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Batras [बतरस]-Gali-Galauj as civilized discourse: the FB status of India these days!


 By Ratnakar Tripathy

2014: start with shouting match!

2014: start with shouting match!

One of the most memorable images from my childhood days when I got to spend my vacations in the village is that of a quarrel between the women of two households that went on for a whole day. The two households were at some distance and the shouting match had to be scaled at loudspeaker like decibels. I remember even as the men of those two families sat with drooped heads, many other men and women gave up their work of the day and hung around to catch every single word exchanged.

So did I.

I remember young girls holding idle spades and empty baskets meant to be filled with fodder, in their hands and loitering from one listening post to another to grab the best acoustics among the crowded homes amidst narrow lanes with teeny windows. Men’s ears somehow seemed capable of pricking up like those of dogs, as they strained to catch the colourful phrases amidst changing wind directions, their bodies swaying, their faces rippling with emotions as if they were wired to music in the 2013 fashion. And I am talking of 1969 or thereabouts!

The synonyms for sexual organs I heard on that day would beat a Bhargav or a Merriam Webster, who may promptly decide to retreat with their ‘well…’ between their ‘wells…’! The tsunami of vocabulary unleashed, the absolutely freakish ninja metaphors for the sexual act, the process and the aftermath, including the unpleasant medical consequences opened a new world to me. This was a language you heard and swallowed privately, no question of sharing. No wonder, none of the listeners on that day, I remember vividly, seem to exchange looks to acknowledge sharing. Everyone focused on learning, absorbing, ingesting in the most private manner possible. As if they were communing with the Supreme Being and didn’t want anyone else included in the boon!

The women didn’t just abuse each other. They began to expose each other’s affairs from the past and the present, and then that of other’s not directly involved. There were many a middle-aged men and women, as well as unmarried teenagers, both girls and boys, hanging around in great anxiety, hoping their names won’t come up. But they did as everyone ran for cover, emptying the dress circle, the balcony and the lower seats.

The whole village was flooded with information. Information saturity is what it may be called, not glut, since not a single nugget was without gold or truth.

My father, my grandfather and I am told even my great-grandfather didn’t have any sisters. Only cousins and only most distant ones!  My father’s remotely distant cousin sister Kalawati bua [auntie] was around on the day for some ceremonial reasons and happened to seem the only one bravely meeting the eyes of others, staring at our faces, daring us to meet her eyes, but in fact also eagerly seeking to meet the eyes of anyone present.

‘How filthy’, I exclaimed to her concealing my serial ecstasy as the abuses escalated, got increasingly refined and rarefied to sublime filth. ‘Go and stop these women, how long will this carry on’, I ordered her with the authority of allegedly the most impressionable child in a joint family, hoping she won’t.

‘You know, if this didn’t happen, didn’t go on, the men in the family would pounce on each other with sharp sickles. Left to the men, lives would be lost. In a few minutes, your entertainment would happen, and then it would go like a grain of camphor. Don’t you think this is better’, is what my aunt whispered to me and began to giggle toothlessly, her row of gums shining in the lamplight, her eyes lit with desperate wisdom of an accustomed sufferer. She was close to seventy then, I was reaching fourteen.

I joined her and laughed with her till the lungs on both sides of the squabbling families gave up and the village went to sleep for the day.

I hope to wake up post-2014 hearing a voice like hers from a younger or older woman or man that trivializes the trend of the day duly and worries about the next day.

I think Kalawati bua’s philosophy was – no denouement today. Let them not kill each other or out-shout forever or settle anything today.

As for tomorrow, we will see!  Our children will see.


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