Characteristically dry, somewhat condescending humour is an essential ingredient of any verbal exchange in this part of the country. So ask a passerby, “ Yeh sadak kit jaugi.” ( Where will this road go?) and his likely answer would be, “ Sadak toh yahin rahugi, Jayega toh tu.” ( The road will stay here, you are the one to go). If you are nearly run over by a vehicle its not Haryana if the driver doesn’t roll down his window and shout, “Marega ke?” ( Want to die? ). Seemingly rude and harsh, the language still conveys a wide range of emotions in minimal words. For instance a “ Yo ke?” ( what’s this?) can express surprise, anger, exasperation, resignation or concern depending on the tone and tenor of the speaker.
I learnt the importance of tone and tenor as an eager third year medical student attending my first clinical class. Our teacher, a very sophisticated Delhiite with an army background was explaining the importance of speaking in the patient’s native tongue. Checking for sensory loss, she touched the patient’s back with a tiny cotton wisp and asked, “ Tau, bera paate ki nahin paate” (uncle, can you feel it or not). The old man kept silent but his agitation grew with each passing moment. As the doctor patiently continued the examination repeating her question in a highly accented, singsong voice, the impatient patient, looked at us students and blurted, “ Man ne nahin bera yeh madam kay keh rahi hai!” ( I don’t understand what this madam is saying). This, basically is the essence of our language. It’s not what you say but how you say it which matters. Take out the surly tone, the undue stress on soft consonants and its not Haryanvi any more. Sans the swag it is nothing.
Nevertheless, I have slowly discovered a treasure trove of folk wisdom and philosophy in the local parlance. My all time favourite is this rustic gem that an old patient said about friends, “ Zindagi ne badhiya banane khatir do unche, do sucche or do lucche dost chhahiye.” ( for a happy life you need two well placed, two enlightened and two unruly friends ). My unmarried, professionally driven friend who was pursuing super specialisation was at the receiving end of another astute observation. Hinting at the short shelf life of overqualified young men a chemist had said, “ Jo dava ghani mehangi hove, susri ki expiry date bhi nu aa jave, marha dhyan rakh lio .” ( Pay some heed, expensive medicines have short expiration periods ). Seems the message hit home for he got engaged within a month!
Haryanvi is a rough language, there are no two ways about it. To the untrained ear a normal conversation may sound like an argument. But that is not always the case. Once I asked my driver what was the need to admonish an already shaken boy who had accidentally stepped in front of our car while chasing a kite. And he said, “ Tadna jaroori hai ji, khud toh marega, mabaap rotekalapte raivenge.” ( Scolding is imperative, he will get killed and leave behind grieving parents). So while the words maybe brash and insensitive, the concern is endearingly real.
Happily, the roughness and toughness doesn’t end at the tongue but is reflected in the entire persona of the natives. So besides toiling to grow food for the country Haryana has given India courageous army personnel and medal winning sportspersons. That’s not to say that it’s inhabitants can’t be sophisticated and stylish. The poise and eloquence of the recently crowned Ms World is a case in point.
Gharaunda, my hometown means nest in Hindi, a poetic name for an idyllic place, you would think. Sadly, that is not how it is pronounced. The soft ‘d’ is overemphasised, converting it into a harsh ‘dh’ almost a ‘rh’ robbing the romanticism from the word and rendering it meaningless. But then, what’s in a name? It is still the perfect place to be, as is the state it is a part of. Although a little rough around the edges, Haryana remains my favourite, the land which adopted me, the land of harsh words and soft hearts, where I make a living and hopefully a life.
So ordinary? I agree. But what else can I say ? In my adopted mother tongue I could add “Man ne toh kehli, eeb tu bol “
( published in the Haryana Tribune as a part of my column ‘ So Ordinary ‘ on 20/1/18)