Dissecting the Bengali Nyaka


Dissecting the Bengali Nyaka

Illustration: Sushant Ahire


n my first job fresh out of college, three years ago, I sat sandwiched between two Bengali women co-workers and at an arm’s length from the third. Like countless other Bengalis, they exercised their fundamental right of launching into rapid and loud Bangla to converse with each other for most of the day, much to the disapproval of the rest of the (non-Bengali speaking) newsroom. From gossiping about long-lost college friends, giggling at the sight of Ranveer Singh’s shirtless body to opining about the significance of an aloo in biryani, and asking each other for suggestions while shopping online, this band of Bongs did it all, huddled up together in a little corner that inevitably ended up including me. All the while, never forgetting to generously accompany their communication with urgent chants of “E baba!”, “Issh”, and “O Maa!”

As a probashi Bangali, living on my own in an alien city, becoming a reluctant eavesdropper to their daily bickering ended up serving as an unexpected cure to my occasional homesickness. As it turns out, there is something oddly comforting about basking in the company of your mother tongue in a setting where it doesn’t assume first preference. Their splattering of Bengali slangs – “aantel” (pseudo-intellectuals), “gobet” (dumb fool), “kyalane” (idiotic), and “pod paaka” (annoying prick) in everyday conversations effortlessly reminded me of everything that was unique about being Bangali.