Howls That?

Its a very chilly night, perhaps the coldest I have seen till now. The sleeping pads, the heater, razaai just making sure that the death count in Grand Canyon does not go up. The thermals, jacket, sweater, gloves, socks, sleeping bag - losing the battle against the invincible cold. I am slightly shivering, unable to sleep.The whooshing wind outside acts as the perfect partner for the cold. Just like the pace bowlers, they hunt in pairs. My co-occupants of the tent - Krupa and Saif are sleeping peacefully. May be they were too tired by the travel or they have had their share of struggle with cold already. After more than an hour of losing sleep, I feel a bit drowsy.

I enter my home in Mysore. Its too crowded. Dont know why there are so many people, may be some function. I proceed to the backyard, where a few cousins are sitting and chatting. I join the conversation. All of a sudden, I realize that there was a cricket match the previous day. What happened to the match, I ask my brother. He has no clue. I make my way into the room saying hi's to the relatives sitting along the way. I open Cricinfo and see the heading - "Match ends in a thrilling tie" The home page has the picture of Stuart Clark holding a stump in his hand and another Australian who is not visible in the photo, possibly running towards their team in celebration. The two Indian batsmen are behind them. Che, let me see the full scorecard. Australia 317/9 in 50 overs. India 317 all out in 49 overs. Last over reads 0-4-1-0-W-W. What??? Now, I can understand why Aussies were so happy. On any other day, for them, a tie is as bad as a loss!

I know that the tent is placed on a vehicle, I can feel it move. How else can it be so windy?


The green cricket ground. Shoaib Akhtar is the 12th man. He is running towards the pitch from the boundary. He has discovered a new type of ball that resembles a mace. The ball tied to an elastic rope, the bowler holds the rope, swings sideways and throws it at the batsman. This is so batsman friendly, that the ball can travel higher and farther. The batsman plays the shot, the ball travels higher and higher and I can see it traveling over my home in Mysore, going past my neighbor's house and landing inside the compound a couple of houses away. They send me to fetch the ball. I go there, I can see the ball next to the gate, surprisingly its size twice that of a football now. Half of it has become very muddy. I see a fat fair lady inside that house watching tv with a remote in her hand. She is wearing an off-white long gown, which somehow does not suit her. She is changing channels with absolutely no change in her facial expressions. I shout at her if I can come inside and take away the ball. I get no response. I decide to enter and take it, when I see a man emerging from the muddy pond in front of her house. He is bald, covered in mud from head to toe. I get scared and run away.


As I approach the end of the road, I see a few dogs coming to the middle of the road. Four dogs become eight and then twenty. They dont show any signs of urgency to attack me. They howl very loudly at me. I remember Hitchcock's "Birds" - I can slowly walk and get away. The dogs come nearer and nearer till they almost block the road. I howl at them in return!

The tent is still moving and it suddenly comes to a halt. We have stopped to get Gems chocolate from some store. We get out of the tent and see lot of 2 dollar coins near a telephone box at the corner. Why are there so many 2 dollar coins thrown here, I ask.

I wake up. Its still dark, cold and windy. I recall the vivid dream I just had with the minutest detail and wonder if I really shouted or I only shouted inside the dream. I get sleepy again.

After getting up in the morning, I hesitatingly ask Krupa.
"Did I shout in the night?"
"Not exactly, you howled", she seems really amused.
"I was not exactly barking I guess"
"No, your howling was cute. You were almost pleading in that howl"
"I know, I was not shouting at the dogs, I was just trying to convince them that everything was okay". I was least embarrassed even as I speak so incoherently.
"I should have had a voice recorder", she starts laughing.

We all have a hearty laugh. She starts telling about her dream - where Deepak Tijori was the murderer and how she could not convince us about that!


I have always been fascinated by curse words or abusive words. Though I am quite familiar with abusive words in other languages, I will give more examples from Kannada, as those were part of my growing up.

Let me start by analyzing how cursing works. The main intention of abuse is to insult and also hurt the other person. Thats the key. If you have a set of vocabulary that your recipient does not understand or does not consider derogatory, sorry sir, its a waste!

Kids begin their cursing using simple words like "stupid", "idiot", "fool" etc. And it does not take too much time for them to realize that these qualities are so common and acceptable, they cease to be curse words in the long run.

And as kids, our abuses were mainly restricted to the animal names. A typical kid fight when we were young would go like this:
Kid 1: "Kaththe" (Donkey, not ass ;) )
Kid 2: "Kothi" (Monkey)
Kid 1: "Naayi" (Dog)
Kid 2: "Goobe" (Owl)
Kid 1: "Handhi" (Pig)
....
....
This would go on and on till our limited vocabulary of animal names were exhausted or one of the kids would decide that the best way to tackle a verbal abuse is by your fist! I dont know if kids quarrel the same way even now. I dont think so, they know more animal names by watching NGC and they would have learnt more sophisticated curse words by watching TV!

There were few other variant words of demon/devil like "Devva", "Bhootha", "Pretha", "Peede", "Pishaachi" - it helped kids like me, who knew very few animal names and not too keen to get into fist fights!

I dont know how kids choose only certain animal names for cursing. Is it just following what other senior kids used for cursing? Or do they possess a sense of perception of inferiority or superiority in animals? If so, does it depend on their appearance, the work they do, the way they are treated? How do they actually decide if an animal is abuse-worthy or not? I have never seen a kid cursing someone as "You lion", "You tiger" or "You cow". I dont know why! An animal like hippopotamus, donkey or a pig intuitively becomes eligible for abuse. A cat somehow escapes being used as a curse word, whereas a faithful, widely loved, not bad looking (unless a street one) animal like dog ends up being the most used abuse among animals. [Dog is the only species where the females dominate the curse world! :D]

As we grow older, most of the animal names lose their effect. In fact, some of them change their meaning altogether.
"Kaththe", "Kothi", "Handhi" almost move out of ones vocabulary.

"Goobe" becomes a very affectionate word, reserved for very loved ones. There are so many versions of this like "Goob", "Goobs", "Goobal", "Goobad", "Goobalt", "Goobald" etc. usually accompanied by false anger, a suppressed smile, a pout or admiration in the eyes!

"Naayi" however takes different meanings altogether. Here are a few examples.
"India Australia kayyli naayi thara hodskondru" (India got beaten badly in Australia's hands)
"Avnu naayi thara thinthane" (He hogs a lot, like a dog) - Dont know if dogs eat a lot, I think "naayi" here takes the meaning of "too much"
"Avnu naayi thara odhthidane exams ge" (He is reading very well for the exams)
"Avnu naayi panta!" (He is an expert)
Dogliness is not always an adverb, it can be an adjective too!

When childhood is over, innocence is lost, animals can no longer help, the "real" abusive words come to your rescue. More on them in the next post!

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