‘Aww ji tussi bong ho?!’ is something that I receive from unbelieving faces smiling at me. ‘Ki khobor?, Kemon achi! Ami bhat khabe! Ami byangla bolte pari! mishteee doi’ and so on it goes as the excited conversationalists try to put to use their knowledge of Bangla.
It is not a bad feeling, as it brings on free amusement and often unnecessarily triggers a smile from within me (I do not quite know whether I smile at the honest mistakes or the pompous know-it-all fails!). Bengali is definitely a language too mishti (sweet) to the ear and instantly reminds one of all things related to food and culture. Bengali or Bangla is synonymous to Mishti doi, rasogolla, dal-bhat, laal-par sada saree (white saree with a red border, traditionally worn on festivals), Rabindra-sangeet, poems, theatre and most importantly films – where else do you think all the stalwarts of the golden period of Indian Cinema had come from?
Yet another wondrous part of the world’s sweetest language (according to popular belief) is the repeated use of phonetically similar words to soothe the ear. Bangla byakaran (Bengali Grammar) calls it ‘shabdadwito’ –
Khabar-dabar, Jekhane-sekhane, Khochor-mochor awaz, habi-jabi, mota-shota, aaje-baaje kotha etc. (The list’s neverending!)
The language also hosts some irreplaceable words like nyakay and dhong to symbolise intolerance towards certain aspects of human behaviour! If someone is smarter than you, or proves you wrong in an argument, you often use the phrase “Beshi beshi…” followed by “…ekdum, jottoh sob nyakami!”
Even after all the not-so-welcoming attitude, there’s some sugary taste to every bong’s nature. It can be like a multi-layered candy with certain layers of bitterness and acidity coating on the sweet solid core. They are genetically programmed to be sweet, (well, eventually government jobs and old age owes to the crankiness of many). Sweetness runs in the genes, in some scary but hysterically funny phrases and name calling –
Naughty kids would often get away with a light dushtumi korona threat on the other hand if you have slightly strict elders a little mischief could land you into the world of apes – “Din din bandor hoye jachhe, ekta kotha shone na…” Or “Onek bandrami hoyeche, ebar porte bosho.” That’s how my mother would address me for being naughty, while some of my friends and cousins also had other members of the animal kingdom in store to be compared to!
While the world is talking of globalisation and thinking of venturing into other solar systems, many Bengalis still find solace in hot debates concerning the age-old Ghoti-Bangal, East Bengal – Mohun Bagan, Ilish(Hilsa) – Chingri(prawn) clash. And you thought they were progressive! There might be progress in other fields of life, but when it comes to debates nobody knows how to shout better than a Bengali (even without logic)!
There’s a common perception among Bengalis that they are universally late! I considered that true to every edge watching my peers and myself until I landed up in Delhi – where every event starts an hour late! Being a bong, I was in a dilemma, whether to feel proud to be on time or to feel disgraced on breaking the tradition.
Even though Bengalis are rumoured to be too loud, jhogrute (quarrelsome) and experts in PNPC (it is not an abbreviation that everyone would know, it stands for ‘paro ninda paro chorcha’ – a common colloquial phrase used among Bangla speakers to term ‘gossip’) and very active in politics; there are many breaking free from the stereotype, setting new examples to the world that Bangla is not just synonymous to Mach–bhat or rasogolla.
Some men may break into uncalled for extempores and debates on the political scenario of the country and there can never be leaving a problem unsolved, or lack of a topic to ponder upon, just by smoking, as they say, buddhir goraye dhonwa dewa!
The extensive practice we have of breaking into Bangla with a fellow bangali, often causes discomfort to the others around, but honestly, we don’t do it purposely. The overjoyed souls just seem to chuck out others in the frame on getting an opportunity to express their love for the language in common.
Being a product of this society, I can also vouch for the sinfully infectious laughs we have – some sound like a machine gun in a war while some can laugh out loud enough to bring the house down with their open-mouthed “HAHAHAHAHA.”
A word of advice: The next time you greet a Bengali, be prepared to be blown away either by words or by laughter!!