Strange love : Still on the August trail

18 Mar

Holy matrimony seemed to have settled down with me and put to rest my search for August, or so I thought.  No, no, I was perfectly, happily married to the Bee.  Even the friends of the Bee swore in his presence that he had taken to Bengali like a Bong to fish, that he was actually speaking whole sentences in Bengali. Phew! I thought.  But who would have known then that life away from my Madna would get more complex. And little did I know that the affection for an abstract noun named ‘perfection’ would be the albatross round my neck and in trying to escape my Madna I was merely stepping into another Madna, only larger.

Why? Just read on.

Like the gasping, choking fish out of water, we,  the ‘freshly out of Charnock’s Kolkata’ in the Rajdhani,  found our first home at the heartland of Bengalis in Chittaranjan Park, in  South Delhi.The sleepy street with a long patch of grass separating the two neat rows of houses, the hint of Bangaliana in the terracotta name plates, the tastefully done up windows with chiks complete with a ceramic wind chime swinging in the gentle summer breeze, careless evenings spent on the wide terrace of our barsati and its row of potted foliage and the rusting desert cooler by the long french window – and like all newly-weds I thought the dream would never end. Because just like you, even I had thought that thenceforth it would be happily ever after in Lutyen’s, being far away from my Madna.

Thus, for a while I merrily found solace here, among the Bangali Mashimas, paanch phoron, bori, Ilish maachh, Durga  Pujo, Poila Baishakh, baro mase tero parbon and most things Bangali. And yet, somewhere deep down I pined for the language I had inherited. Something seemed amiss. And I kept putting it off,  distracted myself with  long summer afternoons,  the rattling, rusting desert cooler, andhis, pots of spider ferns and foxtails, holi and other  such idiosyncrasies typical only to Delhi.

It finally dawned upon me when my friendly neighbourhood Mesomoshai called me and informed me, “Are beta, ami to sedin sirf mazak korchilam“.  My Bangali chromosome was in for a rude shock. In the name of speaking Bangla, in the heartland of Lutyen’s Bong ghetto, they churned out a punch of Bengali peppered with  a liberal dose of Hindi .

That day I realized that however much I loved the nuances of a nuanced speaker of the English tongue, my Bong crux  cringed in seeing the thousand deaths my mother tongue died every minute. I winced in pain when the  Mashimas, Meshomashais, Boudis, Dadas as much as at the machhwalla, bajarwalla blurted out  with poker faces “Amar  naam Ghosh hochche“; “deyale chipkali dekhe bhoi pawar ki holo“; “Beta, eta tomar uncle hocchche“; “aajker Ilishta khub taza hochche“.

I even seriously considered opening a “ Eso Bangla shikhi” class, of course, pro bono with some snacks thrown in. So there I was again, reliving Madna among the displaced tribesmen from my tribe who were  perfect in their Bengali customs and rituals and utterly confused about their troubled tongue. I mean not too many Bengalis are known for their finesse in the national language.  But the way they had  acquired the ‘third’ language and made it a part of their daily existence  was a far cry from what my mother tongue was supposed to be.

In the middle of all this my tormented inner being  continued to forge ahead with its own faulty logic of  perfection.

One of those evenings I saw Agastya, standing by the flower shop at the corner of the Second Market.  Yes, he had stepped out of the alleys of my mind and  was watching me from the shadows, watching me betraying myself. He  seemed to question me, my sanity and what happened to my pursuit of ‘perfection’ and my pursuit of him. And I questioned myself, was it that I was in  pursuit of August or I was  still pursuing the old suspect Perfection?

Soon it was time  to move on,  but not too far , just a step away from the Bengali galli to the vast “good” gaon of Haryana.

The big guns had already set up the much promised land for the upwardly mobile corporates, for whom gentry, an X sized apartment decorated with Y brand of furniture, the newly launched Z car, Diwali gifts, weekend potluck, teen patti and some other inanities were but essential. I succumbed to the daily soaps that telecast the “pleier”  of  owning stuff, showing off faux couture with elan,  hosting cougar parties.Yes, I tuned in for a while, just to sit and listen. I was, perhaps, trying to tone down the compulsive perfectionist in me. Agastya decided to leave me alone with my trials and errors at fitting in.

