Sunday, January 03, 2010

To be or not to be a Lakhnawi

It’s a norm to start every piece on Lucknow’s tehzeeb with the famous ‘Pehele Aap’ story of the nawabs who missed their train. I’ll spare you that one because I have one of my own. The other day my three year old, in a very philosophical mood said, “Mama agar Seeta ji ‘nice’ thi toh usne Ravan ko kyon kaha ‘chhod de mujhe’ ‘chhod dijiye’ kehna tha.”

I started to explain to her that when you’re really really angry you can give language a small tiny break. After all their have been times when I’ve used the ‘f’ word.. under my breath of course… or the ‘b’ word more than once when a malicious youngster has driven my Activa almost off the road.

However, I remember another story about a Lakhnawi professor who even under duress kept his special andaaz intact… here goes:
Two professors were having an argument which grew progressively more heated. Finally anger got the better of one of them. He stood up red faced, and shaking his fist at the other one blurted out, “kya bak rahe hain aap!” The other one, however, replied with an unruffled, “bak toh aap rahe hain janab, main toh farma raha hoon.
Cool isn’t it?

Since the day my kids have been able to talk I’ve been trying to instill this little bit of Lucknow in them even while living in Mumbai.. no I have absolutely NOTHING against Mumbai, Marathi or Mumbaikars, it’s just that the ‘tu’ doesn’t gel with me. It never did, not when I was in Delhi and not now when I’ve moved to Mumbai and the ‘tu’ has followed.

I must admit, though, 16 years out of Lucknow, I too occasionally succumb to its comfortable informality, not in anger but in affection. Yet hearing the kids use it makes me terribly uncomfortable. Besides, I wouldn’t dream of using it with my parents.

But why just corner the ‘tu’, there are many more irritants. The ‘fan chalu kar’ makes me cringe and my little one is quick to point out ‘chalu toh naughty hota hai.. on kariye bolna chahiye’. Good going kiddo! Then there’s the ‘Khana fridge mein pada hai’… ‘Khana rakha jata hai’ for Godsake!

And there’s the ‘barabar hai’ for ‘theek hai’. I could never stop myself from retorting ‘kiske barabar?’ and have sometimes left the recipient of my wisecrack quite clueless. Oh and I’ve had my share of ribbing too when I’d say ‘hum aa gaye’ and I get a ‘tum aur koun?’ from my Maharashtrian friends.

For now the kids have picked up well enough. However with influence from school I do overhear the odd ‘dekh bhai’ and I cannot stop myself from protesting even though I realise it’s a losing battle. Heck no.. it isn’t. I’m not giving up completely, not so easily.
I’ll settle for a compromise.. Kids if you can stick with the ‘aap’ and the ‘lijiye dijiye’ with me and the elders, I’ll leave you in peace with your ‘tu’ and even maybe your ‘majha tujha’. There now, you can’t accuse me of being too severe.

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