The Fabindia advertisement announcing its Diwali festive collection, named “Jashn-e-Riwaz”, made one mistake. It was immediately pointed out that the name of the festival should have been Jashn-e-Riwaj, ending with the letter ‘J’ and not with the letter ‘Z’, as it had appeared in their advertisement. The prompt response from whoever handles their publicity should have been to call up the copywriter and make the correction.
Fabindia did not do so. What they did was to listen to a rabble-rouser, one Tejasvi Surya of a party that now boasts an unrivalled gallery of such unique personages. This bright spark is no ordinary worker but a leader who might soon rise to greater heights than he has already surmounted.
Tejasavi could not possibly have known the difference or the significance of the difference between the sounds of the two letters and given the universe that he inhabits, he would not care. His objections were more basic, or shall we say, more grounded, for he inhabits a world of certainties and not of subtleties.
The Vocabulary of Ramnagar
The gist of what he said is the following, and we paraphrase his fulminations,
How can a festival of ‘Hindus’ be described in Urdu, and
How can the models dressed for the occasion be attired in garments of the Muslims?
Let us answer the two questions to demolish the world of the certainty of ignorance the gentleman inhabits.
We have a rather limited understanding of the India that lies south of the Vindhyas. We would, however, make bold to say a few words on the basis of the nodding acquaintance that we have acquired about the spoken language of the common folks of parts of Ramnagar district bordering Bangalore. Incidentally, it is the same Ramnagar that was immortalised for us North Indians because the blockbuster Sholay was shot here. Just as Tejasvi is going to immortalise, through his luminance, the neighbouring district of Bangalore, part of which he represents in the Lok Sabha.
Here is a shortlist of words of common usage in the vocabulary of the residents of Ramnagar that might help Tejasvi in his crusade against “the Abrahamisation of Hinduism”.
Kannada & Urdu
The word for training in the language of the common, illiterate or quasi- literate people of the area is ‘tarbete’, a derivate of the Persian word ‘tarbeyat’; the word for a ‘time of leisure’ in Kannada as spoken in the Bengaluru neighbourhood of Ramnagar is 'fursat', an urdu word probably of Persian origin; to care is ‘parwah’, and to not care a fig is ‘parwah ille’, and ‘parwah’ is a Persian word.
If one exhibits a dirty mind, is generally unwashed and filthy or the street is in the same condition as the filthy mind of some people, we know the word in Kannada as spoken in Ramnagar is ‘galeej’, a derivate of the Arabic word ‘ghaleez’ — notice the loss of the ‘H’ sound and the interchange of the ‘J’ and the ‘Z’.
A bright child, a cunning leader or a cautious neighbour is described as ‘hoshiyar’ in Urdu, the root is again Persian, and in Ramnagar, the word for all these kinds of people is ‘hushar’. Simple, commonplace or ordinary is ‘ma’mooli’ in Urdu, and so it is in the Kannada of Ramnagar. To say that “something is like this”, we would say ‘yeh baat is tarah hai’, and in Ramnagar in Karnataka, the neighbouring district of Bengaluru, part of which is represented by Tejasvi Surya, the Bright Sun, they would simply say ‘eetarah’.
According to Tejasvi, Urdu is an alien language, and many of his colleagues adorning exalted positions in his illustrious party would be very eager to remove it from the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India. Would they, then, with equal alacrity, remove the people of Ramnagar and other parts of Karnataka who use words of the same language and send them to a neighbouring country, located to the west?
Would Tejasvi Ditch His Jean & Shirt, Too?
And as far as the question of Indian attire is concerned, no stitched garment is of Indian origin. The truly Indian attire is unstitched lengths of cloth, draped around the body — Sari, Lungi, Mundu, Dhoti — and that is it. The shirt and the jean that is the favourite attire of Tejasvi is half European and half American, almost as half-baked as his own ideas of Indianness, Indian languages and Indian culture. Shalwar is Afghani, Kurta is probably Iranian, the Qameez is Turkish or Spanish, the Chemise is French, the Blouse is European, as are the trousers, coats, jackets, etc.
What does he propose to do with Indians who wear stitched garments? Make them run around in the buff? Unfortunately, he will have to include himself in that list, perhaps to the everlasting shame of his party. The king will then be truly naked.
(Sohail Hashmi is a writer-filmmaker, who identifies himself as a history buff and heritage enthusiast. He has been conducting heritage walks in Delhi for over 16 years. He is one of the founding trustees of SAHMAT—The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. He tweets at @dilliwal. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)