The New Year Calls for New Gaalis, the Ones That Say No To Sexism
Swear-words post MeToo.
Swear-words post MeToo.(Photo: iStock)

The New Year Calls for New Gaalis, the Ones That Say No To Sexism

"Shob kota sh***er baccha," quipped the beefy, elderly gentleman next to me at the train station. His shoulders were hunched, eyes narrowed, and thoughts - I remember thinking - a solid hundred.

The man beside him was vigourously nodding his head - with a seemingly high-risk agility - and flipping through a dog-eared newspaper that looked thoroughly scoured and worn-out. ''Sab s**le ullu ke pa**he hain ji, kya karna? Yeh lo, aap bhujiya khao," he reverted. I couldn't hide a smile. There is nothing as cathartic as a swear word - hurled out with a kind of stomach-cleansing vigour - in your native language--- Thappad naahin paadha hain na baachpaan mein, kukur shob,” snarled a lady in red - interrupting my thoughts - with a deliciously thick Bengali accent.

She was standing close to the two men with an air of established authority; their bhujiya pein charcha centering around the rawest vestiges of India's October Awakening, 2018 - the #MeToo movement.

I was five hours early to the train station and, obviously, nothing seemed more alluring than unscrupulous eavesdropping. I realised that I had my Twitter feed - usually a useful distraction - open right before me and my earphones plugged in. Yet, I was drawn in to their relieving rants.

And it wasn't lazy interest.

I felt a genuine stir, a prod, a trigger - I wanted to chime in and spit out my share too, “Shob bokac***a”.

This took me back - with a sudden flash - to a snippet of quite  an animated conversation I’d had with a male friend a few months back.

After much trepidation he, an ally, I would like to believe, had confessed:

''Men have been a**holes. I get it. But I wish we could  stay away from gaalis that are gender-based... does more harm than good, no? 'P***y', 'son of a b***h', 'd**k', madarc**d, ch***ya... what are we even trying to achieve? The sexism still remains!"

I had dismissed him back then and argued that the degree of catharsis was important, given the urgency of the long-awaited moment. The rest can be argued later.

Today, I can't help revisit the thought there. Three strangers at a train station had managed to not just let out their frustration over the ones responsible for reprehensibly sh*t behavior, but also refrain from any gendered swear words:

No mothers or sisters being targeted, no one’s body parts being slammed in the heat of the moment. Yet, the catharsis was complete. 
(Photo: iStock) 

The trick, I am beginning to realise, is simple.

Gaali (English or Hindi) minus body parts (male or female)/ mothers-sisters-daughters = Gaali that serves the purpose without a dose of sexism

Yes, we're all running on “caveman software” and it is difficult to hold it in and say the right things all the time, but we are also creatures of habit, right? Why not find a way to express our anger with better alternatives?

The ones that don't normalise society's internalised hatred for women or somehow manage to reduce the wrong-doer to their sex?

Because, then, we’d be responsible for exactly the kind of sexist hatred we are trying to call out.
(Photo: Giphy)

So go ahead, let it all out, call the wrong-doers whatever makes you feel lighter -   'bokac****s', pis*lords, or nika**as. Ask them to stick their chauvinism in gory hellfire but please, please... can we stay away from gendered slips? Think about it! We'd rather have an equal distribution of power between men and women than look forward to a future where women topple men. Wouldn’t such a shift in power dynamics be counter-productive to feminism’s - that strives for equality - cause?

Case in point? Remember Kareena turning the tables in RaOne with her thesis on gaalis?

Teri ma ki, teri behen ki... hindustan mein har gaali aisi kyun hoti hain? Teri bhai ki, teri baap ki...aisi kyun nahin?’”

Forgive me if I am being righteous, but I want to co-exist. Not destroy.  Of course, we all have the liberty to  say what we want to. But liberty and equality don't exist together. If I am at liberty to say what I want and do what I want, the scales immediately turn. We're no more equal. (Look at how communism fell with a hefty thud!)

So, we've got to be happy with a little bit of both, as part of the macro-picture?

Let the catharsis begin!

Also, here’s signing off with a scene from Jab We Met that almost made it, but for the last three words!

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