Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cuss Fuss; My Storm in My Tea Cup

The debate around the AIB controversy has at least three distinct levels of discourse that many commentaries have confused. 

1. The first is how one judges the use of language, gestures, humour, etc. (of the kind the show used) in one’s personal lives and the levels of moderation or excess that go with it.
2. The second is how one judges the content as that of a stage show or internet video. This is quite different from the test of use in personal context. To explain, one might thoroughly enjoy watching murder mysteries on TV without being in the habit of going around town slaying people or being too fond of getting butchered either.
3. The third is, where one draws the line on the right to free speech. One may not, while disapproving of a certain content, subscribe to the belief that others should be deprived of the right to access it or even approve of it. People may also have different opinions on when curbs on the right to free speech should kick in, or whether they should at all.

This post does not aim to defend the ban or support the FIR filed against AIB, nor is it about how I like or dislike the show per se. While the show and the ensuing discussions have been a catalyst for this, this is in defence of my personal preferred idea of language use and abuse. To be clear, this is only about point 1 that I mention above. The views were arrived at much before the show and its controversy came about. In tragic irony, I have to splatter this post with the choicest expletives. Forgive, or enjoy, as your personal taste may be. 


No. No. No. Preferring communication sans expletives does not mean an attempt at holiness. Why should it, unless those who like speaking a different language take their own ways to be banal? Thus, just like there is nothing immoral in cussing, so is there nothing moral in not cussing. After all, a loud ‘Hai Ram!’ and a face-palm ‘Hey Bhagwan!’ have expressed many generations’ frustrations, rather successfully. So, if one is making a choice about how they like to speak and be spoken with, wherein comes the need to undo your blessed loincloth or wrap it around another? 

Fun and funny.

Mine is what you proverbially call a big, fat, Punjabi family, with branches in every corner of the world and roots going as far back as swinging primates on trees, just like yours. The family is so scattered that any get together is bound to be teeming with equal measure of excited loudness and shared ranting. To be fair, I pick one aunt from my maternal side and one uncle from my father’s side to express my point that it is possible to vent frustration and be humourous, both, without necessarily going  dirty.

Uncle’s favourite rant-phrase was ‘Batao ji?!’ coupled with both palms facing Heavenwards in front of his belly, a perfect sphere responsible for keeping his arms out-stretched when he gestured thus. His phrase was spoken in the angriest of times, say when a fake insurance company swindled some lakhs off him, as well as in humour or even mock-ire. That as children we giggled on both is a different matter. That as an adult I realize the successful grown-up reaction it received remains the point now.   

Kee dassaan’ (What to say) is what aunty was heard using in fun and serious times. How these two Punjabi words came to change in intonation decided how they were received. In her most troubled times as well as in her angriest she would say this with necessary amount of force combined with the whole story. She expressed, was understood, taken seriously and helped in return too.

These people’s dates of birth and the use of archaic expressions show they are very old, but the expressions they chose to vent or celebrate give them a unique timelessness that a ‘Chutiya’ punctuating fool can never boast of. 

Fuck you. Fashion.

Interestingly, ‘Fuck You!’ is a magic phrase. It is malleable, ductile and still enamel-hard to withstand as many contexts of usage as are known. It can be used as any punctuation mark, article, adverb and in some cases as a middle name too. Obviously then, one would think a person like me a fool to not want to use it in its various intellectual avatars. But I do want to keep it at bay. Not because I hate sex (I love it!) but because there is enough of it, in all the wrong forms, transpiring around in shady corners of cities. 

At a subliminal level most expletives are not simply sexual but carry a violent imagery too. A well-expressed ‘Fuck you!’ no matter how much stress it relieves, is disposing of the other’s presence by a threat which attaches disgust to the very act which got you into the world from your mumma’s ‘choot’. Its translation into an action, hyperbolically, will probably be a synonym of rape? 

I asked myself – Do I want to attach significance to something that is so difficult to see apart from the most common head line in India’s rape capital (Behen chod and madar chod are real people)? Will I take it calmly if not my elite best friend but a stranger on the road uses it for me? And, am I so far gone in the ability to use a language that I cannot recall any other way to express anger, frustration, happiness, sadness, anything except a ‘Fuck you!’ or versions which bring into the limelight genitals of humans, cows, etc? Phew. No.  

