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Ek thappor, onek chinta

  • Published at 05:02 pm July 12th, 2018
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The 5 occasions that warrant a thappor (or two)

I moved to London exactly thirteen years ago, and I had barely settled down, when I was cautioned by a relative not to use the word “thappor” as I so frequently did, since it was likely to be taken literally. Huh??

‘Thappor’, ‘thappar’, ‘jhapar’, or ‘one tight slap’are very much a part of my vocabulary since childhood, and I refuse to apologise for such being the case. Occasionally, I embellish these words and phrase(s) with the threat of further violence of causing the ‘botrish ta daat’ to be sent flying into the air, but I actually never follow up on it.  I Do Not.

So why and when do I resort to such a declaration of the intention to inflict injury upon another party or parties? Let us start with the why; because the thappor is one of the most all - encompassing and perspicuous figures of speech that we have at our linguistic disposal. 

It is a check and a reality check, a balance and a counterbalance, a signal to stop, a warning of the perils of continuing, an indication of the need for a change of direction, a demonstration of power, a brutal reminder (as opposed to the gentle ones for social events) an affirmation of authority, a declaration of displeasure, emblematic of a pinch, a poke, a provocation, a protest, a punch, a shake, a smack, and of course, a slap. 

And when do I become overcome with the desire to administer a resounding thappor? There are many occasions, but I will discuss the five most acutely necessitous ones.

Upon encountering a gasping gossip

Fact: I gossip. And having been at it for several decades now, I can confidently state that there is nothing new out there; the same old stories are hashed and rehashed over and over again, only the names and dates change. Yawn. 

So when the grapevine is abuzz and a fellow gossiper screeches, “whhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaat”, followed by a “aaaaaai’ve neveeeeeeeeeer heeeeeeeaaaaaarrrd”, followed by several sharp intakes of breaths and near bodily convulsions, followed by “hooooooooow”, followed by more screeches, and concluded with, “I am soooooooo shoooooooocked”, I cannot help but start fantasizing about delivering a thappor. 

In conversation with a hyperventilating hysteric

Hysterics are irritating enough, and the hyperventilating ones who continuously speak in nothing less than superlatives more so. They present the most wearisome of actions and events in tones of vehemence, sensation, and excitement, and expect me to respond in kind. 

When I am told that the steamed rice and boiled packet pasta in someone’s house are the most sublime dishes ever to be created on this planet, or that a random person has the most exquisite dustbin in some corner of his/her house, or that a being I barely know loves her parents beyond the realm of the imagination of all humans on this earth, all with a bishaash korte parbana expression, I am sorry, but my hands do itch for that one tight slap. 

When speaking to a disavowing denier

This type suffers from the last word syndrome, I mean the last critical word syndrome.  No matter what I say, I am negated or invalidated. It can be something as mundane as the sun is shining brightly today or as personal as I loved Cairo or as trivial as I need to do groceries.  No matter, the disavowing denier is triggered. He or she feels it is his/her mandate to respond and to contradict or to censure. 

I will be told it cannot be that I have seen the sun shining as the weather report states otherwise, (mind you, while the sun is glaring down upon us) or that Cairo is such an old dilapidated city as opposed to Singapore which is new and well planned (erm, no need for the comparison and maybe I like the old), or that I must be such a terrible negligent wife or mother that I have run out of groceries (in the history of wifehood or motherhood, no one has run out of groceries)after which the confab has to end on the note of disavowal. Two tight slaps! 

Becoming defensive when asked a personal question

Having a rather colourful family history, I have always been at the receiving end of probing, personal questions. And I have yet to master the art and skill of handling such curiosity. More often than not, I become defensive and offer lengthy explanations, when I should deliver a nasty retort to cut the other person short.  

Of course, when I later discover that the people interrogating me themselves have lives of even more colour in more shades than I could imagine, I feel like slapping myself for not having the presence of mind or the instinct to protect myself, or for not directing a few retaliatory questions towards them, same to same. Nijeke akta boro thappor!

Being bombarded with contrived concern

There are some who must always be good, no matter where or when I meet them. And their goodness has to be manifested in excessive concern, no matter what the circumstances of the meeting.

Suppose I am at the petrol pump having my car tank filled, the chances are I will be spotted by one of the good. He or she will instantly drop whatever (goodness) it is he/she was preoccupied with, and hurry to my rescue. I may simply be waiting for my receipt, which is not a situation that demands a saviour of any sort. However, in a span of thirty seconds, I will be barraged with several what is wrongs. I dare not interject that I am fine; I will not be heard anyway, because I am not meant to be. The good is simply playing his or her part, and the script was written well before I was spotted. I just happen to be cast in a supporting role. I shudder to imagine how the good come alive in times of tragedy. Meanwhile, I just want to smack that darn concern out of existence…

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.