Happy Married Life: Rule No. 10

August 19, 2010

Rule Ten: Learn to respect and co-exist with her cookery skills

Assume you are a Cordon Bleu chef, and assume- at your peril- your wife is not. She cooks, as is often the case in Indian families; wives cook, Cordon Bleu or not. She cooks a repast of roti and sabzi. As you have settled down with your first bite, the wife pops the important question: “How is the food today?”

You are choking over the heavy dosing of red chilli, methi powder and dhaniya powder in the sabzi, you are chewing the leathery roti enough for it to be swallowed discreetly. You are sipping water, not because you are thirsty, but for a very practical reason. You want to force the roti down your gullet. And the water serves as a great lubricant besides cooling down the fiery sensation in your throat.

When confronted with that monumental question, take a deep breath. Real deep! Think of the cool waterfall, the dancing lilies in the pond, Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, your childhood memories of ice-lollies, etc. Think of all such soothing stuff you have ever had in your life while you try to formulate an answer. You may consider some of the following:


This will not cut any ice, so be prepared for the next question:

“How is the roti? This is the new pack of XYZ brand atta I bought.”

You may easily dodge this by diverting the discussion to increasing food prices and how the MNC’s are conning the gullible Indian customer with some fancy packaging and fancier advertising. But conclude your tirade by confessing that she has wrought magic with the atta and converted it into some sublimest rotis ever consumed by humankind.

She will probably be OK with the answer, in any case in her eyes the roti is not exactly her output and the atta manufacturer holds an equal responsibility for it.

And then she would pop the next question:

“How is the sabzi?”

You want to yell to her that her sabzi is the most awful stuff you have ever eaten, and you pray to God that the Almighty plans for you a trip away from the city so that you can avoid any more of your wife’s sabzis. Or, if He does not intervene, you are OK with eating at home some plain chawal, daal and anchaar. But, God, please spare me her roti and sabzis! Anything but her sabzi, and roti!!

A single word advice: REFRAIN. Refrain from any candid remark. Just refrain.

You may want to consider this alternative:


You think this will satisfy her probing mind? Perish the thought, she is bound to come back with another question. Which will now be more probing in nature.

Try the next move:

“I think your selection of sabzi is wonderful, I never had so many varieties of gourds- and their cousins- ever”. You are of couse referring to kaddu, lauki, nenua, jheenga or karela etc. “So very healthy”, you say, “So nutritious. You are just so wonderful for choosing the appropriate sabzis for all of us, your family”.

Some inexperienced wives may preen at this sabzi-selection certificate. Most will not.

Now this is a tricky one.

“But I thought you did not like these sabzis from the gourd family. Be honest now.”

This is the time to look helpless, and look like she has “caught” you for your untruthfulness. And you must confess as much.

“True, you know very well that I do not like these sabzis. But you know what! You have sautéed the stuff so well, “Kya chhaunk pada hai”! What a brilliant mix of spices: “Methi powder bilkul sahi hai issme”. Or “Waah, kya andaaz hai namak ka”.

By which time the wife should be pretty satisfied. And by which time you have managed to negotiate your way through the roti and the sabzi. Or better still, she eagerly lunges for the fridge to pull out her creamy kheer which she has denied you these few years. (“Think of the cholesterol, and the sugar at your age….”)

You should of course thank her for the measured “sugary-ness” and “creamy-ness” of the kheer. Or else there will be no kheer henceforth!


Some adventurous types would have another take on the wife’s cooking. They say explicitly that they are bored.

In my youth I used to be one of the few who rebelled against her routine cooking of “health” food. Till she remonstrated, “What now should I cook for you!!”

Her reamrk was meant to end in an exclamation mark rather than a question mark. But I confused it for the latter. And took up her “query” rather literally, actually offering to help her with her menu! I volunteered to prepare a weekly menu which I politely offered to tape it on the kitchen fridge.

Needless to say, I went without food for the next few days.

Ok, I am exaggerating, I did get served food, but I’d rather I did not.

Take care. Bye!


PS: Here are links to the earlier “Happy Marriage” posts: Rules 1 to 7, Rule 8, Rule 9.

The Curious Case of Bihari Language and People: Part 2

August 8, 2010

I left you last with that minatory exchange between two gentlemen who were chatting about a bawling kid.


