Ponga, pagaar, rokegaa ladeej; an intro to Jamshedpur patois

Section of Jamshedpur Skyline

Section of Jamshedpur Skyline

This post is on the colourful and unique words used in Jamshedpur in the days I was growing up there in the 60’s and the 70’s. Jamshedpur being an industrial town had migrant workers from all over. Bhojpuri speaking people, Maithils, Bengalis, Oriyas, the Andhra people from the northern part of coastal Andhra (called “telangis” in local parlance).  Of course the local adivasis speaking a myriad languages of their own; Ho, Munda, Oraon etc.

This, over time, produced a “language”, mostly unique to Jamshedpur. I list below a few of the words which have stuck in my memory over the decades. This list is by no means a definitive. I am sure there are many more words which I may have missed. I may have even got some meanings not–so-right.

Do read, dear readers, and let me know of other words which would merit a mention in a subsequent similar piece on the Jamshedpur patois.

Ponga:

Ponga refers to a grave sounding loud siren which would go off at periodic intervals thrice a day signaling the start of a fresh shift at TISCO, aka, Tata Company. At 6am, 2pm, 10pm.  These would beckon the Tisco workers to their work, “duty” as it is called. Or colloquially, “diuty”.

Shift:

A ponga heralded the start of a shift. As in an “A’, “B”, or “C” shift. “Shift” here refers not to a general lateral movement, but to the commencement of an eight-hour work period which was announced by a ponga.

The life of Jamshedpur was dictated by these shifts. Guests to a wedding dinner party would excuse themselves early, even before the baraat clarionetted (a clarion commonly called a “kilaat“) and drummed its away to the bride’s house, saying that they had an “A” shift the following day and they had to have an early dinner so that they could be  early to bed, in time for the 6 o’ clock shift. And their wishes were fulfilled with an earlier-than-normal serving of dinner.

Naga:

If the workers were not able to participate in their shifts, they had to perforce take a “naga”, a chhutti.  Commonly called a casual leave, a CL.

Off:

Refers to the weekly break enjoyed by the workers. Each of them had his “off” on different days of the week. Commitments to meet socially depended on the weekly off the workers had. “Kal biyafey hai, hamara off hai. Ham aayengey.” Biyafe being the Bhojpuri word for Brihaspatiwaar or Thursday.

Pagaar:

Pagaar was what the workers received as the rewards for their month’s labours. Pagaar, a salary.  Curiously enough the pagaar was disbursed not on the 1st of the month, but from the 4th to 8th of the month. Each “department” had a specific day for this activity.

And timing themselves with the day, the pathans, or the money-lenders (kabuliwala clones in my growing-up days) would position themselves at the factory gates waiting to recover their dues from the hapless worker who had the misfortune of taking a loan from them.

Double-Pagaar:

Double-pagaar meant the annual Puja bonus the Tisco factory workers received before the commencement of the Puja season. Puja was the time when the entire city went berserk doing purchases. Clothes, appliances, two-wheelers, books, what-have-you! In the weeks after the double-pagaar, the otherwise friendly shopkeepers would not  have even a moment to as much as nod back at you, the tailor would look the other way when his regular patrons requested him to deliver the tailoring in time for shashthi, the neighbouring “hotel-wallah” (called the halwaai in the rest of North India) would smile away deep-frying furiously the singharas and the jalebis.

Double-pagaar time was multiple fun times for the entire populace of Jamshedpur.

Giddu:

This appellation is for humans who are vertically challenged.

Yeh giddu kya khelega? Ek tho chhotey sa bowl hi uskey liye bouncer hai.

Gentler versions are “chhotu”, “bauna”.  If there is a gush of affection then the aforesaid bauna may be referred to a baunoo as well. In cases of extreme affection, Giddu would be converted into Gidua as well.

This word was often used depracatingly.

PS: “Tho” is a very Bihar word meaning nothing, just a linguistic crutch like the Bengali “ta”, as in “Ek ta”.

Single-haddi:

An epithet for humans with slighter stature. Patla-dubla in common parlance.  Also meaning durbal, nirbal, and well…. single (haddi). The precursor to the adjective “size- zero”.

