Semantics

What Makes the World Go Around

Some prat once said that ’tis love which makes the world go around. For me though, it’s probably expectorants.

My fav-est term in the Bong lexicon is probably ‘Dhurr’ followed closely by ‘Chhagoler Dim’. The first roughly corresponds to ‘Gah’ in English. The second one is untranslatable. Gotta wonder though, who first called someone a ‘Chhagoler Dim’. Takes a really special sort of a snowflake to come up with something like ‘goat’s eggs’, you know. Sukumar Ray would’ve been right proud of him! Cult.

Looks like India’s gonna have a new state pretty soon. Some chap went on a fast for 10 days, and ergo, Telengana it is. Just to put it  in perspective, Irom Sharmila‘s been fasting for 10 years now. There is actually a school of thought that KCR’s fast has less to do with the Telengana cause and more to do with the manner in which his party got served in the 2009 elections. Don’t blame the chap though, anybody would’ve been pissed.

One would think though that some 50 years after Independence we would have better issues to go apeshit about. And heaven knows, if there is any country with a dearth of issues, it sure as hell isn’t us. But nope, old habits sure die hard.

Reminds me a lot of Dehradun though. When I was studying there, for a few years in between, the Uttaranchal agitation was in full swing. Which was awesome! We used to have at least one strike every fortnight, with an almost metronomic regularity. And given how considerate most of these strike-wallahs are wont to be, it used to be invariably scheduled on a Friday or a Monday. So, every couple of weeks, when the clarion call was given, you know, when the bugle was sounded, it was essentially a signal for us to pack our stuff and hotfoot it across to Delhi for a small li’l break. Which was, I repeat again, awesome!

And when finally the State go-ahead was given, I don’t think anybody was as pissed as us schoolkids. Or even our teachers for that matter 🙂 Its kinda hard you know, reconciling yourself to the same old weekly routine, after months and months of four and three-day weeks, mini breaks, picnics, general vela-ness et al! For about a month or so after the announcement was made, all our faces were sullen enough to make the very milk curdle!! We. Were. Pissed.

And now look at Doon. Its hot, its crowded, its noisy, you’ve cars honking the smidgens off each other on Rajpur Road, and most of the trees are gone. Basically its like a miniature version of Delhi now. Yeah. See. That’s what Statehood does.

Ab Samachar Mein Hindi Suniye

Languages are a tricky breed. You are born into one, you speak a few, know a few more, and if you are really pissed, you invent Esperanto. OK, apologies, that was a cheap one. Now, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to learn two tongues; Urdu and Sanskrit. Urdu, because I wanted to read Manto and Chugtai in original, and Sanskrit because, well, it was Sanskrit.

I have always found Urdu to be a singularly lyrical language. The cadences, the pauses, the nazaakat, the chhoti-chhoti harkatein; it’s a tongue for poets, for bards, for troubadours. Sanskrit, on the other hand, was probably fated for didacticism, for hour-long oratorical excesses, the moment it was conceived. Try as hard as I may, I just cannot visualise anyone making small-talk in Sanskrit. It is the resounding baritone to Urdu’s mellifluence. A fortissimo to the other’s sotto voce.

However, I never had much dealing with any of them. Unlike my Mum and Dad, I never really had a classical education in Sanskrit. I did start off with Sanskrit in Dehradun, but when I came to Cal, those bozos at school made me shift to Bong instead. Poltroons. In re Urdu again, Nastaleeq is as comprehensible to me, as are Egyptian hieroglyphs. And whatever little I know comes from those 50s and 60s numbers courtesy the likes of Ludhianvi and Sultanpuri. That is the extent of my knowledge.

This, however, never frazzled me too much. I always knew how incompetent I could be. And, in any case, there was always Hindi to fall back upon. Hindi was neither Sanskrit, nor was it Urdu. It was both. It was Hindustani. ‘Twas, as Jha ji used to say, Yeh toh Khari Boli hai.

Today though, I really don’t hear that much Hindi around me anymore. Far from it. It’s usually an over-Sanskritised version of the Ghost of Hindi Past. Just try watching your average Bollywood production or any one of those numerous sob sagas which ply their trade on prime-time tele. Most of them speak like characters right out of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata. Or, Hindi’s turned into some avant-garde hotchpotch which passes for high lit and the pinnacle of creative expression (Mr. Prasoon Joshi, I’m in awe of your work. Just that, it’s not quite Hindi you write in :))

So, you either hear the hep crowd swing it the Hinglish way. Or you hear words which were probably last used a couple of millennia back. Johnny Walker probably said it best. (See below) Today though, the newscasters might just wing it, the Yo dude, Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye, way.

Balraj Sahni’s Convocation address, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1972

(Original Post here. Cross-linked from here)

[…] it is logical to conclude that Hindi and Urdu are one and, the same language. But no, our British masters declared them two separate languages in their time. Therefore, even twenty-five years after independence, our government,: our universities, and our intellectuals insist on treating them as two separate and independent languages. Pakistan radio goes on ruining the beauty of this language by thrusting into it as many Persian and Arabic words as possible; and All India Radio knocks it out of all shape by pouring the entire Sanskrit dictionary into it. In this way they carry out the wish of the Master, to separate the inseparable. Can anything be more absurd than that? If the British told us that white was black, would we go on calling white black for ever and ever? My film colleague Johnny Walker remarked the other day, “They should not announce ‘Ab Hindi mein samachar suniye’ they should say, ‘Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye.’

Obgarb The Trafick Ruls

Saw that emblazoned on the rear bumper of an auto today. When you come to think of it, it really ain’t that bad; just pronounce’g’ as you would in gentile. On an unrelated note, imagine two points, A and B connected only by one straight road. Now, the problem which my rather limited abilities at comprehenion faces is why on earth do the auto-rickshaw wallahs have to holler out that they are going to B when quite clearly there isn’t much of an option insofar as the destination is concerned. Apart from being a pitiful waste of lungpower it is also rather disconcerting for those sitting next to the guy.

Foucault’s Pendulum (has me hovering in suspension)

Really, this book by Eco takes the cake. Its the most fiendishly obtuse book I have ever come across. So much of assorted arcana, literary miscellany in one book does, at times become too much to handle. Started the book around a couple of hours ago and have reached a stage where one of the protagonists has devised a BASIC program (yeah, really!!, the actual code is given) for his word processor. This is nothing compared to what came before that ; ‘isochronal majesty’, ‘sapiential metaphors’, ‘diadactic pretext’, ‘damnation of panta rei’, ‘chthonian world of gas guzzlers’ and whatnot.
And what is even more exasperating is the fact that I was preparing myself for a nice, easy session after my last read, Pamuk’s Black Book. That, in itself, was quite something. And now this. You know, it literally makes you yearn for stuff like Grishams, Baldaccis, Forsyths which you can literally race through without expending either too much of your time or energy.
Still, I’ve got to finish this work so back to Mr. Eco’s unabashedly convoluted semiotic-obsessed arcana which God-alone-knows how manages to masquerade as literature.