Mind Your Language
By Dr B Foogooa
It was July 1949. Our mother, a pale, skinny lady of about 35 years, was admitted to the Civil Hospital (now called Jetoo Hospital) in Port Louis. She was expecting and that was her ninth pregnancy — too much indeed!
She was suffering from severe anaemia, as I was later informed by my eldest sister, Raj Kumari. “Had she had a blood transfusion,” my sister added, “mother would have been saved.” Unfortunately, in those days, blood transfusion was not common medical practice. Also, my elder brother Moustache Rajbans told me later that the treatment had cost quite a lot because, at that time, a sum of Rs.5 had to be paid for each day’s stay in hospital. And our mother had stayed there for about 45 days before being discharged, so as to breathe her last at home a few days later.
Our father, a primary school teacher, who was then working in a very remote village, could almost never visit mum at the hospital during weekdays. Instead, it was Bhayaa1 who had to do the visiting most of the time. Since he was the eldest of us, we always addressed him respectfully as our Bhayaa and never ever by his name. Come Sunday, he would take us, four brothers, to visit mum at the hospital at noon and then to watch the movies, mostly at the Majestic or Luna Park picture houses.
One fateful Sunday, after leaving mother, Bhayaa took us to the Majestic where they were showing two Indian movies, Matlabi starring Bhagwan and Babu Rao and Andaaz with Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Naargis. The latter movie, I believe, is a Mehboob Production and is a love triangle involving two men and one woman. No need to say, the house was full!
During the 10-minute interval, we had lemonade to drink at the cinema canteen. Andaaz, unlike Matlabi, was being watched in complete silence by the audience. It so happened that there is a scene in which Naargis, who portrays the unique daughter of rich parents, takes her tea in bed. Seeing this, Bayou, the youngest of us who was then about two and a half years old, could not resist the temptation of having some tea. So, as kids usually do when they want something badly, he yelled, “Bhayaa, mo oule dithé!”2
Bhayaa was awfully embarrassed and kindly offered to buy the kid some more lemonade instead. But, the latter insisted, “Non, mo oulé dithé même!” To this, the male audience from the 2nd and 3rd classes shouted in unison, “Eta Bhayaa, go-go-pia, done piti-la so dithé, taa!”3
So, our poor Bhayaa, completely discomfited, had no choice but to take us all back home halfway through the film, so that Bayou could have his precious tea.
Dr B Foogooa
- A respectful Bhojpuri word for an elder brother
- Bhayaa, I want tea!
- Hey Bhayaa, idiot, give the kid his tea!
* Published in print edition on 10 December 2010