Double- haddi:

Someone endowed with a generous weight. Of a healthy disposition. Mota!

Iss double-haddi goalkeeper key side sey football daal do, goal toh ho hi jayegaa.” (“The corpulent goalie would not be able to move his significant butt before the ball shot through the goalpost”)

Phutani:

An expression for unbecoming pride, vanity. Usually employed in the context of jealousy. “Phutani maarney waala” was a show-off. Rarely a term of endearment.

An explanatory sentence: “ Jab sey bell-bottom pehena shuru kiya hai, badi phutani marta hai”.

An explanatory ditty:

Hindustani, daal ka paani,

Chutiya rakhkar badi phutani.”

For those uninitiated, Hindustani was an appellation for a Bihari those days. It was often used by the Bengalis whose population in Jamshedpur has always been considerable. Daal ka paani refers to the watery version of Arhar daal which the Biharis relish with their chaawal (or bhaat as they call it). Chutiya can be loosely translated to a ponytail, the little twist of hair at the back of an otherwise clean-shaven pate. I have no idea why a chutiya-endowed Bihari should exude vanity.

The Hindustanis would retaliate against the Bengalis with an equally colourful ditty which went thus:

“Ai Bangali, ting-tingali

Pocha maachh khanewali

“Oh, ye Bongs, you smelly (rotten) fish-eaters”. My researches have revealed no specific meaning of “ting-tingali”. I suppose it is a device used to rhyme with the subsequent khanewali. As a matter of fact, I do not even know why the feminine khanewali was used.

Dangali:

Dangali refers to the branch of a tree. Dangali katna was a regular acitivity with families with overgrown guava, jamun or katahal trees in their backyards (more likely “front” yards). Katna= cutting, pruning.

The humble dangali too has it own uses!

Like the time in the early centuries of Anno Domini when the celebrated Sanskrit dramatist Kalidas was seen sawing-off the very dangali he was perched on. This led to a series of multiple events culminating in his marriage to a haughty princess. And the rest, as they say, is history (and literature!).

Thonga:

In those years before plastics, thonga was a paper container used to pack commodities in the local grocer’s shop. Thonga means a paper bag. This would be made of either old newspapers or with pristine brown paper sheets.

Thonga is not to be confused with the suffix “tho” which has an altogether different meaning as mentioned earlier. But it was ok to say “ek tho thonga”.

Butru.

Sometimes spelt as buturu as well.

This refers to a young lad, a male child. Often a child worker at a dhaba or at a roadside tea-stall. “Ei butru, yeh tabul ponchh (wet-wipe the table) do”, “ei butru zara ek cigarette khareed lao”.

The usage of butru was not confined to such workers but used for other kids too. “E butru o marad ka hai na?” (“This kid belongs to that chap”)?

Some butrus were even addressed as babuas, or babus. The female equivalent of a babua was buchia, a buchunia, or even a babuni. I do not know of a similar gender conversion with butru roots. Maybe female butrus those days were impossible to find in a road-side tea stall.

And finally,

Rokegaa, ladeej

Mini-buses were the blessing- or the scourge- those days, depending on how you saw them. Those early days of these devilish vehicles. They would torment all the road users.  With their very “artistic” swerves from the left of the road to the right or even vice versa.

And they had given themselves licenses to stop in the middle of nowhere should the conductor, or more commonly the khalasi (the bus attendant) feel like it. The khalasi was that guy swinginging on the door handle -mostly outside the confines of the minibus- trying to guide the destiny of the vehicle. And its passengers. He would shout and whistle for the minibus to stop, even in the middle of the road, should he spot a potential lady passenger.

Rokegaa, Ladeej”!

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34 Responses to Ponga, pagaar, rokegaa ladeej; an intro to Jamshedpur patois

  1. Anuj says:

    There were also those in Telco who would “Punch maar ke aa gaye”. Meaning they had marked their attendance by punching their attendance card but then returned home for personal work. Duty is still refered to by many as “dooty”. And “party khane ja rahey hain”.

