Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Unmentionable

The F word cropped up in my writing unbidden. Now I was only getting under the skin of the character – urban, Indian male to who my best ‘Saala’ is an endearment. ‘What the hell’ sounded insipid and rendered it punch-less. Guess who should protest? Urban, male friend. The one whose sole mission in life seemed to be ‘to desensitize’ a timid, small-town girl thrown into the ugly (read obscene), harsh (read more obscene) working life of Delhi. Yeah, c’est moi. I was a prude who couldn't breathe for a few minutes after hearing the s- - word hoping no one would notice I existed. The s - - word was used JLT, as in, s-- road, s-- pakoras, suchlike.

We grew up calling our period, ‘ahem’. We blushed if we had to use ‘naked eye’ in science class. The convent provided staid answers to big girl dilemmas such as ‘What should I tell a boy who asks me why I am not swimming during those days?’ ‘Say no, he will understand.’ There was no boy, no male in sight for miles except the PT teacher who had many daughters in many classes in the school and could not for anything replace the boy in swimming trunks in the brochure who spoke in a bubble. But equipped we were with the answer. The Sister recommended we keep a safety pin handy while travelling in a bus and if a male were to come ‘too close’, poke him quietly. That too never came to pass.

In our timid times Karishma Kapoor’s s--- song was ‘repaired’ and we saw her mouthing ‘baby, baby’ while the ‘s---, s---' synchronized perfectly in our heads. When Mr Orange Pants came dancing and singing about his sprayed-on pants and other belongings being s---, the radio and TV were promptly turned off or everyone started talking all at once about something ELSE. There was also a song starting, ‘tutak, tutak…’ for humming which a friend’s little brother was slapped hard by the father.

The girls in office were smoking, drinking, dancing and more. And I was struggling to keep a straight face when WORDS were pronounced. Slowly I graduated. I could manage to lift my hand to my hair and tuck the already tucked strand of hair behind the ear when such was spoken. Then the loo upstairs began to leak and became unusable. So the girls went to the five-star hotel across the road in groups two-three times a day and the boys just used the bushes. I hardly stepped out of the office all day and left for home only when I was sure that every male colleague, and peon and chowkidaar included, was present inside the office.

Now more than a decade later, I used the F word. Naturally it flowed. So what’s his problem with the F word, I ask him. It’s not me who’s saying it, it’s my character, I explain. I hate obscenity, he says. Obscene it is. Chastised, I replace it with a demure ‘Hell’.


  1. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Timid? REALLY? I seem to remember otherwise! :)

    - Villain of the Piece

  2. Anonymous9:50 AM

    To dispel any doubts that you may have about the timid / not timid issue, I would recommend that you recall your run-in with the DTC bus driver (and the the subsequent media coverage). Definitely NOT TIMID.

    - Villain of the Piece

  3. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Really identified with the article. The 'Unmentionables' reign, there's no doubt about it, be it fiction, TV serials, reality shows or even lyrics, its omnipresent.

    Out of all, the worst is hearing it pop up again and again in song lyrics.

    What probably started as a means of authentic depiction in books, films and shows, has now evolved into a kind of attitude, so guess its here to stay.

    May reason and good sense soon prevail! Till then we continue to adopt the techniques so accurately described here.

  4. These days the F word is too common with students in school.
    The little ones in class 2&3 are too fluent with all those words which are considered bad.Thanks to the school bus ride where they learn them from their seniors & teach their friends.

    Intially i scolded my daughters not sing songs like beedi jalailye.... &namak ishqka....
    A few months ago my family was surprised to see me crooning namak .... while watching a reality show on Zee tv. I smiled sheepishly & told them the music is good.

  5. in my forthcoming novel, i've used the word. first time in my writing. just once. towards the end. it makes its point!