Who does not have disagreements? It is perfectly acceptable for one to disagree, and say,
‘Sorry, I disagree.’
‘I’m afraid I have a different point of view.’
Let me explain – if you are from Allahabad, you express your disagreement by spitting out the word,
‘Bhaak’ – it is formed in your visceral cavity, and builds momentum in its travel till the throat whereupon it assumes a guttural quality in the folds of the epiglottis, till finally it meets you, landing as a spit on your face. Sometimes, this spit is metaphorical, at other (unfortunate) times, it is literal.
Historically speaking, Allahabad was a city that produced political leaders. We took pride in our leaders. And, possibly, that led to a lot of leaders being born – the good ones, the not-so-good ones and the ones that can make Panditji fall off from his heavenly couch.
It is not uncommon for heated discussions to begin at paan shops, tea shops, offices, railway coaches and public toilets around topics of national and international concern. We are completely at ease discussing Guptaji’s wife’s questionable ‘sanskars’ and Obama’s healthcare policy in the same breath.
The discussion starts with cynicism – there is not point being circuitous.
‘Obam-wa kauno behtar hai kaa? Sab hai chor hain saale.’
[Obama is no better. Everyone is corrupt]
Some people agree without much of a fuss. But, an opposition leader has to emerge. And soon, there is one –
‘Lekin dekhiye amreeka ki tarriki – sabhay paise waale hain’
[Look at how prosperous America is – everyone is rich]
More and more people jump in now, taking sides with the two leaders. They contribute with their own facts, evidences, and data which is mostly, generated on the spot. Tempers rise, voices get louder and more agitated and some even come to blows – all while Obama, oblivious to all of this, is sitting in his Oval office, reviewing federal spending for the quarter.
After a few ‘bhaaks’, and crony-laughter in support, the final insult is hurled –
‘Abe aadmi ho ki pyjama?’
[Are you a man or a man’s nightwear worn on the lower part of the body, held by drawstrings?]
Now I don’t know the etymology of this insult, or what it means but it is definitely grave. People don’t like it. This is the point where the debate degenerates into an abuse-hurling duel between the leaders. The followers either dwindle or add a few punches of their own.
Often, the establishment owner where the debate is being conducted also joins in with a few sniggers. These are his daily perks. Some onlookers stop and stare, along with some cows.
Finally, it all ends as peacefully as it began though consensus is rarely achieved. And it may resume again the next day. Nobody takes it to heart.
That does not mean that all Illahabadi debates end inconclusively. Sometimes, one leader seals it with an argument that cannot be questioned, or disputed.
Once, in the Psychology department library, as we sat immersed in Zimbardo handed over by a belching Mohan-ji who found it imperative to coat the book with gaseous emissions of his lunch before handing it over, we heard this –
Sharmaji – ‘Yeh to aapko maan-na hi padega ki Rajeev Gandhi ke jaane par Sonia ekdum roi nahin.’
Bharti ma’am – ‘Yeh aap kaise keh sakte hain?’
Sharmaji – ‘Arre bhai sabne TV par dekha – ek aansoo nahin.’
Bharti ma’am – (sternly) ‘Yeh baat bilkul galat hai’
Sharmaji – ‘Bhai, saari duniya ne dekha – woh aurat roi nahin’
Bharti ma’am – ‘Woh roi – bahut roi thhi – andar hi andar roi thhi’
Sharmaji – ‘Arre – hum kaise maan lein?’
Bharti ma’am – ‘Chhodiye, aap nahin samjhenge, Sharma ji ’
Bharti ma’am – ‘Kyonki aap aurat nahin hain’
Haah! No one could say ‘bhaak’ to that! Mohan ji also endorsed with a loud burp.