHB for 'gifting' the application.)

Language, amongst the other factors, remains a significant marker for culture. I say this, for I find myself at total awe of those who speak/write the way, we do it at my home. 

In my life, I’ve barely come across a handful of those who belong to the same language group. Almost all of them can be counted on a single hand. I’ve found them on the internet- while lurking to feed my boredom. I’ve found them at the parties- where everyone was a goner and I was fascinated by the choice of drunken slurs. I found them in 2:25 am phone calls. I’ve gone out of my way to know them over the months and it feels great, each time I find myself stopping and staring in utter disbelief. It’s an expression to remember when you catch me in a state like that and my face runs, “Wait a second. You just used pyo da vyah and you haven’t grown up near me then how on Earth?” 

Disclaimer- I saw someone had aptly captioned an image, mitti pao, under a picture of her post exam state of mind- a meal. While I’d like to believe there’s great potential for a Maharashtrian snack joke/pun there, I say most North Indians would know what the phrase means. Oddly enough, the literal translation won’t get you anywhere, neither would knowing where to use it. It’s the use of the phrase, sewn in seamlessly, in a conversation, over some art-work, or for that matter something as banal as a food shot to describe a situation somewhere. 

Many years ago (according to the internet time) BuzzFeed or some other lifestyle website compiled a list of unique words which existed only in certain languages. There is no near-other translation for those phrases/words, which is what makes those expressions unique. My curiosity somewhat addresses that phenomenon. What makes this all the more fascinating for us to know, in any case, coming across those terms on weekly/monthly basis by others, who are not raised along with you.  

A little background on my family would be helpful here. I *belong* to Delhi. When I say this, I’m expected to comprise in the category where celebrating car-o-bar is a sign of my cultural heritage, as is knowing the trade secret- Butter Chicken needs to always be devoured with a Butter Naan. Sadly, for me, none of these markers hold any value. Not to say, I belong to a dysfunctional family, but the bunch of us are rather odd. There’s personal history and a different area (physically and mentally) where each of us hail from, in spite of actually being from Delhi and all over. It’s the collective staying together experience that really brought our language together. There’s a considerable amount of Urdu, non-Bollywood Punjabi (which is to say, it's not very traditional Indian Punjabi), inspiring bits of Hindi from television and magazines which were devoured all through the 80s, 90s and in some part of the noughties in my household. However, it's mostly a collection of our experiences, of what we were 'fed' when we were all little- right from the eldest member in the house to the youngest. 

Which is when, it hit me today- it's all in the cultural heritage of language, where things shape up even in cinema. Outside of cinema, while shaping the cinema. A senior scholar at this final defence today was put up with a question, why is it that a film like Tanu Weds Manu Returns works with the English-speaking audience of Ambience Mall in Gurgaon, and why is it that the same audience rejects Gori Tere Pyaar Mein? A little background information- the proposal was on the 'cinematic town' in the contemporary Bombay Cinema. A title, which required in-depth discussion in order for the discussion to move along. For some reason, the explanation of a senior colleague caught my attention. She pinned the whole phenomenon down to the language used in the script. A film purely works because of its text- the same which comprises of language. The whole thing was self-explanatory after. You know, a film sells because of the local language connect. You can have a kickass production design and the language which suits the NRI diaspora, you're going to sink in India, at the BO. Somehow, the recent films capture this rather well, as filmmakers let the reign in the hands of the script writers, who put in a piece of where they're coming from- their experiences, upbringing and life in the form of their language. This is why a Khosla Ka Ghosla can never match upto Aloo Chaat

Then, doesn't that explain, the point about demanding that from everyone you meet and encounter? The familiarity of them knowing your language, your background and where you come from?

I'd like to believe the act of getting to know each of these people is perhaps as intimate as spending a drunk night out with them. You really don't know a person unless you nurse them from a hangover after slapping them in a middle of a party for embarrassing you. Intimacy then, is just a construct of language shared between two individuals. 

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