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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Punctuation in Delhi

Delhi spoils my tongue. For most Delhi males, the most common bit of punctuation is "bhenchod." They can't say a sentence without "bhenchod" being part of it, sometimes more than once. Arre, lunch ka time ho gaya, bhenchod, they'll say. Bhenchod daaru mein dum hai, yaar, they'll inform you. Bhenchod kal flight ka kya time hai, bhenchod?

I wonder if they proposed to their loved ones like that. Abay bhenchod, shaadi karogi mujhse, they could ask. Aap bahut bhenchod sundar lag rahi ho.

And you know how habits form, I keep finding that word coming to my lips in the middle of a sentence, as if it's a comma or, if I'm trying to sound sophisticated, a semi-colon. Not good.

Update (January 6): Rahul Tyagi writes in:
I really wish you had avoided the sweeping generalization that you made in this post. "For most Delhi males" is the sort of line that people tend to use every once in a while without realizing how completely unfair they are being to a huge number of people. It is this attitude - and this habit of assuming that just because 50 out of 60 people of a particular class that you have seen, share a particular characteristic, then it can be used to draw a conclusion about the remaining members of the class even though they might number 50 lakhs - that leads to half of the problems that we face today. A Ganguly becomes just a Bengali, and every Bihari becomes a Lalu Yadav. [...]

You might think I'm overreacting on what was essentially a casual remark, but it is the casual nature in which such remarks get made that tells us how well all this is ingrained in out psyche.
Well, my post was made in a light vein, and I try and avoid generalisation in serious posts, but Rahul's point is well made. So if any Delhi-ites are offended, I bhenchod apologise.

Update 2 (Jan 6): Tanuj Suri writes in and quotes this excellent excerpt from Suketu Mehta's "Maximum City":
I missed saying “bhenchod” to people who understood it. It does not mean “sister fucker.” That is too literal, too crude. It is, rather, punctuation, or emphasis, as innocuous a word as “shit” or “damn.” The different countries of India can be identified by the way each pronounces this word – from the Punjabi “bhaanchod” to the thin Bambaiyya “pinchud” to the Gujarati “bhenchow” to the Bhopali elaboration “bhen ka lowda.” Parsis use it all the time, grandmothers, five-year-olds, casually and without any discernable purpose except as filler: “Here, bhenchod, get me a glass of water.” “Arre, bhenchod, I went to the bhenchod bank today.” As a boy I would try consciously not to swear all day on the day of my birthday. I would take vows with the Jain kids: We will not use the B-word or the M-word.
Superbly put. Yet another on my list of books-I-should-have-read-by-now-but-will-read-in-2006. With about 4000 others. Sigh.
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