As the times change, so does the way we communicate
With the Boi Mela being held on and the observance of the Ekushey, the grace and the beauty of the Bangla language have become the topic du jour for countless TV programs.
The focus has been on proper pronunciation to the condemnation of the mixture of English and Bangla to the unvarnished criticism of Bangla spoken with an English accent.
Yes, we all know about the last bit … the “ami Bangla pari na” clan who crave to create an air of exclusivity by trying to prove that they are/were from such superior backgrounds that the mother tongue was disdainfully sidelined for a foreign language.
Anyway, our topic is not about those who speak the language with a contrived accent, but about the words that have entered the lingo to make Bangla a little funky.
This is Bangla with bling -- words either created or existing words used not as per their actual meaning but to denote something totally different. I mean “purai” different.
Purai means “the whole thing” though in real life it’s now used to express agreement. So, if you say one of your friends has become uxorious after marriage then to show agreement someone else may say “purai.”
Whether you like it or not, these words have entered our everyday communication to such an extent that rooting them out or even making people use them as per their original meaning may prove difficult.
Here’s a look into words that have added bling to Bangla. Apologies in advance to the traditionalists who are against such words/terms.
Life is a pera
I am not a linguist and cannot trace the origin of the word “pera.” As far as I can remember, there is a pera sandesh, which is a dessert and then we have all hear of paratyphoid.
Anyway, pera in the current context means torment. Let’s say your mother is giving you “pera” over your falling grades or the ride-sharing driver is taking you through the longer route and naturally, you are in total “pera.”
Your girlfriend has found a message on our phone which should not be there and well, get ready for pera of biblical proportions.
Osthir means “restless.” I was deemed to be an osthir child at school and my teachers would regularly complain to my mother: “Toto is restless, khub osthir, cannot sit in one place for too long.”
Well, osthir has had a metamorphosis in meaning -- it means something which is sublime or astounding. If you find the décor of a building breathtaking you can certainly say: What an osthir place. Or, if you had a memorable time with your friends or the beloved, you can go gaga and observe -- we had an osthir time.
You see a guy in a black bike, wearing a dark jacket and matching shades, the expression of approval can be osthir.
One of my cousins who had gotten married was given a bridal suite at a five-star hotel by his parents and, in jubilant appreciation, he wrote an SMS to his dad: “Abba, room ta ‘shei’ -- we are totally ‘osthir’.” Obviously, someone had to decode it for the father because he was a bit worried -- “why should my son be restless?”
Then we come to the word “shei,” which literally means “like that.” In fact, it means to like something which is unimaginably sublime. How was your exam? Well, if you nailed it then you can say, “shei, shei.”
No time for a kahini
Of late, this is being used widely. Kahini’s actual meaning is “story.” But now, it means something which is being made complicated, convoluted, or deceptive without any reason.
An example will make it clear -- I often hear a young female colleague of mine use it frequently with her husband when she finds that he is being difficult or unbending. The other day when the hubby was refusing to go to an invitation using a plethora of implausible excuses, the wife lost her temper and said: “I don’t have time for you kahini.”
This word is now used for diverse situations. Let’s say someone took money from you and is vacillating in returning it. You can call him and ask: What is your kahini?
Of course, you can also use: Stop giving pera and give me back my money.
Any salacious incident is also a kahini -- the maidservant eloping with the caretaker uncle is surely kahini and if she has fled with a member of the family then it’s bishal kahini.
I am no social scientist but feel that the word kahini, which actually means a plot of a story, has its roots in the Indian soap operas (maybe, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki) which had storylines filled with intrigue, twists, machinations, lust, and subterfuge.
The other day, one of my relatives, a young guy in his mid-20s, stopped me on the road and said in a tone of urgency: “Khalu, I am in great pera can you lend me some money to buy a perfume for my girlfriend?”
I complied and also suggested a brand. At night, the grateful lad called me and said: “Thanks, Khalu, got the one you recommended … purai osthir!”
Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.