Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kolkata - The Land of the Polite

For a chap born and sharpened on the streets of Mumbai, there is nothing so asphyxiating as a richly deserved cussword un-uttered. It sort of chokes the epiglottis, which is a big word I have used to display my erudition. (Note: Naren is erudite)

No, I haven't been having a couple, as will become clear when you let me amplify my meaning. In Mumbai, if one is driving in one's lane and another car decides to unexpectedly cross one, leading one to brake sharply and increase one's blood pressure a few notches, one immediately does one or all of the following
a)show the finger
b)tell the driver of the other car that his father was an ass, or pig, or both
c)further inform the said driver of your intention of tearing out his intestines.

This is a legal requirement for citizenship here. The recipient of the abuse, if he is indeed guilty, accepts it gracefully as one would accept a good morning from an old friend, with a smile and a nod if you know what I mean, and pushes off to pursue his livelihood. Not so in Kolkata.

We sat in an Ambassador taxi dating back to Otto or Daimler, as was its driver. The brakes were operated more by faith and God's will than hydraulics. Every time the brakees were pressed, the car would sing a sort of aria and screech to a halt with a demure little skid.

This wasn't alarming when we were moving in slow traffic but presently Old Father Abraham, our driver, hit an open stretch and started clipping nicely. And no sooner had the needle crossed the 60 mark, the devil in the form of another Ambassador taxi zipped across our path.

For one microsecond, I really thought I had bought it and made the squealing pig sound I normally make when I'm dying. Miraculously, the impact did not happen and when I slowly opened an eye, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still among the living.

And I looked towards the Ancient Mariner, hoping to hear something wonderfully vitriolic, something I could pass on to my progeny and use against offending auto drivers when they crossed me. And what did old Greybeard come up with? You're not going to believe this. His complete response was

"Kaisa chalate hain yeh log".

How these people drive! That was all this superman could come up with. What a guy! He'd make Nelson Mandela look like a football hooligan. But then, that's how most old Kolkatans are, I am told. Gracious, well mannered and mildly spoken. Even when they're burning a tram, as they frequently do, they will remember their p's and q's. Love this place!

16 comments:

kowthas said...

LOL! I sense the shock through the bytes and the miles Naren. My empathies :)

maxdavinci said...

sirjee you ought to travel to Hyd for some nawabi khatirdaari. Esp the autos, watay vocabulary building excercise that is.

sthitapragnya said...

LOL! You were subject to a small demonstration of Ben'gaalis'!
And I second max here. We Hyderabadis are proud of our 'tehzeeb'. Our expletives have a beautiful flowery blend of Telugu and Urdu which spew like nectar from a drooling dog's mouth! :P

AlwaysHappyKya said...

Goodness Gracious! That's all he told? You sure he didn't utter anything under his breath before/after that?

Wow, damn polite indeed.

BTW, its my dying wish to hear the squealing pig sound you 'normally' make while dying.

Hahaha! Too good!

Vibushan Lakshminarayan said...

I don't speak hindi. Probably a translation would do good :) The rest of the post, namely the metaphors used are nice :) especially the one with the brakes!
btw, ancient mariner?! ha ha ha :)

Coconut Chutney said...

How these people talk, I say. How these people talk.

"Even when they're burning a tram, as they frequently do, they will remember their p's and q's."

LOL! :D

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Hahaha, reminds me of Bangkok. Ran across the same situation - or was it drove across? In any case, we decelerated from 120 kmph to 0 because some guy cut us off, and the Thai taxi driver shocked me by just raising an eyebrow. Phlegmatic, stoic, loser.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

wonder what emily post has to say on cuss words. sounds like she could learn something from kolkattans

rambodoc said...

Briiliant wit! I daresay your impression of Bongs should have been based on my own impeccable manners, especially when I appreciate the posts made by my fellow bloggers!

Arun Sundar said...

One summer in chennai, my friend switched the wiper on his car to wipe his windshield clear with water. An old car that is, the water did not spray on the windshield, but fountained atop the car and wetted the two-wheeler uncle behind us. And that in full speed for about 5 seconds. Having no effect on water on the windshield, we looked back, only to find a dripping-wet man slowly coming towards like a hippo. Shit-scared, I composed myself to apologize. In all calmness, he said 'Why? huh? Do you really have to wash the car in the road?! Dont do it next time!' And he rode on slowly. Some oldies I tell you, are the most seasoned. Surprised I was, more by the man than the wiper :)

SMM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SMM said...

Yup we Bongs are like this only. We will break your head and then say sorry so sweetly with a smile that you won't feel offended at all :P

Sowmya Srikrishnan said...

"nothing so asphyxiating as a richly deserved cussword un-uttered" - Absolutely!!!

LOL! Great reading you.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

haha! Was smiling all the way! ;-)

Ram said...

You won't find my mom nodding her head in agreement to this. She despises Bongs. Somebody flicked her bag in a temple. She thinks that somebody was a Bong. And with good reasons. She was in Calcutta.

P.S. My mom seems to have followed your tour itinerary.

What's In A Name ? said...

Hey, they don't burn trams here that often now. That was way back in the 70s maybe. Not now.
They have taken to razing down buses in times of hartals and in cases where truck-drivers mow down i-pod hearing teenagers.

But, polite, we are, mostly. :)