Monday, May 19, 2014

My Bangla Pride

When I lived in Kolkata this whole Probashi Bangalis (Bengalis living outside of Bengal) didn't impress me much. To me they were wannabe Bengalis and not as cool as me!
Whenever someone uttered the word "probashi" images of my relatives living somewhere deep in MP/UP who only surfaced during biye season or durga puja season, came to my mind.
 The Mashi/ Pishi (s) generally had perfect Bangla but their kids or my cousin's Bangla used to be atrocious.
Phrases like "tui amar choto bon achish" or "tora duRRga pOOjyor somoy kotto ta anondo korish" - bengali with a Hindi accent were common which made me impatient.. it was like watching a movie with a subtitle.. finish your sentence already damn it!! Remember I was a Kid! Don't judge me.

I gave them props for trying though.. or at least I pretended to. You were not allowed to laugh at them or you will see you mom's big eyes getting even bigger singnally you to stop immidiately and if you continued.. "thash thash" kore chor!
However,  my "probashi" cousins were always considered "dudhe- bhathe"... and we didn't really take them super seriously especially if they were younger.

I didn't have any close relatives living in so called "Bidesh" so never really experienced North Americanzined Bengali. But one thing I was sure of was my Bangla language skills although I went to a English medium school.. go figure!

12 years later.. Here I am .. recounting my probashi experiences! Life I tell you can be a bitch! Or rather karma is .. What goes around comes around.

So when I go back to Kolkata/visit Kolkata  I am always afraid people will categorize me into the same Probashi Bangali category I hated so much! So my strategy to deal with it?? Over compensate by speaking in Suddho Bangla..  But in doing so I tend to go over board and alienate my own cousins.

Example :

Me to my Cousin : Shon,  amake durobhash shomapto karjer r dorkhasto joma dite hobe. Tui ki jabi amar shonge?
( Listen, I was to submit the application form to cancel our phone line. Did you want to come with me? in a very Bengali text book way)

My Cousin gives me a stunned look... as if I just time travelled from the medieval Bengal and burst into her drawing room.. and then says

" ki bolli, dorkhasto?? She abar ki?"
(Dorkhasto what is that??)

Okay,  time to reevaluate my linguistic skills... did I use it wrong?
Okay, too old fashioned?
That must be it! But obviously can't admit that in front of my younger cousin.. so I say,

" Dorkhasto mane application.. You kids these days.. have no respect for your your language and culture deshe r j ki hobe?"

Then I add in a very Dida/ Kakima / Jethima style :

" Toder moton boyeshe amader Bangla Bhasar kodor onek beshi chilo.. ei shob oi hindi chobi r dosh!

When in doubt blame Bollywood.. always works in typical Bengali household.. baje result? math e  kom nombor, khele dhuloye haar, kom boyeshe depomi kore prem?? whatever it is blame it on Hindi Cinema... works every time!

Also, who cares she is only two years younger than me and the fact that two years ago I didn't even live in India. Minor details, Minor details.. as long as you are super confident in what you are saying, people tend to believe you.

My fight for when in Kolkata only speak Bangla doesn't go that well with random strangers either.. Example??

So I went to South City Mall in Kolkata, and asked a security guard type of person..
-Dada, ekhane osudhu er dokhan kothaye pabo?
- Mam, if you go this way (blah blah) you will find it.
He replies back in English... 
Me replying back in Bangla again
- Achha, mane soja giye odike, tia to?
(oh you mean, I should go straight and then that way, right?)
- Yes man,
- Apni Bangla bolen ebong bojhen to?
(You understand and speak Bangla right?)
He smiles and nods and replies
-Yes mam..
 I glance quickly over to his name tag and yes, just what I thought.. the name was Subhendu Sil.

Did times change? Or did I change? Am I desperately trying to hold on to my Bengali identity and hoping to still be a member of a club where my membership might be expiring soon? Don't know exactly!

I don't speak English like North Americans.. I have an Indian Accent
I don't speak Hindi like non - Bengalis ... I have a Bengali accent
I can't speak in a Bangal Bhasha ... I have a Kolkata accent!

So I can't help but overcompensate when I'm in Kolkata.. no one can say I have a Hindi accent or a North American accent.. My bhasha.. spoken the way it should be..