Literature Of The Other Kind

A treatise on the common language spoken by die-hard Lucknowites

Rangbaaz’ wore metal-framed sunglasses eight hours a day and seven days a week. The silver-coated metal bracelet chain, forever dangling around his right wrist, had the initials MLC ‘stylishly inscribed on the small rectangular plate attached in the centre. His ‘Dulari Bua’, hailing from Hardoi, had named him Murari Lal and his father, Chaubeyji, had to accept whatever his elder sister ordained. Rangbaaz was not too happy, naturally, with his rather archaic name, so he let the nomenclature given by his ‘langotiya yaars’ prosper, and whenever ‘sarkari lekha jhokha’ demanded a legitimate name, then, of course, M.L Chaubey would always come in handy. Rangbaaz had just one exotic dream- that of possessing an antique model convertible car.

It was a bright and sunny Monday morning and Rangbaaz had to grudgingly get a haircut at Nakku’s Hair Cutting Saloon in Narhi because he was too short of money to cross over the road to A.N. John Hairdressers. Thereafter a long drawn bath, taken directly under the ‘bamba’, he dressed up smartly with all the ‘teem-taam’ required by a ‘rangbaaz’, which included an ample dose of ‘dhansu lotion’ splashed all over the face, ‘kanpati’ and underarms. This was followed by a ‘kamar-todh’ introspection in front of an ill-accommodating mirror loosely hung over the wall. Consequently, he caught hold of the cuff of his shirt’s sleeve with his fingers and rubbed it against the ‘lakhota’ buckle of the belt going around the ‘pulthroo’ of his trousers. Dressed ‘taap-o-taap’, in his own estimation, he stepped down the ‘khambe jaisi’ staircase of Chaubeyji’s first floor flat located behind the ramparts of ‘Bandariya Bagh’ and unlocked the Atlas cycle, his time being prized possession. He was on way to the house of his friend, Shehzad Ali, who lived in Martin Purva, which was adjoining La Martiniere College.

Shehzad Ali had been extremely under- weight since birth. He was fair in complexion but his withered-early skin and frail structure had earned him the ‘bedhub’ sobriquet of ‘Dagha Hua Kartoos’. Moreover, he could not withstand cold weather, and, as such, his Nehru jacket was like a second skin, which grew on him around September and peeled off by March end. Shehzad was pursuing a diploma course in sculpture at Arts College, but his main interest and expertise was in engines; anything and everything about engines tinkled his ‘dimaghi futoor’.

The purpose behind today’s ‘do sitaron ka milan’ was not for any kind of ‘tafreeh’ or ‘seetiyabaazi’ but it was due to the materialization of the dream of one of the Stars, at least Rangbaaz thought so. On reaching the time-withered planked door of the courtyard of Shehzad’s house he called out loudly, “Abey Kartoos!” Shehzad hurriedly came out, wearing a polo-necked T-shirt and his customary jacket, and exasperatedly exclaimed, “Why do you ‘bum chik’ so much?” Then he looked up at Rangbaaz and smirked, “Where did you get this ‘gumma cut’ hairstyle?” A broken- hearted Rangbaaz sheepishly replied,” ‘Amaan yaar, ab ka batawen jhaeen jhup ho gawa bas’.” Shehzad went around him and continued his drilling, “I feel like giving you a ‘kantaap’ on your ‘guddichup’.” Now it was Rangbaaz’s turn to repair the damages before they went overboard, “Holi has gone; March is almost over, yet you are still posing as a ‘lulu bakas’.” ‘Dagha Hua Kartoos’ retorted, “ ‘Aur tumhari naqshebaazi mein dheel na aaye’.” Taking off his sunglasses, Rangbaaz said, “Okay now you can stop your ‘bukhraati’ and listen; Skoda is coming today at Latif Mistri and you have to get it into ‘funnekhan’ condition.” Shehzad replied resignedly, “’Ek toh thay aap burey us par dekhein khawab burey. Khair’ let’s go.” Skoda was the antique convertible; hence, it evoked Shehzad’s interest too.

