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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lessons from Allahabad



The vocabulary of a language can, sometimes, tell us a lot about the people that use it and the circumstances they live in. The most famous case in point of course being the (incorrect) belief that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow. In spite of the untruth of this particular example, the existence of a particular word in a language can sometimes hint at the importance (or even existence) of the idea it describes.  Thus, it’s not surprising that (spoken) Hindi uses English loan words to describe modern technology such as telephones or TVs. Or even Western concepts such as “secularism”.

This, though, is a two way street. There are concepts that Hindi is much more adept at describing than English. For example the “process of stealing electricity from the main grid by connecting a wire to it” takes up a lot a lot of breathe to express in Angrezi. Allahabadi Hindi, though, has one sweet and simple word for it: ‘katiyaa’ (cut-ee-aa). And from my experience (of admittedly only a day in Allahabad), the word, unlike say, 'theft', carries no negative connotations. To 'katiyaa' in Allahabad is normal. It's what people like us do.

In a city where there is hardly any regular power, power theft is widely practiced and, for lack of an option, condoned, I would have expected nothing less.

5 comments:

Tazeen said...

In Karachi, hooking up your wire into the main line is called 'Kunda'

Tazeen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hades said...

Regular Aman ki Asha stuff this. Joined at the hip by our kaminapan: India and Pakistan.

dk said...

"The vocabulary of a language can, sometimes, tell us a lot about the people that use it and the circumstances they live in."

Bangla has a proper word for pseudo intellectuals -aantel :P

Hades said...

DK,

Haha. Love that word. I also love the way Bourgie is used in Bangla.