  2. you forgot ek back(which ofcourse was overheard being used by the general junta)meaning horribly horribly sudden and goli a gentler and humorous meaning of a grotesque bluff .lol

  3. Dr Mohankumar says:

    Add:
    – ja badha ke, jerkin bacha ke
    – arrey beta
    – tilli ka teen daam
    – matiao
    – dumping (as in slag-dump)

  4. Debuda says:

    A good compilation — all Jamshedpuris would love this. One more word that comes readily to my mind is ELODRAM — the local word for aerodrome!

  5. Animesh says:

    Bang bangali, Tang Tangali,
    Khaye Murgi Gosht,
    Ban ka Murgi bhag gaya,
    Bangali………..

  6. santoshojha says:

    Anuj: Yes, Punch marna was supposed to be a sign of clverness!

    Suman: Thanks. “Ek-back”, sometimes “ekkey-back” is a neat one.

    Dr Mohan: Thanks. The jerkin one is a new one for me, what does that mean? “Are beta” of course, sometimes in times of sheer excitement even “are, beta. saala”!!

    Debu da: Thanks for the elodram bit. How could I forget, most of my life in Jamshedur I have stayed within a km radius of our very own elodram!

    Animesh: Thanks a lot. I have edited your ditty a bit!!

    • Dr Mohankumar says:

      ” ja badha ke, jerkin bacha ke” would have followed the “Rokegaa, ladeej”, with a couple of thumps on the ricketty side of the minibus- in effect telling the driver to speed ahead while watching out for those (jerking) bumps & potholes!

      • santoshojha says:

        That is a very neat one! “Ja badha ke, jerkin; bacha ke” ( “जा बढा के, जरकिन बचा के”) sounds like a wonderful header for a subsequent post!

  7. manik ghoshal says:

    How could you not mention ‘Lal Dibba’ the red public buses which were phased out by ‘Mini buses’ when we were in 4th or 5th standard? Then there were the ‘Tholas’, the police constables with large shorts with ‘laathis’. I don’t exactly know whether ‘ready-water’ was a typical ‘Jampot’ word I did hear it being mentioned by some mechanics for radiator. Lastly there was the ‘pani-waala’ from my childhood. Our ‘dudh-waala’ used to carry a large can of plain water on one side of his cycle handle, and pure milk on the other. He ofter spent a few minutes pouring from different cans before entering through the back gates of our houses. I, being a very ‘active’ kid, overturned his H2O twice and christened him ‘pani-waala’, to his annoyance. He then started mixing half a litre of milk, probably, to his can full of water to make it look milky. I suspect our milk was adulterated quite often because I remember my mother shouting at him and threatening to discontinue his service every month. I wonder now if a little extra money per litre would have been a more effective deterrent for him. But frankly, I am not so sure.

  8. Anirban Basu says:

    Colourful compilation.

  9. Manik Ghoshal says:

    Dear Santosh, One thing I appreciate about Jamshedpur, in spite of a healthy ‘competitive’ feeling among different communities, there was in general unity and a sense of ‘Indianness’ among Jamshedpurians. Although words like ‘Bong’, ‘Bhoyla’, ‘Khatta’ and even ‘Katua’ were used quite often there existed an ‘unity in diversity’ kind of thing in the steel city. In total contrast, when I went to the Shillong, also called the ‘Scotland of the East’- for my plus-two, I was shocked and appalled by the communally charged society there. The Nagas, Mizos, Khasiyas, Assamese, Manipuris etc almost always stuck together. The Bengalees were mostly Sylhetees from Sylhet dist’ of East Bengal. They spoke a totally different dialect which I often could not understand. They were at one time a majority in Shillong, with the tribals mostly residing in villages. The road to Shillong was first built via Sylhet in the South as a summer-resort for the ‘Sahibs’ of Calcutta. It was at a later date extended towards Gauhati. Further, Sylhet dist. was a part of Assam during British rule till 1947.