At a larger level, are we also promoting the same social and sarkari hypocrisy we want to do away with when we “encourage” a peer to use it to and then go home to his and our respected parents with a finger on our lips?


What does a foul-mouth get us? Of course, it shows the world that we are either anpadh-ganvaar or cool-dude, entirely depending on the class and status of the user. Because we are like that only and Hindi gaali users are just lowlife roaming the streets and we are just good family people keeping up with the times chill yaar. Okay. Good for you. But what else? 

Don’t know about you, but I am unable to take chronic expletive users seriously. Poor dears could just be bemoaning how their wives left them but somehow I cannot stop myself from counting his ‘behen ka land’s while he narrates his story. While I manage to offer my sympathy I also wish to send them to a Dolly Bindra or Masterchef’s Krissi, who would have big shoulders to lend in understanding – well-versed in cussing through loud mouths, often making people de-recognize their talent and beep their presence away. 

So, not always do expletives make you seem cool. Often, they make you misunderstood.  


I want the government to understand that I should be allowed to watch what’s coming on TV. But equally importantly I want the people to understand that there is a certain way of communication that I find more effective, and enjoyable than others. Because, while I can turn off the noise on the idiot box, how do I turn off the idiots around me? 

My idea of family values, culture and even debauchery is quite different from my parents’ – not just because I live in a different time but also because I arrived at newer values to follow in conference with those who I live with now. But we have chosen to live a certain way, just like some others have embraced their own ways. Neither is one way ancient nor the other modern. It is a choice, a basic choice that all are allowed to make. 

Goody Shoes

How important the idea of Family becomes.

Every night when we polish these shoes we repeat to our child something that was repeated to us, and which we see no need to reject even though times have paced on - that the part of the shoe that needs to be most polished is the one that stands inside it and that one need not follow ‘friendly fashion’ or even the authorities’ ‘forced discipline’. One needs to follow what is most important to oneself, away from the glamour of clamour.

One day, my child will move on and beyond our umbrella and follow the latest on the communication vine. He will ask of me to grow-up with him. I plan to. And so I will try. But something tells me that I will never grow up enough to have the heart or the hypocrisy to accept my son saying ‘Fuck off!’ to me, without cringing and crying inwardly.

That will be another story. Another day. Maybe. Fuss about cuss, yet again, but still entirely my storm in my tiny tea cup.


  1. For me, it somehow depends on the finesse of the cusser and the context, not the literal meaning of the cuss. [That made me laugh as I pictured you trying to figure out how the choice words you've used in this post could be uttered with delicacy.] The camaraderie between the cusser and cussed counts too. Last, not everyone can get away with cussing which, unfortunately, doesn't stop them from trying.

    1. [That inclusion was intentional. Though I will not know how the reader's reading was interrupted by them, I wanted them to feel the "speed breaker"]
      Appreciate you sharing your views, K. Thank you for reading me. :)

  2. You made me laugh and at the same time, reflecting of cuss words which is my grammar of life. WoW! How you injected the words in the post without making it gross.
    On a serious note, I feel the AIB Roast was fun and without being offensive. We must be able to laugh at our own self. Yes! some may have taken offense and that was not a reason to ban, as you wrote between words. Another brilliant post:)

    1. Grammar of life. :)
      This post is not about what AIB was to me. It was a mixed bag. I totally object to the ban. The 3 points at the start make that clear. No 'writing between lines' for me.
      Thanks for stopping by, Vishal.

  3. AIB has confused us on several fronts. You echo my thoughts when it comes to family values.

    1. Rightly said, Alka. We ourselves don't know where we stand. Usually, the nose follows the noise of popular sentiment.
      I know exactly where our ideas as two different individuals converge. It's an important aspect of my life, and yours too. That's what connects me to you.
      Thanks for being here, Alka.