Latif Mistri’s garage was situated after Medical College on the road going up to Patanala, as such, it was a long way off. By the time Rangbaaz had pedaled up to Beligarad with his load of ‘Kartoos’ on the front bar, his breath had become ‘lahu luhaan’ and his ‘rangbaazi ki reydh lag chuki thi’. In a hoarse voice he puffed out, “Khal gayee yaar” Shehzad couldn’t stop chuckling,“This is what happens when ‘teen tang ki gadhi ho, nao mun ki ladni ho’.”

Latif Mistri had done schooling till class five, thereafter, he worked as a helper in various garages till he acquired the ‘daon pench’ of a motor mechanic and had set up his make-shift garage. He was street smart and had an uncanny gift of the gab, which was interspersed with the most appropriate phrases, which is one of the unique features of the language spoken by ‘Lakhnawwas’.

When Rangbaaz finally reached his destination with his ‘dagha hua’ passenger, Latif was bent over the raised bonnet of a car in his ‘jhaapad jhalla’ pyjamas. He stood up when he saw the boys from the corner of his eyes and wiped his soiled hands with an already soiled piece of rag. Rangbaaz had parked his bicycle and stood admiring the signboard, which was calligraphically proclaiming ‘Five Star Garage’. Rangbaaz quickly tried to impress Latif, “Latif Bhai, your signboard is ‘lallantaap’.” Latif replied ‘barjasta’, “Ji Janab, chappar per phoos nahi, darwaze per naqqara”. Rangbaaz smiled and enquired, “Has Skoda come?”. Latif continued, “ ‘Ji haan, woh sasuri sar jhaad munh phaad ko peeche patak gaye rahe’.”

Rangbaaz immediately proceeded towards the back of the garage and he was followed by Shehzad. What he saw over there grievously fractured his dream and, subsequently, put on hold several other dreams associated with the main one. The only thing that he could possibly make out to be part of a vehicle was a chassis with two pairs of spiked wheels perched on defiated tyres, which were extending out of rust laden axles. Next to this ‘jhaeen jhup’ contraption was a heap of weather-beaten metal sheets, which were the ruins of what once was the body of the prestigious convertible made in Germany. Another set of folded metal frame was resting against the garage wall and only a genius could have figured it out to be the collapsible hood.

While Rangbaaz stood pale-faced, Latif came behind him and asked, “Ye tabeley ki bala mol li ya udhaar?” Rangbaaz had no words, but Shehzad wanted to know, “Where’s the engine?” Latif pointed his finger towards a cemented platform in the interior and said,”It is there.”

All three walked up to the engine, which seemed to have been recently wiped. Shehzad put both palms on top of the engine and needlessly tried to shake it,“This looks to be okay!”Latif replied “Only if the head and gasket are intact ‘nahi toh iska fateha padh lo’.”Continuing further he said, “ ‘Abey Tilloo, chai pilaye ga ke nahi’?” Tilloo was the 12 year old orphan who stayed in the garage and did odd jobs for Latif Mistri. He scrambled up two chairs and a stool on which Latif sat down majestically and told the boys to sit on the chairs.