Ee chhokadawa kaanhe kaan raha hai jee?” (ई छोकरवा काहें कान रहा है जी?)

Kauno kapaar phaar dihis hai  iska.” (कोउनो कपार फार दिहिस है इसका )

Chichiyana bann karwaiye uska, nahi to ankhiye kaadh lengey ham.” (चिचियाना बन्न करवाइए इसका, नहीं तो अन्खिए काढ लेंगे इसका.  )


Kaahe narbhasaye hain? Budbak kahin ke! Arey marde aisa kuchho nahin hai! (काहे नर्भासाए हुए हैं? बुड़बक कहीं के! अरे मरदे ऐसा कुछो नहीं है!)

Why are you so nervous? Are you an idiot? Hey, guy, nothing of the sort!

The exchange is just a representation of the colourful lingo that is Bihari. Here everything is larger than life. The kid tripped and scratched his forehead, this has been translated to a violent head injury. The other guy’s threat about blinding the kid should be read more as an expression of endearment. He does not really want to drive a stake into the kid’s eyes, it is just his way of expressing his irritation at the commotion. He does wish the kid well.

Ego ladkey key baat hai na? Oo butroo ka? Dhatt teri! Boka ho, bokkad ho. Ya bhakua ho? (एगो लड़के के बात है ना? ऊ बुतरू का? धत्त तेरी! बोका हो? बोक्कड़ हो? या भकुआ हो?)

It is just a matter of a kid. That brat. Come on!! Are you an idiot?”


So now you know Bihari is a colourful language. Let me give you an example.

Ek tho baat bolein?” (एक ठो बात बोलें?)

“Shall I tell you something?”

“Jee!” (जी)


“Ee jara batti buta dijiye na” (ई जरा बत्ती बुता दीजिये ना)

Please shut off this light

“Buta diya, aur kuchh?” (बुता दिए, अउर कुछ?)

Done, what else?

“Aur jara jangla bhidka dijiye.” (अउर जरा जंगला भिड़का दीजिये)

Close the window.

“Sataa dein palla?” (सटा दें पल्ला?)

Shall I close the windows?

“Haan.” (हाँ)


“Kaanhein?” (कांहें?)


“Na to machhar dhook  jayyega.” (ना तो मच्छर ढूक जायेगा)

Or else, mosquitoes will invade

“To kaa?” (तो का?)

So what?

“Kal raat ko bhabhor liya tha, machcharwa” (कल रात को भभोर लिया था मच्छरवा)

They bit me last night.

I bet there is no equivalent of bhabhorana (भभोरना ) is any other language in the world! It immediately generates the image of an army of mosquitoes buzzing in a cloud formation, landing indiscriminately on various exposed parts of the body and proceeding to pierce the skin and sucking off litres of blood and leaving behind a welter of bites in the wake. For those who have been assaulted thus and thought mosquito “bite” was too tame an expression for this outrage, you now have the perfect word: bhabhorana (भभोरना ). Go ahead and use it freely! This can be even used in a metaphorically similar assault by a fellow human being.

Sample this: “Aaj office tani der sey chahunpey aur bosswa hamko aisa bhabhor liye.” (आज office तनि देर से चहुँपे, अउर boss-वा हमको ऐसा भभोर लिए)

The boss bit into me just because I was a few minutes late to work.

A cousin of bhabhorana (भभोरना ) is khakhorana (खखोरना ). This refers to someone’s irritating and obnoxious behavior.

“Aaj oo sasura khakhor liye humko, enney-onney ka baat kartey rahey, befajul ka. Falanwa ka, chilwana ka. Beloora sala. Kam key baat ko mahatiya diye” (आज ऊ ससुरा खखोर लिए हमको, एन्ने-ओन्ने का बात करते रहे, बेफजूल का. फलनवा का, चिलनवा का. बेलूरा साला. काम के बात तो महटिया दिए.)

That stupid guy was so irritating. He kept chatting about this and the other. Nonsense chat. Idiot! He ignored the important stuff.


Which brings us to one more important word in the Bihari lexicon: “mahatiyana” (महटियाना ). Comes in handy in various occasions:

Kaahen apni maugi ki baat pe etna ranj hain, mahatiya dijiye.”

(काहें अपनी मउगी के बात पे एतना रंज हैं. महटिया दीजिये.)

Please do not be so angry on your wife, forget it!

