Some people always claim about the unity of Indian subcontinent and to drive it into our subconscious quite consciously, they make us read it during our early years of education (this also means this theory is only saleable to the educated or better to say degree holders). But tell me is it so? Diversity is so much visible, Punjabis are popular jokestock of others, a Bengali is always a small and not-so-brave and uri-baba saying creatures and Biharis are uneducated (hats off to our union railway minister for popularizing this image) and a Jatth only understands about his latth. They say about cricket, but a Bengali will always pray for a century from Sourav and win for India is a secondary issue. So, grave is the problem.
Well if I elaborate on this issue then it will advertise only my poor and shallow knowledge. So I will talk about how this diversity or its language aspect can be killer for interracial friendship or relationship. I had three such experiences and I will list them chronologically.
I met this boy Jawed during my engg. Days. Along with others I was down to the dining hall and we had two chairs between us. But none of us knew the other. Neither it was known to me that Jawed doesn’t speak Bengali at all but can only guess. We started and somebody asked Jawed for the pulse which in Bengali is “Daal de”. Now the point is here D of Daal is as in Doll. Jawed was perplexed, and he smiled (those rather sheepish smiles people produce when they don’t understand at all, sorry Jawed bhai). The boy who asked was also surprised and asked someone else to forward the bowl of pulse. I was intrigued and when we made for our rooms on the third floor (of course that floor only, all the lower floors were preferred by the seniors) I asked him. He candidly said in hindi, I don’t understand Bengali, I am trying to learn. And that boy was asking me “Daal de” and I cudnt understand “kya Daalna hai”.
This friend of mine produced a lot of gems during his early Bengali learning months like when he developed a tummy he lamented, in bengali of course, “amar pet hoyeche” which in Bengali means ….ummmmmm….. blush blush………….. I am pregnant.
But I will not go listing all these as he used to produce one or two gems daily. Rather one day I went into his room looking for someone to accompany me to the far located snacks shop (well that is how my English skill translates a telebhaja or pakoda shop). He also said “yaar, I need a copy so I am coming of course”. We two moved and I was happy that he is purchasing coffee and thinking about how to get the maximum share of it. We two went to the snacks shop and had a favorite Bengali light food (by that time Jawed bhai was quite comfortable with that). Then we moved to the local stationary and I on Jawed’s request asked the shop owner for coffee. He produced a Nescafe costing around 50. I asked Jawed and he said “how come I know which size you want”. I was a bit perplexed but shrugged, considered and settled for a pack worth Rs. 25. Then I was looking towards Jawed to make the payment and vice versa. It was his turn of shrugging now and he produced his wallet and we started moving towards our hostel. Halfway Jawed startled and said, “yaar, I forgot to buy my copy”. I was bamboozled and reminded him of our recent purchase. He said “who needs coffee, I thought you need it, mujhe likhne ke liye copy chahiye(I need an exercise book to write on)”. Then we went back and fabricated a story on our way to cover our foolhardiness and somehow replaced the coffee with a copy. Not knowing the term popularly used for exercise books in hindi speaking regions, thus, demolished my hope of an early morning coffee before going to bed at someone else’s expense.
Lastly, this one is quite serious one if we consider all mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws share relationship like those portrayed in Ekta Kapoor’s soaps. My mother recently visited me in Dilli and looking at me produced one of her fond declaration “you look deadly thin and you need nutrition”. Well, I am engaged to a girl who is trying to learn Bengali very earnestly but sadly, isn’t Bengali. She duly paid a visit and I sent them both shopping, one acting as guide another one the explorer. It started with my mother’s announcement of going out to buy some sabzi and her daughter-to-be’s astonishment and suggestion that here in Dilli the hotels are of poor quality, not at all comparable to those of Lucknow’s and my mother shouldn’t buy sabzi from outside but should prepare those herself as I have the cooking facilities with me. Please note Sabzi in Bengali means raw vegetables and in Hindi cooked curries. I solved it for them but hardly knew what was coming.
I was busy surfing when the call came. My mobile showed an incoming call from my beloved’s mobile and I picked it up. She was almost whispering and asked me “babu, tum log magarmach khate ho?” meaning “Do you people eat crocodiles?”. I was stunned by this and gently enquired what on earth made her think that. Then she handed the phone to my mother who enquired something sounding similar “babu, ekhane magur mach kothai paoa jai re?” meaning “where can I find Magur fish here?”.
P.S. Magur is a species of fish which Bengalis prefer as nutritious and easy to digest.