Poison Pen

don't worry, she doesn't bite anymore.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

whats love got to do with it?

so, i was watching a hindi flick after ages. A decided he wanted to watch a real masala bollywood movie, but there was no way i was going to waste an evening watching garam masala. so we compromised and watched 'hum tum', which i'd already watched. but i didnt mind seeing it again. he quite liked it, and i told him how this was pretty bold by bollywood standards, because they actually showed a couple who had premarital sex, and didn't moralise about it. but he said he thought it was kind of conservative, since they never used the word sex, which was an important part of 'when harry met sally', but instead kept using the word "pyar". and that started a discussion.

you know, i've always found it odd that there's no polite word in bangla or hindi for the act of sex. there's "jouno" which is a general prefix for sex-related concepts, like "jouno-rog" for std's. but jounokormo is just too obscure to use. my hindi isn't great, but i think the hindi word for sex is kaam, which is funny because its similar to the word for work. and "kaam karna" is so inappropriate for "having sex". of course there's the ch** word which just sounds terrible, and you really can't use it in polite company. i don't use it at all, because its just downright offensive.

so the choice is between really obscure words which no one uses and rude words which you shouldn't. english is so much better in that regard. you can f***, you can have sex, or you can make love. all of them are very different ways of doing basically the same thing. i guess the hindi obsession with pyar is equivalent to "making love". but one doesn't always "make love". sometimes one has casual sex. or even when you're with your boyfriend/partner, you can have sex of a kind that can under no circumstances be called "making love". what do you do then?

imagine a conversation where one friend asks another about a date she had - "so, did you guys have sex?". its a simple question without any judgement attached. how would you say it in bangla? "tomra ch***"? "tumi oke bhalobashle"? that's just funny. i guess you could literally transalate "sleeping together" but "tumi ki or shathe shule"? is just bleah!

so, until someone comes up with a better word, men and women in india will just do pyar, no sex.


  • At 9:32 AM, Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said…

    Good point, VP. There used to be very lyrical terms for the act. Now in most Indian languages, the politest version is "doing it".

    Queen Victoria has a lot to answer for. This time, we are not amused.


  • At 9:57 AM, Blogger Akash said…


    I think it's time we Bengalis cast off our inhibitions about using that ch** word. I bet irrespective of how much research you do to find another word, you can't beat that word's charm, her solid punch (being a downright and a passionate feminist, I spontaneously tend to attach feminine gender to that ch** word). On the other hand, my legs (only legs, mind you) are shaking in fear at the prospect of that word's becoming extinct due to lack of use. God forbid, if such thing does happen, that would be a great great injustice to the posterity for which no one but we are responsible. God only knows how many unknown years and how many cultural revolutions we had to go through to come up with that gem of a word. Let's call a spade a spade. What we have to do is to follow a disciplined psychological regimen for some time. Very little not much, believe me. That's all. You bet, at the end of the day (why end only, anytime during the day) everybody is happy. The man, the woman and the entire generation..

  • At 11:40 AM, Blogger Rapid I Movement said…

    How about..."Dur b*r* ch****hish kina bol na..."
    Been asked that...over inter-continental conversation...

    And tumi oke bhalobashle?...puro Raabindrik gocher akebaarey :)

  • At 1:21 PM, Blogger thalassa_mikra said…

    It gets even funnier when women of my mother's age are trying to imply that some woman is sleeping around. It always devolves into "oishob kaaj korey" or "kharaap kaaj korechhey".

    But I think "ekshaathey shoa" especially when the man and the woman have no other reason to sleep with each other makes sense.

  • At 3:01 PM, Blogger Rimi said…

    you know, i've always found it odd that there's no polite word in bangla or hindi for the act of sex.

    Yes, yes, yes! I mean, likewise. And can't you see the conspiracy already? We only do pyar, amra shudhu bhalobashi, because our language doesn't permit sex. Damn.

    Good job, Sherlock.