    I was only 17 when I felt the need for, and came up with the idea of a student union called ‘North Eastern Minorities Students Union’ there for all the students form the rest of India, and was made the first General Secretary by the seniors as a reward for my effort. Later in 1979-80 I nearly turned into an ‘extremism’ when a Meghalaya MLA called Marbaniang stated that the ‘The Bengalees were breeding like cockroaches’. I witnesses houses of Bengalees burning from the terrace of my hostel during riots against ‘Bangladeshis’ when all Bengalees were targeted. It was the time when AASU, All Assam Students Union, was formed and also Assam Gana Parishad. I was very angry for the total disrespect of Hindus who were turned into refugees and had to escape death and discrimination in East Pakistan for no fault of their own. There was no distinction being made by any govt. between Hindu refugees and Muslim infiltrators in the whole of the North East. It was a blessing in disguise my friend Shankar was arrested when a Muslim press worker took a leaflet we had given for printing and leaked it to the police. I went into hiding for a few days. But Shankar did not mention my name nor disclose our plans during torture and deprivation during police custody. He is, ironically, the only grandson of the IGP of Assam during British Days.
    I wish to thank all my school mates through your blog and I am also deeply grateful to the people of Jamshedpur for not making me feel unwanted in my childhood. Today I am a proud Indian and a nationalist because of my wonderful childhood and schooling in Jamshedpur. Yes I am a Bengali but an Indian first and foremost. Here in the UK quite a few Bangladeshis have conveyed their desire to see the two Bengals united into one Bangladesh. I tell them categorically that not a single Indian Bengali will ever want that to happen. Indian Bengalees are patriotic and have shed their blood for the independence of our dear Motherland. I am only extremely sorry that so many millions had to die and get displaced out of their ancestral land due to the selfishness of a section of Indians. Jamshedpur Zindabad. Jai Hind.

  10. V Nagarajan says:

    Guys, uncles and peers from Loyola…..another word that strikes me after rummaging thru all this trip down mem’ry lane is “tasion” – for “station” and “sacale” for “scale”.

    The ever friendly neighbourhood bus cunductor-khalasi combine would be yelling out “tasion…tasion…tasion” at the Kadma Rankini Mandir stop and we used to make fun of those poor guys.

    Another vivid memory is of a bunch of us guys later living in the TS Flats area crossing the Golf Ground on our way to and from School making off with the golf balls (no pun intended) of no less a personage than Mr. Russi Mody.

    I wonder how no one has yet posted anything on the “Idli-sambhar” aunty who used to be beseiged with guys of all ages waving currency notes in her face.

    Man that was one trip down memory lane.

    • Khatiya says:

      There were a bunch of Jamshedpur guys, who having exhausted the wood available for holi bonfire, thought it worthwhile to jump the wall of the nearby police station and steal a “khatiya” lying there to burn in the bonfire!

  11. Sanjeev Roy says:

    I have always believed in the twin-city belief about Jamshedpur and Ranchi and when I read through yoru posts I can picture my own muhalla in Ranchi. A few years ago we ran a similar chain our school alumni group and here are the nuggets: I am sure you can relate to all of them:

    “Ulaar ho gaya” – explains that something ultimate has happened

    Bahut “my dear” aadmi hai!! – this is used to describe someone who is very affable”

    “Le balaiya” – loosely translated …. “oh my god!!”

    “chuddi go hai” literally translating into “it is something very small”

    “Matiao” or the phrase “Matia Diya”. Crudely translating to “give up” or “gave up” (usually due to frustration) .

    “Jhadi” as in Jhadi Marna. this was for someone giving u a cock and bull story

    “Lapet Ke maarahai” : expression from frustrated bowler short of wickets and high on runs when getting scored by any hook or crook shot.In the same family (paryayvachi’ s from jhaji’s dictionary):Ka chorkaatu waala shot mare ho, yahi lapetan chapetan ka shot khelna hai to gilli danda khelo

    Bowdi (body pronounced with local tinge) nimman hai to bhi goliya paar ho jayeee, is liye side ho jao munna : popular lines used by upcoming/self claimed dons of the areas when trying to break queue for cylinders

    BAWAAL : word for all occasions/situation s/praise/ something great/anger/ fun etc: bawaal shot, bawaal macha hua hai ticket ke liye, baba fillum ka dialok bawaal hai. words in same family used multipurpose:

    TUNCH/KHATRU : aaj ka paper tunch hua hai, khatru gaadi chalata haiand for

    TEL HO GAYA: paper bound to fail/situation gone bad:

