Sunday, May 27, 2007

"A short dictionary of misunderstood words" -- Milan Kundera

If you come to Calcutta in 2008, Strunk, here's a short dictionary of Bengali terms for you. It is not in any order and is in no way comprehensive. But a start, nonetheless.

Communication gap (occupational hazard for a Calcuttan): This happens quite often in Calcutta. The buses go on strike or the metrorail service between Tollygunge and Dumdum is suspended. People, who mostly use public transport, panic about a sudden communication gap. Otherwise, the communication inside Calcutta is pretty okay. Public communication, I mean.

Do not use the term "commute." You may be held as a CIA spy trying to find out about the Communists in Calcutta.

Presentation (n.): If you find someone fretting about what presentation to give, do not offer him/her any help. I know you would be tempted to from your vast experience in giving presentations everywhere from your college to all the STC conferences in the world, but you know zilch about how to give a presentation in Calcutta. In Calcutta, a presentation is a gift. And every wedding season you can find people scratching their heads about what presentation to give. Nothing to do with PowerPoint, lemme tell you.

Markin/Markini (adj): There will be many podia on which people can be seen calling America and George Bush names. Never go near those gatherings. In West Bengal you can get votes and stay in power for more than forty years if you keep shouting slogans against Markini Capitalism and Oppression. Markini is "American," by the way. Bengalis will side with the Cubans, the Talibans, the Bamiyans, the Iraqis, the Democrats, the Russians, the Chinese, but send their children only to Republican America to study and work. (I wonder what harm the Americans have done to the Bengali Communists. Can you find out?)

Samrajyabadi: The guys who talk about Samrajyabadi are most often seen at the foreign exchange counters selling the dollars sent by their children. I still haven't figured what it means, but it is used in a derog sense. If you are not begging on the streets or are not a laborer waiting outside a locked out factory, you are a samrajyabadi. And that is very bad, lemme tell you. Hey you, you have money? You are a samrajyabadi. (I agree with Russell Peters that being called Samrajyabadi is way better than being called a "fucking blow job" for which there is no good comeback, but being called samrajyabadi is almost equally bad.)

*someone translated for me: it means a capitalist. You do NOT wanna be called a capitalist in Communist Calcutta.

Jewish: Equivalent to Christians to Calcuttans.

"I put my daughter in The Jewish Girls' School."

"Oh, really? Good thing, bhai. She will learn good Christian values. They do have a chapel inside, I believe? With an organ? I am looking at the AG Mission school for my son. These Catholic missionary schools teach good English."

(And obviously you can see that the difference between Catholic and Protestant is lost to an average Calcuttan.)

White: Christian

European: Hippie/backpacker/Salvation Army Guest House

American: "You fucking Samrajyabadi!!"


Manic Street Preacher said...

aww. its not THAT bad!! i dont do communism. communism to me is restricted to college politics and odd autorickshaw drivers. and of course, the fuckin bandhs.

Oreen said...

of course it isn't THAT bad. this was absolutely in a very light vein, u know. i love Calcutta and Calcuttans with my heart. and they are by far the most emancipated people in the whole of Asia, one can safely say . . .

the mad momma said...

LOL! Glad to see you are back to writing more often.. missed you. ryze is over i guess...