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March 11th, 2005

Postscript to Indian Idol and Mumbai’s Urban Talk ‘A, B, C, D’ …


It was just last Friday, last Friday, when Abhijeet Sawant became the first Indian Idol. And the questions that have been lingering on my mind since the week that has passed are about democracy.


On Sunday, 6 th March, I was traveling in the local train from Byculla to Kurla, in the ladies compartment. At Dadar station, a woman with two children entered the compartment and sat on the seat opposite to mine. Sitting next to me, at the window seat, was a woman and sitting opposite her, on the window seat was another woman. The two children (boys), aged around seven years, began singing Hindi film songs in chorus as soon as they became comfortable in their seats. I was very amused at this sight. The two boys were singing very melodiously and somehow, the scene was very surreal. It was performance, a pretty and perfect performance. I could not help smiling broadly and was enjoying myself. The lady sitting next to me, and the one sitting opposite her began smiling as well. The lady sitting next to me mistook my smile to mean ‘look at these kids, how they can rattle Hindi film songs instead of knowing their school lessons’. The children, in the meanwhile, felt shy and stopped singing. The lady next to me asked them their ages. Then she turned towards me and said, “This is all the impact of television. Look at these children. It is all the doing of Indian Idol!!!”


So I think Indian Idol has settled into urban talk lingo of Mumbai and will now be evoked either as ‘the other’ or as a metaphor for the effects of television on the public or both.


Just yesterday, I was in the Municipal Corporation building and a colourful poster of Abhijeet Sawant was on the walls near the lifts. The poster read, “Our son has won. And this is all due to the lakhs of votes which the BMC workers polled for our boy. He has won because of you.”


Today, as I am writing this posting, the city is at ransom again. The BEST public bus service is on strike for an indefinite period. I am told that there is tremendous traffic on the streets and trains are jam-packed. As I listen to this news, I tell my mother, “There is just one person who can rescue us from this strike. It is Abhijeet Sawant!” Hail democrazy!


The questions on my mind: what is democracy? Is the notion of democracy changing with the emerging urbanism? Is democracy unworkable beyond a certain scale? Is there a link between public spaces and democracy?



Now, for a little peek into Mumbai’s urban talk. Following six months of fieldwork, I have compiled a basic A, B, C, D (with some missing alphabets) of Mumbai’s lingo, gathered from different encounters and groups. Please feel free to modify and transform the content. Let’s go:


A – apnawala , literally meaning ‘our man’, allegorically meaning ‘aligned with us’. Like Zubair, the Ticket Examiner I have been talking to, is hailed as apnawala by Muslim commuters or Abhijeet Sawant is hailed as ‘our boy’ by the BMC union


B – both bhidoo (as in buddy) and bhenchod (abusive, literally meaning sister fucker) and bhidoo can also be lovingly and affectionately addressed as bhenchod


B – also stands for baap meaning influential person, a person in power. Usually, the Mumbai police is referred to as baap . Also used as a common slang term as in kya baap? (what man?)


C­ – chutiya , allegorically meaning to make a fool of oneself or to be fooled – as in when Manoj Kumar used to tell me, “Shah Rukh keeps going to the area where the BMC van is parked and does dhanda there and gets caught, making chutiya of himself!”


D – well, you guessed it right. D stands for dhanda i.e. business, the lifeline of this city. Perhaps Mumbai actually derives its character and its ethos from the practices of dhanda at various levels


E – stands for ‘English’ not meaning British but a girl who is dressed ‘modernly’ aka television and Bollywood style and can speak fluent English language. Was first used by my Driving Master who would tell me to drive cautiously if an ‘ English ’ was walking in front of the car. “Make sure you don’t touch her with the car because she is English and will then abuse in English and I will not be able to respond to her!”, he would warn me.


F – stands for faltoo and is directly linked with L which stands for lukha and lafanga faltoo and lukha both denote, at various points in time and persons, unemployed, useless, worthless, and the unemployed is often hailed as lafanga though lafanga is used to ‘mark’ an individual who is a miscreant, usually an eve-teaser


G – stands for the abbreviation ‘GPL’ i.e. gaand pe lath (kick his arse) which means drive him/her off because she/he is faltoo and is wasting our precious (economic) time. As shop owners will tell their salesman, “GPL the customer” because she/he is faltoo, wasting time and is not genuinely interested in buying


G – also stands for gaadi meaning Municipal and Police Van which land up suddenly to raid on hawkers


H – hawker, the prominent ‘other’ in the city who is an encroacher on property and is a dirty sore on the city, the only obstacle which prevents Mumbai from becoming a Shanghai, a clean and green city


I – obviously, Indian Idol now!


M – maal directly linked with D for dhanda. Maal suggests goods, commodities and is the engine driving dhanda . But maal can also be used metaphorically as a term for a sexy/voluptuous girl (as in kya maal hai baap! ) or maal can also mean narcotic drugs. Thus, maal is a term both, for the legal and the illegal


M – also stands for madarchod (abusive, meaning mother-fucker). Very common abusive term, though used more often in anger


M – also stands for Madam , used by persons non-conversant in English to refer to a lady who can speak English fluently


P – stands for Party. Now, ‘party’ is a term used by people of all classes in the city. In common lingo, ‘party’ suggests a ‘business party’, a potential customer as in maaldaar party hai, or zordaar party hai . Basically used to denote ‘the other side in the dealing’. Party also stands for Page 3 Party, used in the Bandra lingo as in “Where’s the party tonight?”


R – stands for raasta, as in raasta napo meaning get lost. Raasta literally meaning road.


S & T – are interlinked alphabets in Mumbai lingo. For instance, S for tsunami and T for tsunami. So also, S for station (i.e. railway station) and T for theshan (Marathi pronunciation of railway station). T, in the railway station lingo stands for TTE (ticket examiner), and the TTE indulges in S for Sounding i.e. levying fines. Then again, S in the dhanda lingo stands for Seth meaning boss and the hawker also addresses the customer as Seth during sales on the road indicating that customer is the man in charge, in control. T also stands for Time, often pronounced as tame – Time, the only thing we are always running short of in this city!


V – stands for Vaat meaning fire in the arse, as in vaat lag gayi , we are doomed, run!


Y – for yaar , used both as slang as well as to suggest ‘buddy’ – as in jaane de na yaar (please let go buddy!)


Z – zindagi as in life jiska koi bharosa nahi, life which is there today, gone tomorrow!


  1. March 11th, 2005 at 11:16 | #1

    with ur permission and grace,Madamji.

    B:..Kya ball hai yaar…often spoken as a reaction after looking at a seemingly perfect juggs of a female…but hardly heard by any female as its an inside thing of guys / taporis language

    F:Fekuchand…fake tha hai saala…often used to describe someone who fakes a lot.

    L:Land, Lavdo,lavday,landfukkir,lord fuckland
    means exagerrated term for male penis often used to abuse but can also be used for having fun

    K: Kuttey Kamina
    kuttey :dog ….sala kutta log kabhi nahi sudrega

    I -Item…kya item hai baap..itembomb as well

    J-Jhol …Jhooljaal Kuch tho jhol hai re baap…somthings fishy

    Q- Qatar ,que..aapk watar mai hai…bhai saaab diktha nai hai kya “que”…mai aaiyeh also called as “line”

    K- Kida,kujli…tere gand mai kidey (or kujli)hai kya…i dunno how to translate that ,maybe u can apply that to me for  commenting on ur blog: – )

  2. March 12th, 2005 at 00:42 | #2

    interesting. Just a correction Ribhus – its kHujli not kujli !

    J could also stand for Jhakaas!