Monday, April 20, 2015

The serious business of Bhalobasha, the Bengali way



Image courtesy - TelegraphIndia.com


There are certain words in Bangla that have no equivalent in any other language. Like nyakami, a trait peculiar to Bengali women especially if she’s beauteous and aware of it. Nyakami is her way of conveying to you, she knows that you know she’s beautiful, with maximum effect. A tilt of her head that gives your gaze the felicity of looking at her neck tad longer than necessary. A knowing smile, a lethal combination of innocence and coquettishness, engineered to feel like shrapnel on your heart afflicted by affection of the tingling kind. Emboldened by her playful antics, you make flirtatious advances, only to be rebuffed with - isshh, uff, kee oshobho (how shameless you are). Suitably reprimanded and filled with remorse at misreading her signals, just as you beat a hasty retreat, she will dart you a come hither look that’ll leave you as confused as a deer caught in headlight.

She will make you revolve around her as she blazes like the sun. Only when she’s convinced enough of your slavish love for her, will she let you into the inner sanctum of her heart.

Phostinoshti is yet another term that is peculiar to Bangla and Bengalis. It is a Bengali’s way of having an aphair (affair), without doing much about it. Just like the revolution that he plots from his armchair, hoping to change the world without lifting his finger.

If there’s anything that a Bangali is more passionate about other than phish, phootball and phriends, it the business of prem-koraa (sweet lovin’). The grooming starts at a very young age. While the young male prefers spending his youth doing adda on a rock, his female counterpart is busy showering love on mankind. For her prem-kora is a day job, along with chaan kora, ranna kora and kaaj kora (bathing, cooking and working), exactly in that order. 

So, when the Bengali male nurtured on Horlicks, Kalmegh, fish-head and Ishabgol decides to woo the nayika of his dreams, he engages in 'phostinoshti’. This consists mostly of thinking he is having an affair without actually having one. Poetry and Rabindra Sangeet feature at the top of activities, some holding of hands, exchange of coy glances, stolen hugs and loud sighs to express helplessness. All through this, neighbours will be told 'o amaaar bonner moto' (she is like my sister). Not suggesting incest, but to just convey there is no actual phostinoshti.


The Bhadrolok dares to think beyond ‘you are so hot’ to serenade his object of affection, quotes from Shakespeare and writes poetry in praise of her coral lips and cheeks as rosy as the roses in Mrs Biswas’s garden. All his expressions of love are accompanied by Tagore in his various moods. But only when he gets time from fighting cold, flu and acidity.

Together they shed copious tears of happiness as they marvel at the beauty of the sun setting over the Hooghly and dwell on the cosmic, sing Akash bhora surjo tara in the taxi as they head to Mainland China for Chinese. Both are as much in love with biryani as they are with the works of Trotsky and Chekhov and a fun weekend for them is having luchi with mangsho.

He’s a fitting match for the Bengali woman nurtured on green chillies and mustard fish and treats her as his equal. If she sulks, he sulks longer and they try to cure each other with silent treatment.

Only she can appreciate the effeminate Bangali chhele, who’s free to do what his Mom wants and looks down on machismo with disdain and takes procrastination to new heights. Only he can appreciate her fiery temper, blow hot-blow cold temperament and not get baffled by her nyakami.

Their idea of romantic date is meeting for a protest march screaming cholbe naa, cholbe naa (this won’t do) in perfect harmony and followed by soothing their parched throats with chaa and tele bhaja. Their idea of foreplay is arguing which Satyajit Ray movie is his best or whether Nazrul’s compositions are superior to Tagore’s. The only thing they agree on is ‘what Bengal thinks today, the rest of India will think tomorrow.’

A Bong couple will take the business of bhlobasha seriously and yet do nothing about it.

Now here lies the catch. Many a times the Bong girl whose last name is bombshell gets tired of waiting for sex and runs off with a Punjabi. The Bong guy then grows a beard and writes more poetry. And the girl spends the rest of her life dealing with aliens trying to familiarise themselves with Bangla culture through – Aami tomake bhalobashe, Rosgulla khaabe, Bengali is such a sweet language, teach me, no?



53 comments:

  1. Ohh My God Purba ! I have read this twice already ! And my Monday morning couldn't have started off any better ! You have my dear have your tongue tucked firmly in your cheek ! Loved this !

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  2. Superb!Such a loving,endearing sketch of Bengalis.Those typical Bengali words are truly unique.

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    1. And sadly now on the brink of extinction.

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  3. This is so true!! Though not a Bengali, having grown up in Kolkata I can relate to all of this. Nyakami is a word difficult to translate. And "Bhalobasha" continues despite the girl referring to the guy as "Da"

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    1. Bengali men after a certain age become Dada irrespective of the addressee's age :D

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  4. The opening para set the tone for this amusing peek into Bongdom.
    The silent treatment cure works across cultures.:)

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    1. Killing each other softly with guilt :p

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  5. Talk of giving mixed signals and the Bong guys would be as confused as a cow on a traffic light. But why Bong? Every guy is just as susceptible.

