15 Feb

There is something immensely endearing about the Bihari (Bhojpuri?) accent on Hindi. One of my favourite things to do on public transport-especially on trams and buses (although I no longer take tram rides as frequently as I once used to)- is to overhear conversations. My eavesdropping ear stays peaked and travels from one conversation to another, and homes in on one that suits.

Today morning on the 1.5 hour ride to Dakshineshwar, I overheard a mother and daughter have a brief not-quite-a-quibble about who will pay the bus fare (the daughter was quite business-like about how much her mother owed her for the preceding auto-ride-Rs.11!- and would not shell out for the bus fare, even though the mother promised to pay her back later. The mother was apprehensive about whether the bus-conductor would willingly accept the hundred rupee note she had for a fare that would be under twenty rupees). The mother wondered whether the conductor had over-charged them (I think he did, for he took one rupee more from me than is the usual fare). They also spoke about how the daughter’s new workplace would be quite far from home. Rather mundane, and all in Bengali. My ear did not happen upon anything interesting.

On the return journey, there were two voices behind me. I’ve never aged people by their voice before and it was interesting to recognise an ‘older’ voice and a ‘younger’ voice. In Bihari (Bhojpuri?) accented Hindi the older one one was recounting how during the 1992 World Cup* (cricket, ofcourse; I never did football B-)) he and his friends used to rent a television to watch the matches. And how he bought celebratory fire-crackers in anticipation of India’s win against Pakistan, way before the match day. And how the true joy of watching the matches, especially after wins, was switching between the various news channels to hear what the experts had to say accompanied by the many replays of particular moments. They were wondering whether to go to Mani Square (a biggish mall with, I assume, large screens airing the match for free) or Tiljala (a neighbourhood known for its notoriety in the 60s and 70s, according to my mother) for today’s match. The older man was trying to convince the younger man, boy, really, to come to Tiljala. But what is there in Tiljala, the boy kept asking. Oh, you come, and I’ll show you something wonderful, the older man would laughingly say. The second time he conceded there was an ashram there which he was keen to take that young boy to. I’m not exactly sure how an ashram is related to cricket,lol!

All this to say that the Bihari/Bhojpuri accent, coupled with their way of delivering speech, makes language sound warm, endearing, and straight from the heart. Every word sounds like a verbal hug. You’ll have to imagine what that sounds like 🙂


*Certain liberties have been taken with the dates. It could also have been the 1996 World Cup, or some cricket series in 1994. All three years made an appearance during the conversation but my memory chose to be all Oral History** about recollecting the sequence of their appearance.

** Oral history, with its privileging of narratives recounted from memory which often contradict officially recorded ‘facts’ and timelines, and their own facts and timelines with every re-telling, used to frustrate me when I first encountered it as an undergraduate student of literature taking a compulsory concurrent course in history.  Later, as an MPhil student, it began to really teach me about how we think about ‘what was/is’ and how much of our history gets written by privileging a few versions of the ‘truth’ as opposed the many that exist. I now find its premise to be a very valuable tool in knowing how to listen to other people before making sense of a problem, a situation or a picture.


4 Responses to “Accents”

  1. Peter Wells aka Countingducks February 15, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    It sounds like a charming conversation. Inter-generational conversations, where both share the same enthusiasm are often wonderful, as the younger becomes more measured, and older voice more enthusiastic. Another enjoyable post. Hope all is well with you

    • astudentinkolkata February 17, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

      More than charming, it was entertaining 🙂 The accent was utterly charming though 🙂

      (Thank you, things are good!)

  2. klarapopkin February 23, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Ahhh how wonderful it is to have a name for that crazy phenomenon! Oral histories! Of course. That helps me so much. Thank you!

    Loved your description of every Bihari/Bhojpuri accented word sounding like a verbal hug. Such a contrast to Urdu, where every word sounds like a verbal curtsy. How to decide which I love more? 🙂

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