Bhaiyyon aur behenon, it's time for some chai-samosa and gaali-galauj.
As many of you know, I was born in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh and lived there for the first 23 years of my life and go there at least once every year. Two things I miss about living in Uttar Pradesh: the samosas and the gaalis. Both lend flavour to the culture that bred me. This Sunday afternoon, as I pour myself some beer after a late breakfast of dosas and coconut chutney, my tongue is suddenly craving for Tiwariji's samosas and my ears are yearning to overhear some gaalis.
Before we proceed, let me caution you that this post is not for the genteel reader who gets easily offended by or cringes at the mention of obscene abusive words. So if you are the kind who plugs fingers into your ears whenever you find two men fighting and showering abuses on each other, my apologies to you: kindly skip this and proceed to my previous posts. Better still, read the post and pretend that you haven't.
My deepest apologies also to Mother Ganga, for writing this dirty post on the Ganga Mail. But then, it is in her lap that these profanities that I am going to showcase have prospered over the centuries. Also, what is the big deal: many Indian writers, starting with Khushwant Singh and Shobhaa De, have used dirty Hindi words in their books.
Just that dirty words sound dirtier when mentioned in Hindi or any vernacular language. 'Fuck' is so commonplace these days that no one bats an eyelid either while uttering it or listening to it. Now try saying the same word in Hindi (though 'fuck' or 'fuck you', as an exclamation, does not have an accurate equivalent in any other Indian language unless you bring in mothers and sisters into the picture) and it will sound crude. But that does not absolve you of the crime: why should 'fuck' be sexy and acceptable and its Hindi translation crude? We need to break the colonial mindset. So here goes.
First, the samosas though. Tiwariji runs a mithai shop in my neighbourhood in Kanpur. His samosas, I can vouch for it, are the best I've ever had. Too sad he will never get to read this blog. There are other shops in the neighbourhood which make samosas that are almost as good, only that they fry fresh samosas at particular times of the day -- usually at eight in the morning and five in the evening. You are extremely lucky if you happen to be at any of these shops when a bunch of samosas is just being ladled out of the boiling oil. Tiwariji's shop, however, has a heated glass case that keeps samosas fresh and warm long after they have been ladled out.
Outside of Uttar Pradesh, the samosas have been utterly disappointing for me. A good samosa, according to me, has a crisp shell: the moment you bite into it, you run into mashed potato flavoured with fried cumin, roasted cumin powder and dried mango powder. But in samosas that I've had elsewhere, the shell is hard and oily, and once you break through it, you find mashed potato richly embellished with paneer or other local delicacies. Worse, I have never seen them being freshly fried: the attendant heats it up for you in the microwave oven. What the fuck! Samosas and jalebis are something that become immensely delectable only when a karhai filled with oil is in sight.
Samosas being freshly fried for you: they are symbols of small-town innocence and honesty that become more defined as you move towards eastern Uttar Pradesh. Land up in any roadside shop in eastern UP, especially in a small town by the Ganga, and have a glass of tea and two samosas -- you will remember the experience for the rest of your life. That's the true flavour of Uttar Pradesh!
Now the other flavour -- the gaalis. As long as you are not the recipient, the gaalis are as delectable as the samosas. The gaalis, even though crude, have a certain zaayka (tang) and tehzeeb (good mannners). The same gaalis, by the time they reach Delhi, become more Punjabi and crude to listen to. But within the borders of Uttar Pradesh, they are so listenable and I so miss them.
"Teri maa ka bhosra!" These were the precise words that woke me up on the morning November 2, 1984. Indira Gandhi had just been assassinated, and there was curfew in most of north India, including Kanpur. People were supposed to be indoors. On that sunny winter morning, a policeman on a bicycle mouthed these dirty words as he chased the last of the cricket-playing boys out of the ground that my house overlooked. It was so funny, and still not so funny.
The best abuses come out spontaneously during day-to-day situations, be it a boy arguing with a friend, be it a police constable scolding a tempo driver, or two colleagues having a heated discussion. But when two men at each others throats exchange abuses, it's the right time to listen in and build your vocabulary of bad words.
Sitting in Chennai, however, these are some of the common expressions that I sorely miss:
"Aukat mein raho, samjhe? Nahin to gaand kaat denge tumhari."
"Jis din gaand kaat ke haath mein de diya na, sab rangbaazi utar jaayegi, samjhe bhosrikey?"
"Teri maiyya chodoon."
"Jab gaand pe do laath padegi, tab samajh mein aayega."
What kickass statements! There are many more. Many, many more. But it's time for lunch. So got to go.