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 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”.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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”.
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”.
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”)
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 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!).
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”.
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.
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.