সিদ্ধ ভাষা, সেদ্ধ ভাষা

I grew up, like most human beings, with many prejudices that are hard to shake off; the most unshakeable one is about what constitutes correct Bengali diction. The Bengali spoken by Kukkuripāda was unintelligible to Krittibas Ojha who, in turn, was archaic to Krishnadas Kaviraj; all decidedly not the same as it is spoken today. Dialects of adjoining districts of Bengal (and Bangladesh, Tripura and the Bong regions of Assam) can be noticeably different. The Medinipur dialect is not the same as that of Hooghly. Within Hooghly, the Arambag usages sound queer to Chinsurah ears. We are given to believe that the lingua franca today is based on the upper class Nadiya-Shantipur (নদে-শান্তিপুর) dialect, with a liberal overlay of Tagoreana of Jessore and Jorasanko fame. And there can’t be much doubt that RN Tagore could have claimed major credit for that.

It is difficult to ascertain, but there are reasons to believe, that the oral lingua franca did not accept all of his contributions. Take for example the word ম্লান; RNT used to pronounce the final vowel halfway between au and ō. Please hum the song এখন আকাশ ম্লান হল quietly and judge for yourself. But that was just a song, a form of composition in which the lyricist and the music-setter have the freedom to mangle the pronunciation and blame it on rhythmic and musical needs (even many so-called modern songs continue to do that)! RNT used to utter it the same way, pronouncing the final vowel midway between অ and ও, as he did for the masculine proper noun অমিত — the protagonist of his novel শেষের কবিতা. Today we prefer to omit the final vowel in both the words and many others.

As a teenager, I was once rebuked by my overpowering জ্যেঠা for saying সাথে when I meant সঙ্গে in the sense with or, by doubling the word, instantly. Every time I slipped in the verb আসলো in casual conversation, he would sternly remind me that the correct form was এলো.

—“You’re speaking Bengali now; don’t be a বাঙাল ভূত!”

My father never tutored me in those lines, but, with hindsight, I cannot recall ever hearing the বাঙাল versions from his lips. Such lessons, learnt early, die hard.

We hear a lot of people, mostly of the younger generation, anglicise the aspirated plosives (মহাপ্রাণ বর্ণ) ph (ফ) and bha (ভ). As a result, flower is invariably befooled. The cricketing দাদা of Bengal ends his own name with a dento-labial v. There are, after all, no fools like anglicised phools! In a perverse reversal of the logic, the English article the, pronounced by touching the upper front teeth with the tip of the tongue, becomes soft dental da (দা), and elsewhere oxygen becomes oxyzen and ozone ojon. I don’t mind that too much for such perversions do not mangle Bengali.

Then I have an indelible prejudice against needlessly stretched words. There are the words দায়, meaning onus or duty, and দায়বদ্ধ, meaning dutybound. Often we get to hear a strange word, দায়বদ্ধতা where দায়, without the extra syllables, should do. Our erstwhile chief minister too was over-fond of this polysyllabic non-word. Then again, we have the odious habit of sprinkling nuggets of English wisdom in Bengali conversation. For long after the partition, men originally from the East of river ধলেশ্বরী used to refer to their spouses as wife (to rhyme with tawaif, courtesan in Urdu); today most middle class Bong women refer to theirs as husband. The Bengali original for a married couple, মাগ-ভাতার, thanks to Victorian and ব্রাহ্ম prudery, had changed twice: first to স্বামী-স্ত্রী and thence, more recently, to husband-wife.

—“Where are you going?”

— “আপটু গড়িয়াহাট পর্যন্ত,” would be the pat reply in about fifty per cent of the cases. Oops, sorry! That should have been

— “শতকরা পঞ্চাশ পার্সেন্ট”.

That, of course doesn’t mean that I claim to be totally free from linguistic gaffes. But, I’d like to believe that I have fewer than most, thanks to my stern জ্যেঠা.


21 thoughts on “সিদ্ধ ভাষা, সেদ্ধ ভাষা

    1. By email
      Neither. Pat kara is redolent of Brahminism when pattabastra, holy and expensive to boot, was stowed away neatly folded for the next occasion. The cotton-clad (and unclad) commoner bought his/her kapad
      from tantibadi and kept on washing and wearing till it fell apart.
      Bhanj kara is a relatively recent corruption of bhanga: derived from folding dried talpata (for writing) to break it to convenient size called pattadi (পাত্তাড়ি, পাত for leaf, তাড়ি for tāla palm; toddy is derived from the same). Thence kapad bhanj. Both are not-so-chaste Bangla; the oldest dictionary at my disposal (1876) didn’t throw any light but
      Haricharan Bandyo says both terms originated in the culturally superior Brahminic district of Nadiya.

  1. By email
    Yes. But my Jyetha or your mata-thakurani weren’t বাঙাল. East of ধলেশ্বরী, erstwhile সমতট, was বাঙাল land. People of Khulna-Jessore were squarely ঘটি till the day of partition and shared the sobriquet দখনে with the 24-Parganas. My mother’s people and your father’s were বাঙাল. Jyetha’s dig was aimed at Barishal.

      1. By email
        Inclusion of Khulna-Jessore in nascent Pakistan was a last minute decision. Hence the region’s identity as East Pakistan districts. But it was never a part of Purva Bangla created in 1905. The ‘payopranali’ is undoubtedly the river Bhairav on which Payogram stands. I’ve heard that people used it for their morning (night for the womenfolk) ablutions when not in spate. The Bhairav hilsa were healthy because of that but never coveted. That’s what I was lovingly served when I was there last in 2004.