“Jab kam ka baat hua to hum to huan thebe kiye. Oo hamko gheenchana chahta tha lekin ham soche kahen dhukein isme, mahatiya diye ham.

(जब काम का बात हुआ तो हम उहाँ थेब्बे किये. ऊ हमको घींचना चाहता था, लेकिन हम सोचें कि काहें ढूकें उसमें. महटिया दिए हम.)

When it came to business, I was there. He tried to pull me into the stuff, but I wondered why should I get involved, I just ignored it.

“Hamaar mahtari aur mehraroo ke beech aaj dherey khat-pat ho gaya. Saara sham kichain ho gaya. Ham toh mahatiya diye, kaun dhukta dunno ke beech. Picha nahin jaate ham?

(हम्मर महतारी अउर मेहरारू के बीच में ढेरे खट-पट हो गया, सारा शाम किचाइन हो गया. हम तो महटिया दिए, कौन ढुकता दुन्नो के बीच. पिचा नहीं जाते हम?)

My mother and my wife had a major altercation, the whole evening was spoilt. I ignored it, or else I would have got crushed in between.

Mahatiyana (महटियाना) is the key behaviour to demonstrate when faced with the myriad problems of life.

As is true of the picturesque Bihari language.

Boojhey? (बूझे? )


The Curious Case of Bihari Language and People: Part 1

August 5, 2010

“So you say you are a Bihari?”

Their voices sound a mix of concern, some derision, a lot condescending.

“Of course I am a Bihari, I was born and raised in Jamshedpur, Bihar. My parents still very much live in Bihar and their roots are in the western districts of Bihar. Have you heard of Arrah jilla?

They are convinced that I am a Bihari, I seem to have given sufficient evidence. I am sure they have not heard of Arrah jilla, Jamshedpur perhaps they would have. And now they seemed perplexed, what do they make of a guy who insists he is a Bihari and yet speaks with a pan-North accent and more importantly is not clad in a dhoti but in a reasonably presentable pair of denims and T-shirt.

“Oh! So you are a Bihari?”

“Indeed! All the way!!”

They do not know what to quite make of me.


I am at my hostel in IT-BHU with my batch-mates who stay in the same hostel. We are all trying to get to know each other in our new environs. We have all come to the campus from different parts of the country qualifying the grueling IIT-JEE. And we are all stressed with the incessant ragging in the first few days of our arrival. This is in the early 80’s. And this was well before Bihar spun off into another state, Jharkhand. (Jamshedpur is now a part of Jharkhand, but I cannot reconcile myself to this and I still call myself a Bihari. After all, during all the years I lived there it was still in Bihar. I do call myself a Jharkhandi whenever Mahendra Singh Dhoni is discussed, “He is a fellow-Jharkhandi”, I want to shine in reflected glory! Dhoni is from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. It is another matter that his parents originally belonged to Uttarakhand though Dhoni was indeed born and raised in Jharkhand. Just like I was!!


One of them breaks the ensuing uncomfortable silence. He wants to start some small talk.

“So you must speak Bihari at home?”

From a non-Bihari perspective, a perfectly reasonable observation to make. Tamilians speak Tamil, Bengalis revel in Bengali, Gujaratis converse in Gujarati. So it is logical that a Bihari communicates in Bihari. States like Kerala are but a minor aberration, they do not speak Kerali, but an altogether different language, Malayalam! Ok, I am joking, Kerali could have as well been a name for Malayalam. This language is spoken across all religious groups and across the length and breadth (whatever breadth the state has). And she/he calls himself a Malayali and not a Keralite. (There is a small exception to this- the denizens of Palghat- who can’t decide whether they are ghar ka, ya ghat ka; but that is another story).

“No, sirs, I speak Bhojpuri at home.”

“Bhojpuri?” says a puzzled classmate.

“Yes, Bhojpuri!” I am now exulting in my newly discovered unique status.

Another round of silence.

Till an enlightened one exclaims, “Oh, the language in which Amitabh Bachchan speaks in some his “villager movies”.” Adalat, Ganga Ki Saugandh and Don were recent releases then, they were all pan-India hits and the memories of these movies are obviously still pretty fresh.

“Well, kind of.” Here was a golden opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of the superstar’s though I knew he did not speak pure Bhojpuri, he spoke in Avadhi. More accurately put, in a mixture of Avadhi and Bhojpuri. And I do not quite agree to the unstated belief that Bhojpuri is spoken only by villagers.

