Sunday, October 25, 2009


The Bengali penchant for repartee is almost like an affliction. If there is a situational joke to be cracked, the true Bong can NOT resist it. Usually sarcastic, never unfunny and more often than not involving interesting word play and puns, some samples are available here. And here.

Yesterday, I was reminded of some more of these.

In mid-90s Calcutta, there existed a revivalist organisation called Amra Bangali. When I say 'existed', I mean it in a purely circumstantial sense because there was no physical manifestation of this group - except posters and grafitti. They DID nothing to revive Bengali pride except write slogans on walls, exhorting fellow Bongs to do the needful.
Their most common slogan was - "Bangali, Jago!" and this was found across the city in all the wall-space that was not taken up by CPI(M) and Congress. However, laid-back Bengalis took this metaphysical awakening in a literal sense (or pretended to!) and very soon, a repartee was seen scrawled under the original message.
Under "Bangali, Jago", it was written - "Jegechhi, ebar cha dao." ("I am awake. Now get me some tea.")

In a story recounted by Satyajit Ray, he mentions actor Kamu Mukherjee. Kamu was a regular in Ray's cast & crew and a great wit.
In one of the scripting sessions at Ray's Calcutta residence, his wife (Bijoya Ray) served tea and biscuits. The biscuits were a little soggy. Kamu took a bite and asked innocently, "Boudi, biscuitey ki silencer lagiyechho?"

But why was I reminded of them yesterday?

I was alone at home, with my son. We were about to leave and I was getting ready. My son was sitting on the bed and picked up one of my books.
I said, "Why are you holding my book? This is my book. You can't hold it."
My son obediently put it down.
When we left the lift, I instictively held his hand.
He looked at me with a smile and said, "Baba, why you holding my hand? This is my hand. You can't hold it."

You can take a boy out of Calcutta.


Yayaver said...

Ingenious boy !!! We have a idiom in cowbelt: poot ke paavn palne mein dikhte hain...

Andy said...

Be careful with wht you tell the kid, it usually comes back to bite you in ......

Ananda Niyogi said...

With regards to "Bangali, Jago", another repartee that comes to mind is "kNacha Ghum Bhangaben Na" :-)

Rimi said...

Dipta, I cannot tell you how much I miss the ready wit, and not merely because I'm away from Calcutta. Aajkal even when I *am* in Calcutta I notice a certain coarsening of the texture of language. By that I don't mean that the average Bengali suddenly feels free to abuse more often, but that the sharp bite of sarcasm has gone out of his choice of swear-words and retorts. Bus-fights, for example, used to be treasure-troves of quick repartees. These days things are hammered out in a string of "Kon shala bokachoda gandu bole... shala tor maa ke..." etc.

It's not that I censor freedom of expression, but isn't it far more biting to put someone down, and be devastatingly clever about it?

panchabhut said...

Like father, like son.

As for Aamra Bangali, another one of their slogan was "bangali gorje otho" (bengalee, roar) underneath which someone had scribbled, "Miao"

Nilendu said...

Has someone actually seen / heard these timeless wonders in person? Or these are like Vidyasagar "saaNtre damodar paar hoyechilen"? Recently, Anandabazar recounted the famous moidan story on Samad. Samad missed a shot by an inch of goal post. He paused for a moment and then asked to measure the post. Apparently, the post was 1 inch shorter than the standard!

Rimi, thanks for the French. But I've *always* heard similar things in bus. The best 3-rd party repartees I experienced personally were either in Olypub or Old Strand or Eden Gardens. There was this middle-aged gentleman in Olypub who -- noticing my exuberance served steak -- commented - "tao to aajke rosemary mareni thik kore". Back in late 90s, I had no idea of Rosemary. Stunned, I looked at him only to know there was an "issue" at Calcutta Port ("dock"), and the consequence was this charred piece of cow lacking certain flavor!

I was in Eden Gardens during Hero Cup Semi finals with a common friend of mine and Dipta. A fat moving gentleman was somehow able to block our tall friend's view of Vinod Kambli in mid-on. My friend told "dada r ja poschaddeS dekhchi, ekta flood light er opor bosle to bad light e khelai bondho hoye jabe" in one of the most rambunctious moments I caught of him!

But in bus or public transport? Never. I have some taxi stories though.

OrangeJammies said...

Where's his blog? 'Tis time.

dipali said...

Ditto OJ!

innerspace said...

Absolutely right.Ready wit,wisecracks and snide remarks...the flavour remains but with tainted marks of abusive language.