Thursday, March 23, 2006

Baap ka raj hai kya? Is it your father’s property?

How do I say this? I have seen these common Indian insults used rather indiscriminately these days. I don’t know; I have been at the receiving end of these epithets at times. There was this incident when I was traveling in a train and a guy pushed me.

“Kaya karatha hai?” What are you doing I asked out of pique more than a little chastened by the unfairness of it. I guess there was enough space for him not to poke me in the ribs.

“Thumara baap ka train hai kya?” Is it your father’s train? He asked.

“Is it your father’s then?” I asked him threateningly. I am usually reticent but I can be aggressive if I want to be. Give it back in kind. Fathers are the epitome of family pride and I didn’t want my father dragged into this, not the least by this ruffian.

“Why did you bring my father into it?”

“Because you did first,” I said. See, there is no logic in these everyday fights and it is better to offend than to lie back and take insults.

The matter soon escalated to a point when fists would generally be used. And there is so much frustration going around in a crowd that no one would mind letting someone have it in the nose if they got the opportunity. Sock, sock, sock, sock, would go hands made of steel and the crowd would then disperse leaving you to nurse your broken bones. Such is life in a big city. Such is the life of a commuter in Bombay’s trains.

How did I defuse the situation? Leave it to me. I am resourceful. The city has taught me a few things.

“Ask this nice gentleman here, how he would feel if this man pushed him? And he didn’t even have the manners to apologize.”

The “gentleman” I asked was neither a “gentleman” nor “nice.” Doesn’t matter. He was the heftiest man around, with a frightening moustache to boot, the sort who could freeze someone with a glare. If he was on my side then I was safe.

It worked. The man was so grateful to be called a “gentleman” that he glared at my oppressor, “Thumara baap ne thumko manners nahi sikhaya kya?” Didn’t your father teach you any manners?

See, after all, in Bombay, any argument starts and ends with “father.”
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