This places me in some kind of a context. So I am from the ilk represented by the Big B. But it still flummoxes them that I am neither a paan-chewing types nor a dhoti-clad one. And I am not from a village!


Bihar is blessed with many strong and widely spoken dialects. Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magahi, Angika and Bajjika. The now spun-off Jharkhand too has its own dialects- Santhali and so many others. And surprisingly there is nothing called a Bihari dialect or language. Or maybe there is!

After having spent years of introspection and deep thinking I have now come to the conclusion that during all my days in Bihar, and during my interactions with Biharis thereafter- whereever these may have been- I have been speaking to them in a dialect which cannot be labeled Hindi, Bhojpuri, Maithili or any other. It is a unique language which can only be called Bihari. That pan-Bihar super dialect which can be understood by all in Bihar.

Sample this:

Ee chhokadawa kaanhe kaan raha hai jee?” (ई छोकरवा काहें कान रहा है जी?)

Kauno kapaar phaar dihis hai  iska.” (कोउनो कपार फार दिहिस है इसका )

Chichiyana bann karwaiye uska, nahi to ankhiye kaadh lengey ham.” (चिचियाना बन्न करवाइए इसका, नहीं तो अन्खिए काढ लेंगे इसका.  )

This is understood by all Biharis, irrespective of their mother-tongue, but barely by anyone else. Neither among the Bhojpuri-speaking population in the adjoining districts of the neighbouring state Uttar Pradesh, nor among the Bhojpuri-speaking diaspora across the globe. Only Biharis can understand this.

I translate below:

“Why is this kid crying?”

“Someone has hit and cracked open his skull.”

“Stop his crying, or else I will pull out his eyeballs.”


My next few posts would deal with the curious nature of the Bihari “language” and the perception of Bihari people.


Reflections on small-town journalism

August 1, 2010

Returning to Bangalore from a trip to Jamshedpur early morning last week, I stopped by at an A. H. Wheeler news cart at the Tatanagar railway station to pick up a newspaper. What struck me was the plethora of choices. In Hindi and English, both. There was “Dainik Jagaran”, “Prabhat Khabar”, “Hindustan” and some others in Hindi and “Hindustan Times” and “Telegraph” as the English language choices. I had a four-hour long train journey to Howrah ahead of me (travelling from Jamshedpur to Bangalore is painful, it consumes the whole day; Jamshedpur to Howrah and then a rickety taxi-ride to the airport and then the long flight), and I ended buying virtually all the broadsheets on offer. I was sure I would have a co-passenger keen on borrowing. I’d rather lend an entire newspaper than end up sharing sheets of it as was common in the good old days.

(Mercifully, no one asked, maybe in A/c chair cars it is not a done thing!)

Browsing through the papers I realized they were like any other newspaper. There were important news stories on the front page followed by local (Jamshedpur-based), regional (Singhbhum-district based) and state (Jharkhand) news. It was a pleasure to read the local news from Kadma, Sonari, Bhuinyadih, Aazad Basti, Kharangajhar etc. The news itself was like in any other city paper, road accident, dowry death, elopement, murder etc. It was the fact that I was reading news reports about something which happened in-and-around the place I grew up in was exciting enough.

Silly stuff, you say? You wonder why I am making a great deal about it. Right?

So listen!


I grew up in the Jamshedpur of 60’s and 70’s. It was a pretty town, with lovely tree-lined roads, street lighting which always functioned, crime rates were low, and on 3rd March, the birthday of Jamshedji Tata, the founder of the city, we all got sweets from TISCO management delivered right in our schools. You could drink the water off the taps (it was so clean) and power-cuts were rare. There was little traffic on the roads, the bulk of the commuters were cyclists. There were hardly any motorcycles and the ones who could afford it would buy a Vespa or a Lambretta scooter. Cars were rare. There were good schools and a great large park (Jubilee Park) right in the center of the city. This idyllic world had just one problem, there was no local newspaper.