      2. 10 Oct
        The hilsa, you dumbo.
        Looked at the Bangladeshi bird. And then read the Hindu Hypocrites at your blog site. My mother would be so proud of you. To add to it all, in the years before we left Delhi, our sleep and our ears were regularly assailed at night by insufferable invocations to Bhagavati, whoever she is. Presumably she needed to be kept awake – Bhagavati jaagaran. I’ve no idea if any of her devotees ever managed to wake her up. But last time I was in Bandel, I read this marvelous story by Banaphul about Bidhata who says yes to all and sundry for any wish or prayer they send up to him. At the end of the long celestial day he turns to Brahma (I think) at his side and asks for some “sharsher tel”, which he promptly sends up his nose and falls into deep sleep, a sleep from which according to Banaphul he is still to wake up.

  2. You will be in deep agony if you hear the bengali spoken in Delhi by the Delhi Bengalis, which is neither Hindi nor Bengali but a peculiar mixture, which, over time, has the potential of becoming a new language altogether. My husband, for example, will never say ‘Mohaloya’ it is always Mahalaya ‘Maha’ rhyming with “Maha’ of Hindu word ‘Mahan”. It drives me crazy! But mind you, he can read Bengali more fluently than me. In Delhi ‘Chhana’ is ‘poneer’, a goat is ‘bokri’ and once my mother in law was trying tell the story of a ‘gilhori’ or squirrel to my kids! I think you get the rest of the picture. But let me tell you its a losing battle, languages change, that’s how we are sadled with so many, we just have to let go…..

    1. Having no home PC and unduly deprived of the Blackberry services, I was incommunicado for a while. Now that offices have reopened and I’m at my client’s PC, I can respond properly. I’m familiar with the North Indian ‘half-a‘ sound (as in mahalaya). Our chhana is curdled out of cow milk; paneer is the buffalo variant. A goat is indeed a bakri (bokri in Dhakai Bangla), or chhagal, or pantha. Gilhori is a Hindi calque of bangla kathbidali — rare but not unknown — perfectly acceptable since the Bangla lexicon carries very many calques from different tongues. These are minor aberrations and should be tolerated by any self-respecting dynamic language. I have no quarrels and am not shocked with the imposition of North Indian accent on Bangla. My mejo-masi was married to a Bhagalpur/Purnia Bengali family well before my birth. I distinctly remember her screaming to one of her sons who was playing truant from his daily bath, “E Babnua, Babnua re! Tu asbi na ami ragbo?” In my early teens I recall her urging Bhagua, the factotum, “E Bhagua, batti buta, batti buta, ghare chamgudri ghusechhe.” All perfectly acceptable to me for she wasn’t speaking in the official Lingua Franca. Nor were your husband and mom-in-law.
      P.S. My mejo-masi spoke excellent Bhojpuri but with a Barishal accent.

      1. Yeah, its a two way process and neither language remains the same. But I still get irritated! Specially when direct translations of Hindi sentences occurs while speaking in Bengali- ‘shuye poro’ for ‘ghumiye poro’ and the rest. My kids ofcourse use the strange Bangla which I use and will always say “Mohaloya’, thank God! We are also picking up the latest Bangla slang from movies and serials. My favourite word nowadays is ‘chaap’ which pertains to the pressures of modern day living. This word did not exist commonly when I lived in Calcutta….

    2. শুয়ে পড়া
      During the not-so-distant padāvalī kīrtana age this was a perfectly acceptable verb form for falling asleep. The total metamorphosis from শোয়া to ঘুম happened, somehow, before the Rammohan Ray era — I don’t know how! Aberrations, Mrs Sen, are not rules. If it doesn’t affect the quality of communication you have to take it without demur. A language would never expand and improve if you don’t allow that much latitude. But when it comes to formal communication: a dissertation, or a poem, or a novel, or some such, you have to follow the diktat of grammar and accepted usage.

    1. সুমনের গান শুরু থেকেই শুনি এবং ভালো লাগে; এই প্রজন্মের নতুন গানের ধারা তার হাতে শুরু না ‘মহিনের ঘোড়া গুলি’-র গৌতমের হাতে, বলা মুশকিল। তবে শুদ্ধ বাংলার উদ্গাতা হিসেবে সুমনের নাম কখনো শুনিনি! তা ছাড়া, ছত্রিশ ভাষার মিশেলে যে বাংলা ভাষা, যে ভাষা এখনো নতুন শব্দ ধার করে চলেছে, তার কোন ধারাটা যে শুদ্ধ, জানিনা।

  3. বাঙালী বা বাঙলাভাষা ক্রমশ বিরলপ্রজাতি মধ্যে গন্য হবে কারণ বিশ্বায়ন। অতএব শুদ্ধ ভাষা বা ভাষার শুচিতা রক্ষার দায় বর্তমান প্রজন্মের নেই বলেই মনে করি।

    1. এত লোকের মুখের ভাষা, রোজকার ভাষা, নমনীয় ও সহনশীল ভাষা সহজে মরবে না। আমি ভাষার বিশুদ্ধির পক্ষে সওয়াল করিনি কিন্তু, আমার ব্যক্তিগত সংস্কারের কথাই বলতে চেয়েছি। ভাষা বহতা স্রোতের মত শেওলা ভাসিয়ে নিয়ে যায়; তাতে শেওলা ধরে না সহজে। তবে নদীর মতই তার গতিপথ পালটায় অহরহ। আমাদের ভাষা খুব প্রাচীন নয়, মরতে এখনো ঢের দেরি। তবে আমার বিশ্বাস অনাগত ভবিষ্যে সব ভাষাই মোটামুটি ইংরেজির গর্ভে লীন হয়ে যাবে।

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