As they were sitting down, Rangbaaz was anxious to know,“ Latif Bhai, will this car become operational?” Prior to giving any reply, Latif unabashedly informed, “ ‘Lagat aayegi’,” and enquired, “ ‘Unti mein nama hai’?” Rangbaaz replied, “I have just about a thousand rupees.” Latif raised his eyebrows and quipped, “ ‘Kya kehne! Taat ka langota nawab se yaari’!” At this point Shehzad chipped in his bit, “ ‘Heeng lage ya phitkari, jugaad aap hi ko karna hai. We’ll see about ‘jo unnees bees hoga’.” Latif took out his Panama packet and lit a cigarette. Just then a gleaming Royal Enfield motorcycle came sputtering right inside the garage on which was astride a bloke with drooping moustache and Clint Eastwood kind of hairstyle. All three along with Tilloo were observing his tan coloured high heeled boots which were now grounded while he was still astride. The stillness of the moment was broken by the guy’s rasping voice, “How are you Latif Bhai?” Latif replied’ “ ‘Allah ka karam hai’. What brings you here?” He replied, “Silencer and brakes need to be adjusted. Now! I am in a hurry!” Shehzad whispered aside to Tilloo,“’Ko hai’?”Awide- eyed Tilloo whispered back, “ ‘Douglas Dacait howen, baat baat per lapadhiya deyth hain’.” Latif took a drag and said with smoke billowing, “ It will take time.” Douglas was adamant, “You don’t understand Latif Bhai, I have a ‘tabadh todh’ meeting with Bakshi Dada.” Rangbaaz could no longer remain a mute witness and countered,“ Bhai Sahab , our work is also going on.” Douglas finally got down from the motorcycle and pointing his finger drawled, “Hey mister, you don’t interfere.” Rangbaaz got up and taking off his sunglasses glared, “YOU do not do!” Douglas continued menacingly, “Ever heard of Bakshi dada?”

In this lethal atmosphere it was Shehzad’s turn to poke in, “ ‘Kaun Bakshi? Lur ke bhai Fatehpur’?” Douglas stroked his moustache and replied, “If Dada hears about this, you would have had it, man.” Shehzad shot back, “ ‘Abey ye geedhad bhupki kisi aur ko dena; itni goliyan chalengi peetal bator ne waley crorepati ho jayenge’.”Douglas had to now reveal his true credentials, “My name is Douglas and I am right hand of Bakshi Dada. He is coming to maqbara for dinner with me tonight.” Rangbaaz turned towards Shehzad and said smilingly, “ ‘Lapayte jao’!” Shehzad added salt to the wound, “ ‘Aerial nikaal lun, oonchi jarahihai’.”

Before matters could worsen, Latif Mistri got up and raising hands tried to pacify, “ ‘Aap log bouriyana bund karein khamakhan; taat ki langoti, mooch ki tantani’.” Continuing further he called out, “ ‘Arey Tilloo, char chai leke aa aur ek stool de’.”

While Tilloo brought another stool and rushed off to get tea, a buxom sweeper with massive hips appeared on the horizon and called out,“ ‘Mistri, Bade Babu keh gaye rahe ke apna taam jhaam samayt ke rakho warna tumra chappar uttah ley jaiyein’.” Latif heard the instructions and muttered, “ ‘Ye sasuri Bum Police ne naak mein dum kar rakha hai’.” Rangbaaz couldn’t understand, “Bum Police?” Latif explained, “ ‘Arey wahi muncipaalty wale’.” The sweeper kept standing because she still had a query, “ ‘ Humri Holi ki tyohari kahan hai? Abke baar chandi ki baaliyan leyba’.” Latif smiled cynically and said, “ ‘ Sabut nahi hain kaan, baaliyon ke armaan. Aage badh Kalmoohi, tame naahi’.” She was not going to let pass that humiliation, “ ‘Tumra bas ek hi kaam hai- aag khana angare hugna’,” and with a grotesque jerk of her robust hips walked away.

The ‘aab-o-hawa’ in the garage had dramatically changed by the time the tea, in kulhar , had gone down the parched throats of the men at loggerhead. Latif had got busy with the engine and one of his assistant was adjusting the brakes of the Royal Enfield. Douglas, by now, had realized that the making of an antique convertible was in the pipeline. He visualized himself sitting at the steering with Bakshi Dada beside him, entering the gate of Maqbara in Hazratganj to stun the gaping spectators of his neighborhood. He humbly requested, “Rangbaaz Bhai….” Rangbaaz interjected, “You may call me MLC.”Douglas continued,“ Okay MLC Bhai, when the car is ready, please lend it to me for a day.” Rangbaaz thought for while and replied, “On one condition.” Douglas asked,“What’s that?”A poker-faced Rangbaaz replied , “ ‘Agar tum lantaraani hankna bund kardo, TOH’!”

Syed M. Rizwan

Writer is a corporate professional and an expert of Lucknow’s heritage

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 1 Issue 11, Dated 05 February 2015)

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