Thursday, May 21, 2009


Like every other child, I was irresistibly drawn to ‘bad words’ whenever I came across them. Unfortunately, these occasions were not plentiful, as my father and jethun (uncle) never really let rip. At the most they would use cuss-words like ‘shaala (‘saala’ in Hindi, meaning ‘wife’s brother’, presumably indicating that the swearer has enjoyed illicit relations with the sister of the sworn-at). Or, ‘shuorer bachcha’ (son of a pig). These relatively harmless convoluted-relational cuss-words were used only in heated discussions, usually about politicians and their ilk.

The ladies of the house, interestingly, never used swear-words at all. I wonder what channels they used to give vent to pent-up anger.

When I was in Class VIII, I celebrated my entry into teenage by asking my rent-a-book stall-owner to give me a ‘grown-up’ book to read. Being the precocious sort, I had already sampled a few tepid Mills-and-Boon romances, which are basically an eye-wash as far as the real birds-and-bees stuff is concerned. I was ready, or so I felt, for stronger stuff.

My friendly book-seller (unknowingly, perhaps, because I have never seen him reading any of his books) handed me a thick tome by the juicy Jackie Collins. It was called LOVERS AND GAMBLERS’ and had a pair of luscious red lips pouting on the glossy cover. Very promising, indeed. My thirteen-year soul thrilled at the promise of exciting disclosures.

Carrying home my contraband treasure, I immediately covered it in an old inconspicuous sheet of newspaper. Then, at the first possible opportunity, in a quiet and undisturbed corner, I opened the book and dived into an unplumbed sea of naughty ‘adult’ adventures.

Only to be foxed by the first four (rather five)–letter word I met. Collins had succinctly introduced her gutsy heroine as a ‘lady with balls’. Flummoxed by this physiologically-impossible metaphor, I tried to figure out the meaning of this exciting new word. The staid dictionary did not help.

After a lot of deep thought and detailed re-reading, I decided that ‘balls’ meant the round knee-caps in the said lady’s legs (Collins had said something like, “The way she strode through the airport lounge, you knew straightaway that she was a lady with balls”.) I was rather disappointed with my inference, because everybody I knew, lady or not, had ‘patella’ (kneecap, or ‘balls’ as I felt). And there was nothing naughty or exciting or grown-up about it, really.

P.S: But Jackie Collins, when fully read and gradually correctly understood, proved to be a rather thrilling introduction to the bold and bawdy, glamorous and grown-up world of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. And a very good treasury of explosive-sounding four-letter words. My horizons and vocabulary were considerably expanded.



Kavi said...

Hilarious !

I cant remember when i first encountered the 'go fruitful & multiply' variant. i really cant. But i am sure it was late !

For i can clearly remember me running upto my dad and asking him in the presence of other guests as to what 'rape' was. For i had read it in a newspaper !! It left visitors to my house in the small town of madurai with swollen tongues. Swollen out of serious exercising !

But as write, language is changing. And someone told me yesterday, 'get a grip dude' !

I hope thats not a cuss phrase !

Zillionbig said...

hehehe, that was one wrietup, juicy alright. good one. i have become your follower, please accept.;))))))))

♥ Braja said...

Swear? Me? Never!


Priya said...

hehehehe....but i miss the degree of gravity that the word "Shala" bore when we were young in compared to the way it is taken today. as in, people, i guess, no more take offense if someone says "Shala"... (well that sounds a bit "sweet abuse kind of a thing) but, "sala", i think still fuels the already-agitated public. (as often noticed in auto walas and commuters brawl.):D :D

Aparna said...

Never knew any serious cuss words till I married. I pestered my husband till he finally gave in and said a few to enlighten me. I was suitably impressed. I gave my 13 year old hell for using the word 'screw' to describe how her geography test in 'I screwed up big time.' I never swear,not because I am a prude but because I do not know any cuss word that would suitably describe some people I know. I guess my education is still lacking.

Anonymous said...

Sucharita this is why I love your nostalgic posts :)

this made me think about quite a few times when I too *ahem*smuggled M&B's :D(I was in 8th too )
and then later some 'other' ones as well:D

hoo boy! I was literally sweating with all the fear..I thought I would be found out any moment :D:D

it seems silly now:))but those were the days:D days of innocence

Aleta said...

My parents didn't tolerate cuss words. It wasn't until I was 18 that I heard my Mom cuss and I was openly shocked. She responded with, "Aleta, sometimes it's appropriate, in a really bad situation."

I do recall writing to my cousin - this was before the age of email. We wrote snail mail and I loved waiting for the day the mailman would bring the envelope. I knew right away that it was my cousin's letter, because we used to decorate the envelopes so much it's a wonder the mailman ever found the addresses!

Anyway, one time I wrote to my cousin and asked her to stop writing cuss words. She remembers that to this day, because she didn't realize she was using cuss words so much.

Now, my cousin has 3 children. She didn't want cuss words around the house. She substituted the words with "fish." I laughed when she told me that if she and her husband got upset with each other, they would say, "Fish You" or "Fish Head" to one another. She said, "It's hard to stay angry at someone when you are giggling at the name calling."

Rajesh said...


You have exactly what every teen would have done. I assume your elders at home would not have known you have read this book then. You bring back the fond naughty memories.

seanag said...

I had a couple of good friends when I was starting off in grade school, and one of them was a true artist at telling dirty stories. She had three older siblings, which must have accounted for that. I don't know that I actually understood all the stories--there were in realityprobably only about three, not counting variations--and I'm not sure she did, but she was a master at the art of delivery, so we all sat huddled breathlessly around her in the schoolyard field to hear these jokes.

It's funny now to realize that I didn't find the jokes particularly good, even when I got them, but listened exactly as you might to wisdom from a sacred text--leaning in, and with some anxiety to understand it all. Aftera all, you never know where knowledge is going to come from, or when it might come in handy.

Mampi said...

really funny,,,,,,

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks, everybody, for sharing those naughty-nice memories.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I never thought I'd say this in the presence of a woman, much less one I have never met, but ... but ... kneecap!

There. I said it.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

The Scatterbrain said...


I never did use "bad words" all through school.... so imagine my surprise when in college I got to know that this particular boy in school whom I had overheard many times saying "axe oil" when frustrated was actually saying "a**hole"!!!!!