  • At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the hindi word for having sex is "sambhog"

  • At 11:23 PM, Anonymous amlan said…

    agreed that the bengali dictionary does not cater adequately to describing "the act"... but there are plenty of verbs, adverbs and interjections to convey/describe the essence of it...
    in 1st person a simple "umm... ichche korchhe",
    in 3rd person... "korli?" or "holo?" etc, (of course with the associated facial and vocal expressions)...
    this might sound funny/weird but thats the lingo of millions of bengalis...
    I somehow feel that "did you guys sleep together?" sounds like a job interview question and trivializes the sleeping to the level of movie/dinner... a certain amount of "juicyness" needs to be loaded on to the sex-question...
    but then again, maybe this is a typical (melodrama loving) bengali speaking... the ch** word doesnt sound "dirty" to me... but i prefer to leave the sex in "umms" and "aahhs" as much as possible... even though I certainly dont approve of the camera panning out of the window and showing butterflies in the garden while a couple is having sex in a hindi movie... THAT i think is funny...

  • At 1:56 AM, Anonymous ishika said…


    i'm the same person who left the earlier comment about "sambhog"

    remembered a few more words, now that i got thinking about it (hmm, you might think i'm jobless...)anyway, here you go:

    have a sexual relationship with someone : "kaamuk sambandh rakhna", "shareerik sambandh rakhna", "yaun sambandh rakhna" (i think this word "yaun" - pronunciation similar to 'yawn'- and the bengali word "jouno" have same roots)

    have sex with someone: "sambhog karna", and also at times "sah-vaas karna"

    sleep with someone: "hum-bistar hona" - this is more of an urdu word than hindi

    This may seem gibberish to most of the hinglish speaking population, but these words are practiced among those who believe in using the refined language of expression.

    i remember watching this old amitabh-jaya movie 'ek nazar', where during the court scene, a muslim witness used some very decent, yet complicated (to pronounce) urdu words for rape.

  • At 4:31 AM, Blogger Rohan said…

    Yes, this is an eternal mystery.

    What are the bong equivalents of the other "doing words" / expressions, used often during sex?

    Have a good mind to sting a couple in suburban calcutta to find out. Maybe its a silent movie sort.


  • At 1:57 PM, Blogger www.gypsynan.blogspot.com said…

    and I did the perfect lover tag...Hola chica :)

  • At 12:57 AM, Blogger Sue said…

    well, I've heard 'conservative' Bong girls ask each other "O ki shotti or shathey shuchche?" So I assume "shoya" is used.

    But otherwise, in polite company why would you discuss sex? And if you're doing it quietly, who cares what words you use :-D

  • At 11:45 AM, Blogger Gati said…

    How 'bout "Keli", "raman", "rati"? I think we shd go back to Sanskrit - not just because these terms are beautiful or lyrical, but also because they are playful. This playfulness helps achieve a separation between the love element and the fun element. The identification of mating with love ("lovemaking", "pyar karna" etc) not only serves the purpose of taking the act from the "decent" public domain to the private domain, but also of championing the cause of monogamy.
    I prefer to use simply "khela" for the lack of anything else. Suggestion: to add a little mush, how about calling it "a-rati"?

  • At 12:19 AM, Blogger Vishnupriya said…

    i'm really glad that this post prompted a lot of discussion. i thin i should do a follow up.

    @j. alfred prufrock - oh yes! don't you find it ironic that the english have become such a liberal society now, but we still hold on to their prudishness?

    @akash - sent you a mail. but yeah, there's an idea. like feminists are trying to reclaim "cunt", maybe bongs should reclaim the ch-word. i could start by typing out the whole word, but i'm still a bit squeamish :$

    @rapid i movement - hey, welcome back. :), and ha! your friends sound pretty cool, but try asking someone a bit older.

    @thalassa mikra - yeah, like everyone say, i guess "haathey showa" is the best option. and like i said in the mail, women of that generation have decided that sex is "kharaap". not us. :)

    @rimi - thankew :). see mail.

    @ishika - hey thanks for the info. and yeah, i remember those AIDS awareness ads "mard aur aurat ka asurakshit sambhog", LOL!!!
    oh, and i think those words are just beautiful. must memorise them and use them at parties. :D :D

    @amlan - yeah, i think i've heard some of those being used. but like movies are moving away from the butterflies in gardens, i think its time the language moves away too. by conveying what you mean without using the word, is an act that suggests that you find the word offensive, or inappropriate, and also, the act itself, by extension. it adds a lot of unnecessary guilt to sex.

    @rohan - oh, please let me know what you find. this could be interesting. ;)

    @gypsynan - hola to you too. and i saw, i saw.

    @sue - umm, you don't discuss sex with your girlfriends? you should, you know. :D

    @gati - aha gati. i should have expected you to come up with the best ones. those words are just beautiful. and hmmm, there's a point i didn't think about. more patriarchal conspiracies.

