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.
ANY FOUR-LETTER WORD MEMORY YOU WOULD CARE TO EXPAND UPON?