Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's in a name?

My new job doesn’t allow me to write much. Ironically, it provides me with a lot of material to write on. I travel frequently and considering my affinity to bizarre incidents I often find my tours replete with myriad stories of absolute craziness. Here’s short list of the top stories so far:

1. The menu card of my hotel in Ranchi lists coffee under the section – “Stimulating drinks”. This became the hottest joke in my office for some time. So much so that it was difficult to walk across with a cup of coffee in your hand without inviting “I –know-what-you-are-up-to” smiles from colleagues

2. A lodge on the way to Hazaribagh is named “Café Arson”. I would add a tag line to it – “Walk in only if you have a burning desire”

3. I also came across a small tea stall called – “HIP –SIP”. The name brings indescribably disgusting images to my mind

But what happened today, takes the cake. I am travelling, hungry, dog-tired but I have to write this. So here goes:

After an early breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and a cup of my favourite stimulating drink, I was waiting for my driver to take the car out of the parking when this man on a bike stopped by and asked – “ Yeh Chutia kidhar hai?” ( Where is this Chutia?)

For the uninitiated let me explain here that the word “Chutiya” is a slang in Hindi which means something synonymous to “stupid”, “foolish”, “idiot” and at times even “disgusting”. Honestly speaking, the word is quite unique and does not have a counterpart in English. It is one of the most widely used Hindi slangs across and I haven’t met a soul yet who hasn’t heard of it. However, no one has ever been able to define it accurately. At least not so far.

So when this guy threw this question at me, I was reasonably sure that I had heard him wrong. With my “sahib” type sophistication, I expressed my inability to decipher his question by raising my brows and moving my ear closer to him. He repeated – “Arey yeh chutia kidhar hai?” I was now sure that I had heard him right and considering this an assault on my decency, I quickly changed my “sorry-I-didn’t-get-you” expression to the best “WTF” expression I could twist my face into. However, Mr.Bike wasn’t moving on without an answer and stood there with a bovine expression on his face, looking at me intently.

My two years of MBA has trained me never to be without answers. A true marketer always has some bullshit to offer so I gave the most generic and yet fitting answer I could come up with. With a philosopher’s look and an expression akin to a man who was beyond the realms of the material world, I replied – “Kahin bhi ho sakta hai” (Could be anywhere). In one swift movement, his expressions changed and suddenly he was the personification of a question mark. I was preparing myself for the next round of assault when my driver appeared to mediate. He spoke to the guy, gave him some directions and got him going. The only logical though unbelievable conclusion I could draw was that there was a really famous fool in the city and everyone knew where to find him. My driver – Munda – was quick to understand my confusion and explained, “Sir yeh Ranchi ke area ka naam hai”. I couldn’t believe it. A place called Chutia??? I changed my plans for the next two hours and asked Munda to take me to there. Seeing is believing.

After a 30 minute drive we reached. A government building proudly displayed its address as “New market, Chutia”. As we moved through the area, I realized that the place had quite a metropolitan feel to it. The area was divided into “Upper Chutia”, “Lower Chutia” and even “New Chutia”.

An unmanned railway crossing read, “Caution: Chutia crossing ahead”. I thought it would be wonderful to have such a sign on display when absolute nuts crossed roads in Delhi. I asked Munda to turn the car around and take us back to office. As we moved out of the area, we passed by the police station with a big red and blue board that read – “Chutia police thana”. I chuckled at the thought of what one might expect to find inside the building; a Chutia police inspector perhaps.

Later in the day, when Munda dropped me at the railway station, I asked him to find out why the place was named so. He looked embarrassed but promised to find it out for me when I visited next. Till then, I am going to tell myself that I am really fortunate that my address doesn’t pass a judgment on my personality. Thank you Municipal Corporation, Noida.

Disclaimer: I prefer to abstain from slangs and expletives. However, the subject matter of the post leaves me with little option. So if this offends you, the blame is on whoever named the place.