Surrounded by rural women in Aurangabad, I am trying hard to relate to them. They don’t speak Hindi and I don’t understand Marathi. After a few glitches, the dialogue turns into a discussion. Guess what helped? Not an intermediary but my knowledge of Mumbaiya lingo. It broke the ice. Once the comfort level increased the chirpy women chattered endlessly, fumbling occasionally for Hindi words.
That’s when I realised the strength of Mumbaiya lingo. It transcends all barriers. As a friend later told me, the lingo, largely Hindi, with a generous smattering of words borrowed from Marathi, Konkani and English among others actually manifests Mumbai’s cosmopolitan culture.
I had never imagined that I would submit to Mumbaiya speak so soon. It was not very long ago that I was torn between the correctness of hamare-aapke and the easy flow of mereko-tereko. Perhaps part of Mumbaiya lingo’s appeal lies in its effortless informality. I simply love its ragged rhyme, the asymmetric rhythm. Unlike the Lucknowi tehzeeb, which is about restraint, Mumbaiya lingo is straight from the heart. As for now, I have been, with all the enthusiasm of a neo convert, dropping ‘tereko wahan jaane ka,’ ‘baju hat’ and barabar instead of the formal approach of the past years.
The quick, direct, no-nonsense linguistic approach, as I see it, is also the fallout of the fast pace of life in Mumbai. Tabadtod andar jaane ka is far more effective when getting into a local train than a long-winded request to the person ahead to make way. But to an untrained ear, not all of it is palatable. Like the time when the man behind the ticket counter, grumpily said, “Kyon time kharab karne ka? Khali pilli, meri khopdi mat sarka.” This, because I had made the mistake of expecting him to go beyond the scope of his routine selling of tickets. “Kya aap bata sakte hai ki train kitne baje kahan se milegi?” That was all that I had said but obviously he did not have time for courteous language.
Or the other day when I overheard my bai grumble, “Mera sara moondi ghoom gaya, woh sala faltu ka bak-bak kar raha tha, mujhe bakra banayega...” She had had a tiff with a hawker. However, it was not her bak-bak but her comment later that actually put me off. My concerned “Aap kyon pareshan hai?” was greeted by a gruff, “Tereko tension nahin lene ka.” It was only later that I understood her ishtyle.
And I am not even getting into the countless lafdas when the vegetable vendor kept selling me kakri and kanda when I wanted kheera and pyaz!
These days however, you are likely to hear me switch to baju hat or mujhe chuna nahin lagaane ka with effortless ease. I have cutting chai at the tapri, visit friends to avoid kantaal and know that if something is rapchik or jhakkas, it’s good news. Am I dumbing down? Maybe. Unlearning has never been so much fun.