  • At 1:19 AM, Blogger Rita said…

    Maybe we do not have a Bangla or a Hindi equivalent for the word 'sex' because 'we don't talk about it'. Till recently, we dearly held on to the view that good people fall in love and bad people have sex. Maybe some people hold that view even now!

  • At 6:52 AM, Blogger Grafxgurl said…

    lol thats so true. .we dont have a word for sex in India...well.. im not sure about the other languages.. definately not one in tamil...

    wonder what they called it in the Kamasutra?

  • At 9:00 PM, Blogger Akash said…

    "did you guys have sex?" the Bengali version of that is, perhaps,

    "ei, tomra laagale?"

    A while ago, I was having a conversation with a newly-wed friend of mine (female, if anyone is curious). I don't remember now, exactly in which context she suddenly exclaimed,
    " aaj dupur-e huliye laagalam". The very moment something banged inside my head and I hung up the phone and at a lightning speed swung to this comment space. Joy of discovery. See, I’m still panting in excitement.

  • At 12:11 AM, Anonymous amlan said…

    let me sound like a dead horse. I prefer saying "I need to use the restroom" rather than "i need to pee"...(at the risk of imaginative minds going crazy at what all the uses of a restroom might include)... this does not make the act of urination offensive or inappropriate... just makes a graphic description of it unnecessary and unpleasant. During close, intimate conversations with ones' friends, bf/gf, lover, husband and siblings in bengali, the ch*** word or variations thereof, should and do get used by people whose tongue dont freeze at the sound of it. For all other occasions, I would prefer bypassing the use of literal bengali translations of sex, the subset of actions that constitute it and the male and female genital and other body parts. Lets leave the status quo as is, if not for the sake of romance, decency or mystery, then at least for the freedom of creative minds to construct their own lingo to depict their own primal act.

    As a sidebar note - A part of my stubbornness on this is motivated from the incredible amount of kicks and fun that I got while growing up - seeing parents, teachers and even child specialists pull their hair out trying to refer to the "dick" of a young boy, when they had to, for some reason! :-) have any of you guys had your moms or aunts refer to 'it' ever? remember their facial expressions? I, for one, am strongly against making everyone follow the same word-code and robbing them of their choice of pet-names for such things!! Guess my dirty mind is getting the better of me - I promise not to quip on this topic any more.

  • At 11:21 AM, Blogger Anand said…

    Came here through Desipundit. I guess some of us South Indians have it better made. The regular and 'respectable' Tamil word for sex (udaluravu) literally translates into 'bodily intercourse'! Of course there are also in use, the many euphemisms of the sort you've mentioned as well: like 'sleeping together' and the f-word (which actually has a classical etymology).

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger Aps said…

    As I read the post off Desipundit, the word "sambhog" immediately strikes. I checked the comments and yes its there. There will be a dozen others in Hindi which convey the meaning in a polite way. Here are my few points ony why sambhog might seem funny or still inappropriate to use in public conversation:

    Its the topic. We people hardly would discuss this in our local language, unless of course I am discussing this with my closest friends in which case I have better choice of words.

    Use of enlish words for sex has been commonised to such an extent that use of them is simply un-noticed. Imagine a conversation in a party that you can overhear. Sex, fuck would hardly attract an audience coz people just keep using them often meaning nothing for it. Hence using them in conversation hardly looks inapproprite.

  • At 3:04 PM, Blogger Gati said…

    I think the topic is so important for the following broader reason - we need to talk about sex. In public, in decent conversations. That is the essential first step to address the culture of repression, the culture where most of us learn abt sex from porn mags (or now the internet), the culture that has been referred to again and again in the various blogs in the blank noise project.
    To have a widely based public discussion about sex, we need a word for sex in the Indian langiages. Not "jounota", i.e. sexuuality which is often used in such discussions at least in Bangla, but the act of sex. That is exactly why Vishkanya's point is so important. No wonder we see so much discussion. That is eactly why I think "huliye chodalam" will not do, that is why I think using allusions as suggested by Amlan will not do either.

  • At 10:14 PM, Blogger death said…

    youwwan is the hindi equivalent

  • At 12:22 AM, Anonymous vanilla said…

    Ya true. I heard an urdu phrase, that caught my fancy. "Jismaani Tallukaat".. It literally means 'physical relation'.