    Not sure that I understand it completely, but the tid-bits I managed to collect were quite amusing.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. I thought the translation in brackets would help!

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  6. Heheehe...very intellectual coupling this is.

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  7. Replies
    1. And so happy to see your comment on the blog, Chayan.

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  8. Enjoyed the piece. Sharing it with my Bongs!

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  9. Bengali maidens are thankful for this post.

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  10. Loved the way you gave us a glimpse of this side of bengali culture. And the catch in the end reminded me of a bengali friend who has a punjabi boyfriend ;)

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  11. Purba ... well written. But I beg to differ on your last observation. Bengali girl/woman waiting for sex? This tribe does not have any sex quotient. For them that 3 letter word does not have much significance in life apart from breeding the next generation. They would rather enjoy discussing sarees and ornaments. Those who do marry a non-bong guy are an exception. And exceptions prove the rule.

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    1. I know many Bong women married to Punjabis. But then I live in Delhi.

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    2. Purba , it seems that your ideas of the bengali Bhadrolok and concept of Bhalobasa are borrowed from the Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen era. Something like many people still believe that all chinese wear pigtail. Also I pity those Punjabi gentlemen who dare to marry bengali women as they and their family members would be missing out on the Dahej and the new car they are likely to get is thay marry a Punjabi girl.

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    3. Dear anonymous,
      This is not an academic paper on the Loving ways of the Bengali community. It was meant to be funny. Chill!

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  12. Awesome... what subtleties, what nuance... loved every sentence.. only I wish I had read these kind of Bengali gyan growing up.. when I fell for those huge eyes in school..

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    1. NOT ALL BENGALI WOMEN HAVE LOVELY EYES!!

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  13. I have a very limited exposure to Bengalis so had no clue about this bhasha. It was a lot of fun reading this one, Purba. :)

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed, Rachna :-)

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  14. A rich tribute to the sweetest language speaking Bongs! It was like a roshogulla and mishti dohi doled out in text, Purba:)

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    1. Ha..you haven't seen Bengali women quarrel!

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  15. I have heard some Bengali songs and I love the sound of the language ( no I don't even know a single word ) ... twas a fun read Purba

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  16. I have heard some Bengali songs and I love the sound of the language ( no I don't even know a single word ) ... twas a fun read Purba

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  17. So many nyakamis must be happening at Puja pandals under the benign gaze of Ma...

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    1. Hehe...eye play, word-play, let's play the game of lurrrv :D

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  18. As a Punjabi married to a Bong woman, I can speak with authority, I think. Fiery temperament, Yes. Nyakami, in this case, not really. Otherwise, pretty darn close!

    On the occasion of Shubho Nabobhorsho I wrote about yet another Bong term. https://sloword.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/the-big-o-and-i/

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    1. And I shall read it at leisure :-)

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  19. got a glimpse of these when I lived in Kolkata for a year! Will the series continue with the sojourns of the bong bombshell and the punjabi gabru?

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    1. Now you are giving me ideas *insert evil glint*

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  20. Or else, goes south, because she knows that all 'Madrasis' are intelligent!! :P
    We had a phrase in our teenage years: 'din mein bhaiya, raat mein saiyan'! I think the protestations of being like a 'bon' are dead on target!! :D

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    1. Says the girl who's married to an Andhraite :p

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  21. Hahaha!!! Loved the ending!! That's EXACTLY what everyone says to Bengalis!!!

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  22. From what I know of the many friends, I could only vehemently nod at statements made (when I wasn't uncontrollably laughing, that is).... Wonderful read for to kickstart the weekend

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  23. Ok that last line is totally me! Except I wasn’t dating a Bong but I did run away with a Punjabi and now I’m living with aforementioned aliens! And my daughter is part-alien too as a result!!

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  24. Delightful...simply delightful read

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  25. isshh, uff, kee oshobho , loove this post, Purba. It's soo beautiful and now I know from whom I can learn Bengoli, from a true blue Bong:) The only Bengoli word I know is, Aami tomake bhalobashe. That too from the Amitabh starrer, Khudaar:)

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  26. Wow ! That's so intriguing. So many words are so peculiar to each language. It's interesting to think whether one's mindset also gets shaped by the language one speaks.

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  27. Lovely, brought back memories of my days in beautiful Calcutta. I picked up quite a few tricks from my Bengali friends. The funniest thing was, Bengali boys would come behind us to flirt, and would start the conversation with " Didi, ami apnar song alap korbe" or something like that ( forgive me I maybe wrong, it has been ages, and my Bengali may be wrong).
    I would also like share something funny: Our neighbour who is a Bengali married to a Goan Christian. This very stylish lady was expecting a good, expensive top of the line Smart phone for her birthday. On that day, he came and gave her a very beautifully wrapped gift, and when she opened it with lots of expectation, all she found was a book titled: "How to be a good Bengali wife". Imagine what might have happened to him.

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