    “Chapta Goonj” and “Gol Goonj” – Phrases used to classify the two main phylums of lattoos (spinning tops). The chapta goonj lattoos enjoyed a higher status in society as they needed more expertise and strength to spin and were the only ones which could split an opponents lattoo into two pieces (bel phaad). The gol goonj lattoos were considered more sissy but were also a great fun for the young ones as they were the ones which could spin on your palm. Of course there were murga and murgi lattoos which were classified based one whether the lattoo died on the spot or ran around like a chicken before dying. (please add more nostalgia if you can)

    “ICE-BAYEES” (please note the spelling and the pronunciation) – We grew up with this as the most popular group game around our house. It was only 20 years later that I realised that this game should have been pronounced “I-spy” but then I think the ice-bayees version had more fun with its own “dhappas” (a slap on the back of the “chor” before the chor can utter your name). Of course the ingenious “Wrong dhappas” added to the fun when we used to exchange shirts to confuse the chor.

    The Power of “ETHI” : One of the most amazingly versatile and potent words from Ranchi
    days for me has to be “ETHI” (pronounced to rhyme with ‘methi’ – fenugreek).

    A very loose equivalent in English would be ‘what’s-it-called’ or ‘what’s-its-name’. But ‘Ethi’ is more powerful. Conceptually, it is something like the blank square in scrabble – it could be used anywhere to get over a lack of the right word or phrase or even to fill in for a still half formed idea which therefore could not be articulated.
    “Woh ethi bol rahe the…”
    “Aap ethi nahin khaye…”
    “Arre hum bhi to ethi soch rahe the…”

    Key concepts of “Goli” were based on 2 forms of the game.

    1. “Tippo”: Here each participant contributed one marble and the players took turns throwing the marbles into a small rectangular plain area marked on the ground against a wall. There was a conept called
    “gappul” which is a small hole in the rectangular area. Any marble that landed in that “gappul” was automatically won by the person that threw the marble in there. The opponents would then pick one of the
    marbles for the player to hit with his “Tol” or “UNTol” (the bigger white striker marble). If the player hit the appropriate marble with the Tol, he
    got all the marbles that were in play. If not, the next person played. Then there was the concept of “gatcha.” If the “tol” hit a different
    marble or if the correct marble was hit but it then went on to hit some other marble or fall in the “gappul” it was a fowl or a “gatcha.”
    The player would need to contribute one additional marble into the playing pool.

    2.” Pil-maar”: This was the beginner’s version of the game with a slightly large gappul in the ground and the game starts with something called “taad.” Each player starts from a line approximately 10 feet
    away the gappul and throws their marble with the intent to get as close to the “gappul” as possible. The one closest to the “gappul” wins the “taad” and has first chance to play. The order of play is
    based on the order of the “taad.” The game is won by a combination of “pilao” and “maro” in either order. Pilao is sinking the marble into the “gappul.” with using your fingers as a sling and using your thumb
    as a pivot on the ground. “Maro” is a concept of hitting your opponents “goli” with your “goli” using the sling shot described above. Concept of “gatcha” also applies here.

    “borro” …. meaning a player who was “borrowed” from another team to play for a particular team. ometimes, teams had a fight on the issue whether “borro” players were allowed or not. Since I played a little bit of cricket, I myself have faced that situation in club and school cricket there

    “Bump” catch; When the ball was caught by the fielder though it had > hit the ground as soon as the stroke was hit.

    “plentic” for penalty and “halfside” for offside

    “Bhaad mein jaane do” means “To hell with it”

    “Chaddi baddi” within a gam. On more refined reflection now, it meant “winner takes all”.

    • santoshojha says:

      Wow, Sanjeev, what a treasure trove of information! Yes I have heard (and used) nearly all these words. Thanks a lot for furthering the cause of Jharkhand lexicon!

  12. payal says:

    “koltu” is another very popular word of jamshedpur. it signifies some who is not properly dressed or well maintained. it is generally used with small children.

    • santoshojha says:

      Interesting word! I had not heard of it before.

    • Lostuntillwhen says:

      payal I suppose the word is used to refer to the local friendly adivasis.