    Anyway, about not having an appropriate word for sex that can be used in polite conversations is probably coz by the time we Indians thought it was time to talk about sex in polite conversations, English was everywhere. And it was just plain easy to pick up words from there.

  • At 6:55 AM, Blogger Vivek Kumar said…

    My post, in connection with the same issue.

  • At 11:27 AM, Blogger  said…

    "tumi oke bhalobashle"? that's just funny.

    Not only that, I am sure it can't be used outside Shantiniketan Ashram. What we generally do is to switch to english for appropriate words. Maybe bengali dictionary will yield some, but they are unused, and forcing their usage would sound ridiculous.

  • At 9:03 AM, Blogger Kesava Mallela said…

    Doesnt language evolve with culture? Dont you think casual sex and one night standings have been alien or atleast not part of mainstream culture until recent times to deserve a word for all by itself?

  • At 1:36 AM, Blogger Vishnupriya said…

    i got a mention in desipundit. wheeeeeeeee!!! ok, now being serious.

    @rita - well no, good people have sex too, but only because of love. but yes, not talking about 'it' is the basic problem.

    @grafxgurl - is there any indian language where you can find such a word?

    @akash - yay! now we have some information straight from the mare's mouth. thank you so much for your research. :D

    @amlan - i'm confused. you say that the act of urination isn't offensive, and then you say that for the sake of decency, it shouldn't be referred to. when i say "i'm going to pee", i don't describe the flow of urine through a urinary tract. then why is it graphic or unpleasant. the word "pee" is very functional. there shouldn't be any kind of emotion attached to it. its a simple word that everyone understands and thats why its used.
    as for the other point, i agree, and this is not just an indian thing. even american parents have silly words that they use with their kids when they refer to the penis. but you know what else is unfair. indian parents dont use "cute" words to describe vaginas. its as if they don't exist.

    @anand - really? maybe you should contact grafxgurl with this info.

    @aps - ansolutely. its not the word itself, its just that the topic is so off-limits that the word becomes "dirty" by association.

  • At 1:41 AM, Blogger Vishnupriya said…

    @gati - as usual, youve come up with the most sensible point. we indians need to move the topic sex to the drawing rooms.

    @death - isn't 'youwwan' youth?

    @vanilla - exactly. i think thats the point we all agree on.

    @vivek kumar - nice post. but you know, that happens in english too. think of "darn" for "damn", or "heck" for "hell".

    @/<0USIK - yeah, thats what i do too.

    @Kesava Mallela - well, i dont think casual sex didn't happen in the past, but i think i get the point youre making.

  • At 1:42 AM, Blogger Sue said…

    Ah, but talking with my girlfriends isn't polite company. There, the words/language used does not matter.

  • At 11:07 AM, Blogger Pranay said…

    hey nice post. But it's strange how no one noticed that you yourself mentioning so many times that you feel uncomforatle, sqeamish, rude,etc.. using this words and ironically you are saying that these topics should be discussed openly without hiding.
    funny isn't it.;-)
    also check my comment on the previous post.

  • At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I dont know what yr beef with it is, but GARAM MASALA ROCKS TOTALLY, have u SEEN akshay kumar in it, highly funny, highly recommeneded.

  • At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So no-one uses the term ratikriya?

  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger Prometheus_Unbound said…

    'Getting your wick' dipped in English. Thokna, Game Bajana, Lab lena in Hindi and thapano & theku-theku in Bengali. I remember using all these terms in engineering school guy talk. But, come to thibnk of it we never had an appropiate term for the women.

    Guess you are right about the lack of proper expression for having sex in Indian language. One more example of how Victorian prudery robbed us off off our rich culture. :)

  • At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Okay. Can someone help me? If two girlfriends were talking in private, about a third friend (absent) who they heard "had sex," what friendly, slang or not, gossipy term would be used (prefereably in Hindi), if they thought the third friend was a little "loose" and foolish? For example:

    Girl A: But weren't you the one who told her to go out with him?
    Girl B: Yes, but I didn't think she would ever _____. (or ____ him).

    Best if it's funny and makes the third friend out to sound desperate or gullible.

    Even better, would be a slangy metaphor (like "getting one's wick dipped, but) for females...

    I'm writing a story and I don't speak hindi.

    If you have a suggestion, please include any nuance or explanation!!
    Many thanks,


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