Of Ol’ Calcutta and the Alphabet

As most of you might have figured out by now, and those who haven’t can go here, Calcutta is my city. Home. And a thoroughly wonderful place it is too. Though not the first city the Brits conquered, it was the first whose hearts they did. As a result, the average Bengali then, and the average super-rich Bengali know, took to all things British as fish takes to water, or as a Bengali himself takes to fish. And like we do always, we did things with English that only we can.

The alphabet, for those who know the blessed city…

A is for Awpheesh (as in Office).

This is where the average Calcuttan goes and spends a day hard at work. If he works for the ‘West Bengal Gawrment’ he arrives at 10, wipes forehead till 11, has a tea break at 12, throws around a few files at 12.30, breaks for lunch at 1, smokes an unfiltered cigarette at 2, breaks for tea at 3, sleeps sitting down at 4 and goes home at 4:30. It is a hard life.


B is for Bhision.
For some reason most Bengalis don’t have good bhision. In fact most people in Calcutta are wearing spectacles all the time.


C is for Chappell (Greg).
Currently, this is the Bengali word for the Devil. At night mothers put their kids to sleep saying, “Na ghumaley Chappell eshey dhorey niye jabe”. (If you don’t sleep, Chappel will come and take you away!)


D is for Debashish (or any other name starting with Deb).
By ancient law every fourth Bengali child has to be named Debashish. So you have a Debashish everywhere. and trying to get creative, they came up with Deb, Debu, Deba. Variations like Debanik, Deboprotim, Debojyoti, etc. are also thrown in at times.


E is for Eeesh.
This is a very common Bengali exclamation, made famous by Aishwarya Rai in ‘Devdas’. It is estimated that on an average a Bengali, especially women, use “eeesh” 10,089 times every year. “Ei Morechhey” is a close second to “Eeesh”.


F is for Feeesh.
These are creatures that swim in rivers and seas and are the favourite food of Bengalis. Despite the fact that a fish market has such strong smells, with one sniff a Bengali knows if a fish is all right. If not, he will say “Eeesh what feeesh is theesh!”


G is for Good Name.
Every Bengali boy will have a good name like Debashish or Deboprotim and a pet name like Motka, Bhombol, Thobla, while every Bengali girl will have a pet name like Tia, Tuktuki, Mishti, Khuku.


H is for Harmonium.
The Bengali equivalent of a rock guitar. Take four Bengalis and a Harmonium and you have the successors to The Bheatles!


I is for lleesh.
This is a feeesh with 10,000 bones which would kill any ordinary person, but which the Bengali eats with releeesh!


J is for Jhola.
No self respecting Bengali is complete without his jhola. It is a shapeless cloth bag where he keeps all his belongings – and he fits an amazing number of things in it. Even as you read this there are 2 million jholas bobbling around Calcutta- and they all look exactly the same! Note that ‘Jhol’ as in Maachher Jhol is a close second.


K is for Kee Kaando!
It used to be the favourite Bengali exclamation till “eeesh” took over because of Aishwarya Rai. Now Kee Kando’s agent is trying to hire Bipasha Basu.


L is for Lungi – the dress for all occasions.
People in Calcutta manage to play football and cricket wearing it, not to mention the daily trip to the morning to the local ‘bajaar’. Now there is talk of a lungi expedition to Mt. Everest.


M is for Minibus.
These are dangerous half buses whose antics would effortlessly frighten the living daylights out of James Bond stuntmen and Formula-1 race car drivers alike. M is also for Maunkey Cap and Muphler!!


N is for Nangto.
This is the Bengali word for naked. It is the most interesting naked word in any language!


O is for Oil.
The Bengalis believe that a touch of mustard oil will cure anything from cold (oil in the nose), to earache (oil in the ear), to cough (oil on the throat) to piles (oil you know where!)


P for Phootball.
This has always been a phavourite phassion of the Calcuttan. Every Bengali is born an expert in this game. The two biggest clubs of Calcutta are Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and when they play the city comes to a stop.


Q is for Queen.
This really has nothing to do with the Bengalis or Calcutta, but it’s the only Q word one can think of. There’s also Quilt but they never use them in Calcutta.


R is for Robi Thakur.
Many, many years ago Rabindranath Tagore got the Nobel Prize. This has given the right to all Bengalis, no matter where they are, to frame their acceptance speeches, as if they were direct descendants of the great poet, and walk with their head held high. This also gives Bengalis the birthright to look down at Delhi, Mumbai and all ‘non-Bengawlees’! Note that ‘Rawshogolla’ comes a close second!


S is for Shourav.
Now that they finally produced a genuine cricketer and a captain, Bengalis think that he should be allowed to play until he is 70 years old. Of course they will see to it that he stays in good form by doing a little bit of ‘joggo’ and ‘maanot’.


T is for Trams.
Hundred years later, there are still trams in Calcutta. Of course if you are in a hurry, it’s faster to walk.


U is for Aambrela.
When a Bengali baby is born he is handed one.


V is for Bhaayolence.
Bengalis are the most non-violent violent people around. When an accident happens they will fold up their sleeves, shout and scream and curse and abuse, “Chherey de bolchhi” but the last time someone actually hit someone was 1947.


W is for Water.
For three months of the year the city is underwater, and every year for the last 200 years the authorities have been taken by surprise by this!


X is for X’mas.
It’s very big in Calcutta, with Park Street fully lit up and all Bengalis agreeing that they must eat cake that day.


Y is for Yesshtaarday.
Which is always better than today for the Bengali (See R for Robi Thakur).


Z is for Jebra, Joo, Jipper and Jylophone.


Most people who I ask to read my blog tell me that it is either too serious, or with words that require a dictionary. While there is little I can do about the former, and the latter is more a reflection on the reader than me, I can do something – and that something is bring humour. Which, I think, is what you’ll find this post filled with. This is a remain of the, thankfully, forgotten species of email forwards.

It is one of the few genuinely funny ones, and must’ve been produced by a mind more attuned to humour than mine – so, I claim no right on its authorship, and similarly, by nature of its being a forward, negate all claims of copyright violation. Cheers!


7 thoughts on “Of Ol’ Calcutta and the Alphabet

  1. Awesome writing, we are very much alike. Deep thoughts, unusual word usage. Never change for anyone, follow your heart my friend.




    1. Thanks a ton for the appreciation!

      I invite you to have a look at the posts here and here. I’m certain, having read your stuff, that you’d enjoy these too.

      Care and love.


  2. well you have nailed it!!!!
    i love it!!
    do one about south indians


  3. well written Abhi. Thanks alot for describing my hometown so beautifully. There were many things about calcutta which were not in my cognizance. So thanks for increasing my Knowledge about calcutta.

    And yes, this has been very humourously written but at the same time you have made it a bit sarcastic.


  4. Hats off!!!~ You’re so good at this.. You do have another side that’s pretty much unknown to most of us..
    It’s wonderful! 🙂


  5. Yeah, the other side is the one that lifts stuff off from the Internet. This isn’t mine, and so I won’t take the credit.


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