Must I confess that I soon gave up on the “pleier” of watching the daily soaps and returned to “wrong pronunciations”, “grammatical errors” “they call this talking in Bengali”? The ennui gave way to an understanding that my perfectionism would flog me forever unless I learn to rein it and channelize it into, yes, you are right, planning an escape out of  this “still rustic at heart, still smelling of wet earth” Madna. Agastya still lay low, lost in the maze of my mind. I let him stay there. By now I had learned to live with him and was used to him appearing out of the blue as a premonition, perhaps.

Eventually, with the first escape hatch opening up, I was on a flight out of Madna, or so I thought, flying westward.  In four hours I had landed in Sindbad’s “land of black gold”.  As I headed out of the air-conditioned comfort of  ‘al mataar al masqat al dauliya‘  I thought I caught a glimpse of Agastya sporting a smirk, waiting by the automated glass doors which parted to usher me into the country with a gust of hot and dusty desert wind.


Posted by on March 18, 2010 in Delhi, Uncategorized


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12 responses to “Strange love : Still on the August trail

  1. Horus

    March 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Choroibati … Globalization … mearging culture & identity

    and a yearning for roots with a piece of Bong hidden inside

    from a “pun”-dit ?

  2. Harish Krishnan

    March 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm


    Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your wonderful post has been selected by BlogAdda as one of the top posts for this week’s ‘Spicy Saturday Picks’.

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  3. Desi Ninja

    March 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

    nicely done.

    if i may add a few more to the list-
    “kapra posare asi”
    “ar tang koro na”
    “ami onek harami achi!!!”
    and the cassic- “amar sardi korche” (while ‘sardi’ in bengali means something else than cold) 😆

    • Rose Tinted Glasses

      March 26, 2010 at 10:02 am

      Oh! How could I miss the “tang koro na” comment ? That is truly classic! Thanks for reminding!

  4. 5amthinking

    March 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Perhaps Agastya is smirking also at a guy my age who now uses terms like “LOL” and “OMG.” (Notice newly correct placement of period inside end quote.) Obviously, as I am Indian culture challenged, I don’t understand all of your references. Nevertheless, I get your main points and appreciate how well and poetically you make them. You do an especially good job of showing the cultural changes now occurring in India with the part that begins with “promised land for the upwardly mobile corporates.”

    • Rose Tinted Glasses

      March 26, 2010 at 10:25 am

      I will now HAVE to write a long mail to you explaining the references – they are fun! And every time you surprise me by reading my posts so closely, each word, each line! On one hand I wait for your candid comments and on the other grow more confident. They make me want to better my efforts every time, time and again. What can i say, do keep reading!

  5. Kalyan

    June 9, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    The issue of language has been a personal dilemma for me.

    I was born in the UK. Didn’t speak any Bengali till I went to Iran when I was 5. Still didn’t pick Bengali. Learnt Farsi. Forgot it. Many years later married a Parsi from India. I began learning Bengali and Hindi at the same time when I was ten. Mixed up alphabets. Preferred reading and thinking in English. Went to a college. Presidency, where there was a reverse snobbery towards English. Moved to Mumbai. A city with no language. Mariried someone who doesn’t speak Bengali. So I primarily speak English followed by bad Hindi and the occasional Bengali. But I do love food, Ray and Ganguly. So that makes me a Bengali right?

    • Rose Tinted Glasses

      June 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Which Ganguly do you love? I’d presume it is Banglar Gourab, Saurav. Sure it makes you a Bangali, by birth.
      It is like this, I have nothing against people not knowing Bengali, or for that matter any other language, where I have a problem is knowing the language and then sacrificing it at the altar of other languages. I guess it is one of the side effects of being a compulsive perfectionist.
      And after reading about your plight, my post does read a little one sided. Thanks for sharing the other side of the story!

  6. PreeOccupied

    August 17, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I have been called a Biharini by one condescending Bengali from Calcutta. I was born and brought up in Bihar. So Bongs from West Bengal invariably laughed at my Bangla. I do not how to read or write either. But then illiteracy was never a thing to be proud of.

    Your recollection of CR Park Bonglish cracks me up. You know each time I had a “Bengali” poribosh craving, I used to run to good ol’ Chito Park to quench it with some conversations with the maach and shobji wala or just stand and eavesdrop on conversations these Kakus and Kakimas had with their naika sons and daughters.

    I’d get my fill and would return home till the craving struck me again.

  7. Projects In Electronics ·

    November 14, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    my mom would always frequently visit flower shops because she loves fresh flowers on our house :;~


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