Jamshedpur those days was a part of Bihar and the only two newspapers published in the state were “The Indian Nation” in English and “Aryavart” in Hindi, both from Patna, published by the same house. But Patna was twice the distance from Jamshedpur as compared with Calcutta. So it was the Calcutta newspaper most households subscribed to. The venerable “The Statesman” with a masthead in Gothic script was the newspaper we subscribed to. Some families took “Amrit Bazar Patrika”, I think it is defunct now. The Bengalis of Jamshedpur, and Jamshedpur had many such families, would buy “Anand Bazaar Patrika”. The Oriya-speaking community would get “Samaaj” published from Cuttack. Those who wanted to read their news in Hindi and could not stand “Aryavart” of Patna would buy “Dainik Vishvamitra” published from Calcutta. In short, most communities would get their daily news fix in their desired languages.

But there was a catch. The newspaper reached us from Calcutta only in the evening, around seven pm or so. It did take a long time for something to travel some 250 kms from Calcutta to Jamshedpur!

Not that we minded it. We, the neighbourhood kids, would do our homework well in time. When we heard the newspaper-wallah’s cycle bell tinkle- he had a special symphony, tring-tring, triiiiiiiing,  tring-tring we would all leap out of our homes, accost him and take our respective newspapers even before he would chuck it at our door-steps.

Once home, the newspaper would quickly get apportioned among all the eager readers in the family. The outer sheet with the headlines, the sports page and then the rest of it. I, for one, would always try to get for myself the sports page. That was the only way to see the score-card of the previous day’s cricket as one would have missed the commentary, the previous day being a school day.

“The Statesman” being a Calcutta newspaper, had considerable news of the city. We would know what exactly was happening there. Right from the success of Satyajit Ray’s “Goopy Gyne, Bagha Byne” to the bands playing at Mocambo and Peter Cat on Park Street, to the reports on football matches between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to the latest offerings in New market. Even the comings-and-goings of ships at the Kidderpore dock! I first visited Calcutta when I was some 18 years old and I thought it was all too familiar, just that I was seeing the city physically for the first time.


It is not that Jamshedpur did not have it own newspaper, it did. There was a weekly tabloid called “Azad Mazdoor” which I am sure most Jamshedpurians would never have heard of. While it called itself a weekly, I am not sure if it was indeed published every week. I think my father got it free- thanks to his friendship with the editor- and the paper would show up in the mailbox once in a while.

The big newsletter from Jamshedpur was the in-house magazine from TISCO, as Tata Steel was then called. It was a stylish, glossy, black-and-white affair published in two languages: “TISCO Samachar” and “TISCO News”. While this was meant to be an in-house thing, considering the profile of the city those days. Most were “company employees”, hence virtually each household got a copy. My father was not a TATA employee- he was a college professor- and was not entitled to a copy. But we keep ourselves informed of TATA’s corporate activities by borrowing copies from relatives and neighbours. “TISCO Samachar” was full of stuff as any good in-house magazine should have. The inauguration of a new mill, the record production by a Blast Furnace, visit of Chairman JRD Tata to Jamshedpur, suggestion awards (“Sujhao Puraskar”) given to employees (so-and-so has improvised on the coke utilization process resulting in a saving of Rs five lakh annually and he gets an award of Rs 10,000) and the all-too-common community development projects undertaken by TISCO.

The excellent production quality of “TISCO Samachar” has one useful application after it was read, it was used to cover books! Nice, strong and glossy sheets. One more. It was rumoured that one particularly lazy relative of our’s would serve roti and sabzi to her kids on sheets of the journal. This was to avoid washing dishes after the meal. Lazy, but brilliant! TISCO’s image has always been squeaky clean, be it their corporate performance or their in-house journal!


I return home to Bangalore late night and when I wake up in the morning I see my family sprawled on the dining table devouring their quota of daily news. Over time, the number of papers we get has increased manifolds. There is this ubiquitous “Times of India” which gets subscribed to for the simple reason that it is ubiquitous, you have to read it to stay up with the Joneses (or, in India, with the Kapoors, Patils, Bannerjis, Reddys and Pillais). No choice there! I need to know the local news even better, so “Deccan Herald” is a must, I am the only person in the family who reads it. We started on the newly launched “DNA” newspaper just to check things out, and my wife got hooked onto it. There is this mandatory “Economic Times” for me, cant crib about that. And now the TOI chaps have begun giving the obnoxious tabloid “The Bangalore Mirror” free with the the paper. So we have reams of newsprint delivered to us at the crack of dawn now and there is enough for all of us, including the maid servant and the dog. Ok, we don’t have a dog.

Maybe I should get one.