      I was growing up in a very sophisticated society at JSR untill my 9th standard, but a sudden financial doom in my family and loss of my mom,somehow forced me into circumstances and situations which where more colloquial and earthly in nature. From five stars and Fudge chocolates I had AAMKUT and CHATAR MATAR for fun ( although never resorted to tiranga and talab), and I experienced words like GARDA ( gigantic ), BHOKAAL ( unstoppable calamity or force ), TABAD TOD ( superb ), KABAAD ( as in ‘kya kabad lega ?’ means ‘to hell, can anyone dare ?’ ), SANT MAR DIYA ( went into temporary coma ) so on and so forth.

      Perhaps even today if by any chance you travel by the marine drive you would hear songs which are being played there since the past 20 odd years by the slum habitants along side the subarnarekha river. Like ‘aye paan wala babu’, ‘Jilela Jilela ayo ayo Jilela’,’auva auva tumse hai tumse pyaar’, so on and so forth……

      Memories of long gone days, long lost glories of childhood and long lost battles for normalcy. Phew !!! but none could have taught better !!1

  13. Rahul says:

    santosh sir…
    somehow i missed this post earlier… too good hai…
    @varun
    i do remember the golf ball episodes 🙂

  14. pummyspeaks says:

    Santosh ji and rest all other Jamshedpur lovers…thats an awesome collection..!! I also heard the word ‘magaj mari’ many times…referring to useless interference.

  15. vasco says:

    You guys forgot a quintessential Jamshedpur social hot spot, the “pulia” or culvert where all local politics and gossip was dicussed.

    • santoshojha says:

      That is a great one: Puliya! I have spent many an evening on the puliya gossiping away with my friends! The city’s own panghat!!!

  16. squarecutatul says:

    As a Ranchi fellow, I can understand almost all the words, except double haddi. Never herad this word being used.

    One word not yet mentioned is “keenna”= To buy

    And the popular word “tempoo” for a three wheeler (not the present day three wheeler but a much bigger vehicle whose front resembled an elephant’s head).

    “Rezaa” =Female labourer

    “Gezaa” = Cheating (especially in play

    “Chundi” =Ponytail

    • santoshojha says:

      Thanks for the additions. If you read the comments on the post, there is a long one by a dear friend of mine who grew up in Ranchi, Sanjeev Roy, who not only has given many words, but has also spoken warmly about the commonality between Ranchi and Jamshedpur. BTW, I have not heard this word, Gezaa.

      • squarecutatul says:

        Sanjeev Roy’s list included “Ulaar ho gayaa”. Here “Ulaar is basically “Hullad”=commotion

        Penalty was called “Plenty” and Signal was called “Single”.

        That reminds me, the Hindi teachers would pronounce both spashht (clear) and aspashht (unclear) as “aspashht”. But then it was a pan Bihar phenomenon, not limited to just Ranchi or Jamshedpur.

      • santoshojha says:

        Neat etymology for “ulaar”. Thanks.
        Talking about pan-Bihar words, here are two more. “Ethi” and “Kochi“. The former is just a filler word and the latter is a colloquilism for “Kaun Cheez

  17. Ruth says:

    AWESOME …… chanced upon this piece and it made me nostalgic….

    • santoshojha says:

      Thanks. You obviously have roots in Jamshedpur. Look around my blog, you will find quite some stuff on the old Jamshedpur.

  18. Subhashish Chatterjee says:

    I left Jamshedpur 31 years back. But I still feel chilled when I hear about Jamshedpur. I feel proud being born and brought at this golden city which is place in this country where there is no feeling of community/caste/creed/religion. Every Indian should visit this place to feel the unity amongst diversity.

  19. Sandeep Raja says:

    Boss, kya badhiyan lekhe hain………

  20. “Tere ko malum hai .Kaal bouwal ho gia-ra beta ! kichayen ho gia-ra beta. Ladka log pool par baitha hua tha , thola log aa gia-ra. Doura dia ra beta.Bouwal ho gia ra beta , kichayen ho gia ra beta”
    This was one happenings described by one of my friend in a bright morning on duty(in Tata Steel)born and brought up in Tinplate area Jamshedpur

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