Friday, August 13, 2010

The Origin of Our Gaalis, Our Profanities

Yesterday I was reading the article "The Complex Origins of Our "Gaalis"" by Aakar Patel in Mint and the following happens on the commute home by train, providentially, or, by design, I don't know what. But here it is.

A man, respectable-looking, well above sixty was getting into a train from Masjid station when another man, also above sixty, venerable looking, said "bloody."

The first gentleman (I don't know if I can use this in the context of what followed, but I will use this nevertheless) said, "Your father and mother are bloody."

"Your father and mother are f****s."

"You b*****d."

"You m*******d."

So it went on without any respite with each man unwilling to let go, progressing to mother, sister and the entire sacred familial relationship there is. The whole compartment of a thousand persons in various stages of fatigue is entertained by this exchange. I am sitting there engrossed in Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" (which incidentally is full of swear words and similar insults) and this is happening in front of me.

As Aakar says our earliest literature doesn't contain any insults of a sexual and incestuous nature and these profanities have slowly infiltrated from abroad into our speech. I tend to agree. In the last provocation the word "madar" came from Farsi, and somehow got mixed with Hindustani to create a unique mixture of profanities of the subcontinent.

Incidentally in my novel "Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard" I have tried to deal with speech as it is spoken in Bombay and contains many profanities in their original form with annotations for the Western reader. The idea is to bring to a Western reader (and Indian, too) this unique culture of profanities that we have imbued from foreign culture.

Regarding the above fight, the lookers-on brokered a strange peace among the warring gentlemen and sorries were said and the matter buried the incident in the lore of the Bombay-wallah's daily commute.

No comments: