Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, April 28, 2011

By Jawad

A fine afternoon it is. A gentle breeze is blowing. The birds [crows] are singing [being a nuisance]. The glaring rays of the sun are being filtered by the clouds floating overhead. It's an atmosphere that spells, no... shouts, Peace. And at that moment you get on a rickshaw, you know, to enjoy the peaceful environment without having to work your legs. The weather is so fantastic that even your rickshaw puller, a man hardened by the angst and cruelties of life, is in a merry mood. He finds something funny about the traffic clog and decides to share it with you.

“Lanne hetera golmal lagaise jee, heya to ministo aleo thik korbar partonna jee.”

And your reactions are:
Seconds 1 to 4: “Cool. There are Chinese people pulling rickshaws in Bangladesh. Desh egiye jacche, bhabte bhaloi lage.”

Seconds 4.5 to 7: “How did he get a rickshaw-drivers' license?”

Seconds 10 to 12: “I can speak Chinese better than him.”

As your consciousness returns to you, and you give your reply in the form of a grimace and a grunt, it suddenly strikes you: the string of words you just heard were, in fact, Bangla.

Word and Dialect
There is this YouTube video about a guy who displays his amazing skill in speaking in 27 different accents of English. Especially his imitations of the Italian, Indian and Russian versions of English are good enough to crack anyone up. But they were not only the crude mockery of English spoken by people from various part of the world. The guy also mimicked various accents from his own country and those were funny as hell, even for a simple, peace-loving Bangladeshi who has no experience of hearing those accents in real-life.

Bangladesh may not be a big country but our lovely language Bangla has an outstanding variation in the way it is spoken across the meagre 147570 sq. kilometres of landmass, and in some cases, beyond the borders.

There is plenty to talk about in terms of dialects (pun intended). The original Dhakaiya, Noakhailla, Chatgaiya, Sylheti, Borishailla provide an infinite source of fun and incredulity to the non-native speakers of these tongues. A well-behaved and humble person from Barisal will feel like a fish out of water if he is in the midst of some intense conversation in Chatgaiya. All the delicate intonations at the end of each je, which they use a lot, and the apotheosis and assimilation of it all will definitely go over his head. A Dhakaiya will have to be more than extra-attentive if he wants to decipher whether he is going to be killed or be given sweets when he is in Barisal, where 'amme' means 'apni' or you and the verbs are pronounced with some extra 'a' and 'e' and all the 'r's are over-emphasised. A pure-blood Noakhailla would stare in amazement as well as lend his ears diligently to a Rajshahi native talking in his special form of Bangla: it is probably the finest Bangla dialect (and this is a Barishailla speaking). Any living, breathing Bangladeshi bar the ones residing in Sylhet would find it near impossible to understand the Bangla they speak.

You know bhelpuri, dalpuri and puri, the food items in general, right? Well, think again. Because if you are in Sylhet and you ask for a puri the best thing you will get is a slap: puri means girl/woman/chick in standard Sylheti. And the best, or worst, thing is you won't probably even realise when you are being cursed at in another region. And I haven't even started on the dialects of Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Rangpur, Kustia, Khulna, Dinajpur, Netrokona, Comilla, Feni, Jessore, Teknaf and basically about 40 other districts. The Teknaf one, as a bemused colleague puts it, means the exact opposite of what is said (Boro Chacha means Choto Mama, she said; can't see how it comes to this though).

Bemusedly Amusing
“There is not one stand-up comedian without an accent joke.”
-Tareq Adnan

No matter how well you can speak Bangla, and how much you love your country and mother tongue, it will be highly unfair to ask for total understanding of all the dialects of this precious language. There are just too many of them, each of them unique in one aspect or another. So should speaking in local dialects be banned?

Of course not. Dialects bring a great variety in our language. You can even term it as a dignified point of our language. Where can you find a language that is spoken in such a sing-song tune? What other thing can make you feel like a foreigner in your own country? I mean, come on, haven't you ever laughed after realising what was said and what you understood? Dialects are fun to speak and hear, even though they may cause some strain in both the cases.

What's more, your dialect, if you are well acquainted with it, actually brings out the real you. You do not find the same pleasure in being all stiff and proper in your spoken Bangla. Inadvertently some sort of accent comes in our Bangla. 'Khaisi', 'Gesi', 'Choila ashbo' sound more natural than 'kheyechi', 'giyechi', 'chole ashbo' or 'joltuku dao to, golata ektu bhejai'.

Don't be Ashamed
Have you noticed the feeling of solidarity when you suddenly hear someone speaking the native language of yours? It's like suddenly hearing some words, some broken sentences of the language of your heart on foreign soil. You feel insanely happy; immensely familiar with that guy. The same feeling is invoked when you hear the lovable Barishailla accent from the rickshaw-wala, tempting you to hand over a few extra bucks. That is not you, that is your soul speaking. Pun intended.

Never be ashamed of your so called khaat dialect. It makes you cooler and brings you closer to the people you actually need.

*Apologies if anything about the accents offends anyone*



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