Wisdom of the soil

This question is for my urban, educated, middle class professional friends who have made their home away from where they were born and brought up.

Which state are you from? Have you ever interacted with the people who still live the culture of that place? These are the people who may or may not be educated but are yet miles away from the consumerist sub-culture and a corporate life that dominates most of us. These are the people who watch everything on a TV but watch it like it belongs to a foreign planet. From the perspective of most of the people, they are raw to the point of being gross and they are so conventional that they can kill for protecting what they think is right. Add to that, they are unhygienic, uncivilized and the real Indians from what we fashionably call the ‘rural areas’.

A friend who spent her growing years in UP and Delhi and I who spent my growing years in the heart of Haryana were laughing at a colleague who we take as the boss’s ‘chamcha’ with no mind of his own and who happened to be ecstatic at getting an opportunity he did not seem to deserve. Suddenly, in our conversation we stumbled upon a gem of words – ‘thotha chana baje ghana’. If you speak this in haryanvi, the sound of ‘n’ would be something like the sound mixed with ‘aannnddaa’.

This unpretentious gem of a four-word idiom that is used in hindi and its associated dialects from Haryana and UP described the reality we saw in a way that our thousands of words could not.

Our bitching went for a toss the moment we stumbled upon this diamond. I don’t remember who said it first but it was like a Eureka moment. Our roots held the key to understanding and describing the events of our life even when there seemed to be little connection between the words and wisdom of Haryana or UP and the corporate grind we go through now.

Our local idioms, sayings, expressions convey more about life than we, the professionals of the populist culture, can imagine. Now hear this, ‘Chowdhary mara na janiye jab tak terhvi na ho le’. The literal translation of this phrase is – ‘Don’t trust that the Chowdhary (a powerful caste in Haryana) has died till the rituals of the 13th day are complete.’ But what it means is that don’t consider anything done till it is really done (with documentation)! I use this expression when I start to become too happy too soon much before reaching the end of a deliverable.

Another one of my favorites that I remembered today was – ‘Jhhota cho lena’ where Jhhota is pronounced like you would pronounce ‘o’ as ‘o’ in ‘Hola’. The literal translation of this one is, ‘milking the ox’. The real meaning of this phrase is doing the impossible. I love to use this expression whenever we deliver on a seemingly impossible deadline!

Considering that I write in English and for my profession, command over English is what I get paid for, I would be a hypocrite to denounce the language. But I do feel sorry for people who either never learnt their mother tongue, its jokes, its idioms, its songs or denounce it despite knowing it to appear as a hip non-desi.

I read somewhere that language is the first thing that makes us different from animals; indeed our actions are just about the same. And the language in which my parents and grand parents shared their wisdom, narrated their stories, sang songs and uttered gaalis as well as caring words for me is not the language I want to lose.

If you are from Punjab or Haryana or UP and remember an expression/idiom/saying that you wish to share then you can leave it as a comment to this post or write to: homeofanomad@gmail.com Do share the details about the expression/idiom/saying you wish to share – any underlying stories or your experiences of its usage. If you write in, I will publish it on this blog and credit you with your contribution.