21/04/2015 8:07 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Serious Business Of Bhalobasha, The Bengali Way

An Indian couple sit on a bench near the Victoria Memorial complex on Friendship Day in Kolkata on August 1, 2010. Friendship Day celebrations take place on the first Sunday of August every year. The tradition of dedicating a day in honour of friends began in the US in 1935. AFP PHOTO/Deshakalyan CHOWDHURY (Photo credit should read DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)

There are certain words in Bangla that have no equivalent in any other language. Like nyakami, a trait peculiar to Bengali women especially if she's beauteous and aware of it. Nyakami is her way of conveying to you, she knows that you know she's beautiful, with maximum effect. A tilt of her head that gives your gaze the felicity of looking at her neck tad longer than necessary. A knowing smile, a lethal combination of innocence and coquettishness, engineered to feel like shrapnel on your heart afflicted by affection of the tingling kind. Emboldened by her playful antics, you make flirtatious advances, only to be rebuffed with - isshh, uff, kee oshobho (how shameless you are). Suitably reprimanded and filled with remorse at misreading her signals, just as you beat a hasty retreat, she will dart you a come hither look that'll leave you as confused as a deer caught in headlight.

She will make you revolve around her as she blazes like the sun. Only when she's convinced enough of your slavish love for her, will she let you into the inner sanctum of her heart.

Phostinoshti is yet another term that is peculiar to Bangla and Bengalis. It is a Bengali's way of having an aphair (affair), without doing much about it. Just like the revolution that he plots from his armchair, hoping to change the world without lifting his finger.

"So, when the Bengali male nurtured on Horlicks, Kalmegh, fish-head and Ishabgol decides to woo the nayika of his dreams, he engages in "phostinoshti'."

If there's anything that a Bangali is more passionate about other than phish, phootball and phriends, it the business of prem-kora (sweet lovin'). The grooming starts at a very young age. While the young male prefers spending his youth doing adda on a rock, his female counterpart is busy showering love on mankind. For her prem-kora is a day job, along with chaan kora, ranna kora and kaaj kora (bathing, cooking and working), exactly in that order.

So, when the Bengali male nurtured on Horlicks, Kalmegh, fish-head and Ishabgol decides to woo the nayika of his dreams, he engages in "phostinoshti'. This consists mostly of thinking he is having an affair without actually having one. Poetry and Rabindra Sangeet feature at the top of activities, some holding of hands, exchange of coy glances, stolen hugs and loud sighs to express helplessness. All through this, neighbours will be told "o amaaar bonner moto" (she is like my sister). Not suggesting incest, but to just convey there is no actual phostinoshti.

The Bhadrolok dares to think beyond 'you are so hot' to serenade his object of affection, quotes from Shakespeare and writes poetry in praise of her coral lips and cheeks as rosy as the roses in Mrs Biswas's garden. All his expressions of love are accompanied by Tagore in his various moods. But only when he gets time from fighting cold, flu and acidity.

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Together they shed copious tears of happiness as they marvel at the beauty of the sun setting over the Hooghly and dwell on the cosmic, sing Akash bhora surjo tara in the taxi as they head to Mainland China for Chinese. Both are as much in love with biryani as they are with the works of Trotsky and Chekhov and a fun weekend for them is having luchi with mangsho.

He's a fitting match for the Bengali woman nurtured on green chillies and mustard fish and treats her as his equal. If she sulks, he sulks longer and they try to cure each other with silent treatment.

"Emboldened by her playful antics, you make flirtatious advances, only to be rebuffed with - isshh, uff, kee oshobho (how shameless you are)."

Only she can appreciate the effeminate Bangali chhele, who's free to do what his Mom wants and looks down on machismo with disdain and takes procrastination to new heights. Only he can appreciate her fiery temper, blow hot-blow cold temperament and not get baffled by her nyakami.

Their idea of romantic date is meeting for a protest march screaming cholbe naa, cholbe naa (this won't do) in perfect harmony followed by soothing their parched throats with chaa and tele bhaja. Their idea of foreplay is arguing which Satyajit Ray movie is his best or whether Nazrul's compositions are superior to Tagore's. The only thing they agree on is 'what Bengal thinks today, the rest of India will think tomorrow.'

A Bong couple will take the business of bhlobasha seriously and yet do nothing about it.

Now here lies the catch. Many a times the Bong girl whose last name is bombshell gets tired of waiting for sex and runs off with a Punjabi. The Bong guy then grows a beard and writes more poetry. And the girl spends the rest of her life dealing with aliens trying to familiarise themselves with Bangla culture through - Aami tomake bhalobashe, Rosgulla khaabe, Bengali is such a sweet language, teach me, no?

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