Having developed a keen interest in discourse analysis, I am fascinated by the way some words and phrases are used in social interactions and in particular contexts. Unlike my other chintas, I will go straight to the list without any preamble.
Not me. Difficult to discern what exactly it means, but for adult women, it signifies a presence of money and an absence of pain or angst and a husband worthy to make it to my Top Ten Jamai list. Children are perfect, and brilliant. When children grow up to be adults, they can remain brilliant, but unless they marry at the right time, the perfection wanes. Single men and women are therefore never perfect – perfection is attained through partnership. Perfection does not necessarily entail education, or hard work, or achievement, because that would imply pain. It is possible to magically become perfect with the acquisition of designer ensembles, the correct poses (not poise), and social media photos that hit all the right notes.
A few in every family. Brilliance has a spectrum when it comes to describing 12-25 year-olds in education, from those scoring continuous A* to those who do not attend classes or pass exams. Brilliance can also be attained by simply doing nothing other than sleeping and eating for two decades if one has the right PR. Brilliance is amplified with comments such as “Ivy League theke pash kore shoja Goldman Sachs er Vice President hoye gelo,” or “admission test e ato bhalo korlo je Germany oke shaathe shaathe passport diye dilo”, or “piano te ato brilliant je Oxford boleche oke plane ticket o dibe.”
Uttered in every conversation, in every possible mood (anger, anxiety, humour, deflection, affection, frustration, fun, drowsiness) and describing it as polysemic is an understatement. It is both a term of endearment and an insult.
Examples of its other uses, such as when discussing someone’s jewellery - “Or goyna ta dekhla? Kotha theke nilo? Pagoler moton shudhu goyna kine.”
Or the mosquito menace - “Etto mosha! Uff, spray dile o more na. Pagol mosha.”
Or a person’s food habits – “O shudhu kabab paratha khete pochondo kore, pagol ekta.”
The ultimate self-deprecation - “Ami ekta pagol.”
Often conflated with importance. Of course important people are busy, as are professional and productive ones, but they do not use this word as much as those who spend their time posturing as busy in order to be thought of as important. Women especially keep talking about how “etto busy” they are with a tearful voice, and somehow they feel that using this English word equates them with the corporate types as shown in Hollywood B grade films.
Invariably used to denote concepts acquired from A and B grade Bollywood films and B and C grade Hollywood films. There is no such thing as a sophisticated mind; rather it's all about appearance and expenditure and taking photographs. How else will people know they are sophisticated? The Sophs (for short) cannot comprehend that there are cultural and social differences between North America and Europe and Australasia; rather they meld all that they perceive as “Western” into one modern visual consumerist culture. The Kardashians would be the epitome of the sophisticated.
Used to describe men who wear suits and speak English, and women who have short hair, colour coordinate their clothes, bags, shoes, and jewellery, and speak English. Smart has nothing to do with wit, charm, education, intelligence or style. Children are not smart, they are either brilliant, perfect, or do not deserve to exist.
A word used to up the ante, or daam baraano. People who claim they are selective, mean to say that all and sundry are desperate to invite them, meet them, be seen in their company, but they, being selective, have chosen a special few to bestow their gracious presence upon. Selective people are usually both busy and sophisticated. Oh, and they continuously upload their photos on social media.
Nischoi kono problem achey:
Does not take much to get this started. The slightest hint of imperfection and the rumours begin to circulate. “Dekhla o biyer por por mota holo na, nishchoi kono problem achey”. The Perfect, Brilliant, Busy, Sophisticated, Smart and Selective are exempted from this phrase as it is usually intertwined with Pagol in conversation. Can be applied to children not deemed brilliant or perfect (if they are allowed to exist), and to single men and women, and adult married women. Rarely applied to adult married men as their wives are always responsible for all the problems.
Perception, not a reality. The Perfect, Busy, Sophisticated and Selective qualify to have prochur poysha, not anyone else. A useful term, especially for scoring purposes. To glorify the prochur poysha that random others are known to have, and just being able to say that, confers a sense of power over an audience, as well as importance. Furthermore, taking pride in the prochur poysha of others is an effective way of negating or belittling education, background, achievement, or non monetary successes. “Etto lekha lekhi kore ki laabh….dekho omuker prochur poysha achey.”
And on that lekha lekhi note I will end my article. Sigh. I could do with prochur poysha, but amar kopale nai. Onek problem achey.
*Some phrases that I was unable to incorporate into my article but deserve mention are the accusatory “tumi na bolla”, the shame deflective “tomar best friend/tomar attiyo/tomar bondhu, and the avoidant “I don’t know” when queried about a scandal involving a close friend or relative.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.