By Mehar Haleem:
There are some words in Hindi that have a unique flavour and lie threateningly irreplaceable. Some words, for which you might find synonyms but the nuances will be missed and the effect will be lacking from the speech. Words that don’t just sit on our tongues to get a a point across but carry a certain lamp lit glow that brighten the dullest of sentences spoken with the least amount of fervour .
There’s just no replacement for the word or the feeling of melancholic joy that it brings with itself. It’s literal meaning is almost always taken as humidity or moisture but it’s quite versatile. Used liberally to describe petrichor and even woodsmoke, it brings a certain earthiness to the table, which is only otherwise available on July afternoons in the soft drizzles along the footpaths of the city. For me, it somehow always triggers the memory of the divine aroma of the ever eternal Indian desert – ‘phirni‘ with its trademark tomb of two clay earthen bowls joint together to form a brick-coloured Pokemon ball of sorts. All this just from the mention of a word.
Literally it will translate to neighbourhood. But somehow the word neighbourhood brings to the mind these clean cookie cutter houses with their mowed gardens and polished to perfection cars. ‘Mahaulla‘ focuses more on the people in the neighbourhood than the actual place. The early morning hustling of children going to school, the late afternoon soccer or cricket games that nearly every society park can testify for, the evening sessions of auntyji gossip punctuated with the keen and often opinionated interventions of the ‘kaamvaalis’, the joy that a dog brings to the kids of the entire street, the uncles and their ever going talk on Indian politics and the stock market, the speed of a rumour that gives competition to that of a lighting and the usual warmth felt from that of a close knit family than that of a couple of families who happen to be living together. The effect of the word, I believe, can be traced to a basic Indian trait of concern (often bordering on well meaning nosiness) that survives regardless of preference for privacy.
You can just smell disaster all over the word. It’s like the full stop of words. Once uttered, you know the damage is irreversible and it’s better to just evade the person and situation altogether than come in between the path of the hurricane that is about to follow. Quite frequently used during school open houses and when those notoriously useless vases get broken, you can safely assume that there is usually going to be one fuming parent or one scared to death child. In both cases, run.
Not officially belonging to any language but coined by restless teenagers to convey basic time wasting and not doing anything serious. From boredom to goofing around or telling someone you’re free to hang out, or as an insult to a procrastinator, its branches grow wide.
Yes it does mean heart but it’s more of a biologically impossible concoction of the brain, heart and soul. It grows from being an adjective to being an emotion reserved only for the thing that is dearest and more commonly, a person who is dearest. Use it well.