  4. AIB roast, or the few snippets of it that I saw on the telly, took my breath away by its sheer audacity. I think I was more tolerant of it because of the people who featured in it. However, the idea of banning it suddenly made it ever more important that it continue to be aired. On a completely different level, in personal life I'm quite a prude when it comes to cursing. I think the more we are exposed to it the more desensitized we get to it and over a period even the grossest words begin to sound acceptable. I do hope I can keep it a 'no bad word' zone at home, always. I hope.

    1. Excellent point - "the idea of banning it suddenly made it ever more important that it continue to be aired." Over-powering agencies also need to realise how the forbidden fruit gets attractive in the process. And subversion is always around.
      Prude. :D Let us call ourselves that, why not. At least we'll enjoy more conversations than go 'Err, can you not?'
      I'm sure you'll be able to keep your home the way you like it. At least you are ready to try. :)

  5. Very nicely written! It is the literal meaning of these expletives which makes them an offence under Indian law. For me, a decent program is which I can watch with my children as well as my parents without any embarassment!

    1. I like to keep my family around too, though I understand that some things are for grown-ups alone. Point is to draw lines in individual homes, not blanket bans.
      Very good to know your thoughts, Ratna. Thank you.

  6. I loved this, especially those neatly polished shoesand what they stand for!
    You might have heard Osho's discourse on the word 'fuck'- it is both hilarious and accurate:

    1. Thanks for the love, Dipali.
      Shoes ... I've been polishing my own since I was 6. Started my son on it a tad sooner. Nightly ritual, for the house. :D
      I've heard of Osho's discourse but I will hear it now. Thanks for this. :)

  7. In the end it is al about the values what individual attaches importance to and would like someone to reciprocate to him/her! Enjoyed reading your down to earth commentary, Sakshi!

    1. Yes, what is important-not important at an individual level. This up here is what I think.
      Thanks, Rahul. Glad you read.

  8. Sakshi, 2 things came to mind once I was done reading this post. One, you very clearly explained people's choices in the expletives and "who you follow on tv" department. It is brilliant because it is...simply put. The second thing is the perfect examples of your aunty and uncle in the post. The values have changed for us. We still carry some at the core but how we live and interact with the world is vastly different. What is going on seems less and less of an AIB thing (although I did not find all the jokes funny...some did cross a line) and more and more of a how-could-they-say-that issue. Either ways, great post and very clear indeed!

    1. I like how you have read, understood and told me how you have received this post. Very clearly. :)
      Thank you to you too, Piyoosh. Always good to know what the other thinks.

  9. Sakshi,

    So very well said (and written). Seems like ditto my own thoughts. Personally, I stay away from cussing and any kind of abusers around. I also had to part my ways with few friends over the kind of language they used.. but I also believe to each his own. About AIB.. I haven't watched it.. and nor I googled it.. only read and heard about it. While I do not approve of such shows on TV, I also understand that TV is simply a reflection of what happens in society and thus banning is not a solution. Maybe a warning in the beginning of the show or a late night slot could help.

    1. So we think alike on point 1. Good to know, Surabhi. :)
      As for AIB, the programme did carry a bold and clear disclaimer. Banning is never a solution. It is driving underground what you don't want to see overground, and where it can turn into a real revolution.
      Good to find you here!

  10. I personally don't use cuss words ... In fact I don't even know many or don't know the meaning of many...It's not to say that I'm holier than thou but that's just how I am I guess..And yes I'm also not comfortable with hearing these words but I can't stop others.If someone wants to use it then I think it's up to them as long as they mean no harm...What I object to in this entire AIB controversy is the hypocritical nature of our society.. While not enough noise is made about evils like say dowry with the big fat Indian weddings getting fatter by the day or the lack of safety for women etc... we make a lot of noise on things we don't have to really get worked up when a bunch of people get together to make fun of each other, whatever the level, why is the Indian culture dragged in and a mountain made of a mole hill... Yes, one might like it and one might not but as a society I think we need to grow up..We have more important things to take care of.. live and let live, is that so hard? It's just like molesting a woman in public is fine but dare you do anything these custodians of Indian culture don't approve of and your days are numbered..But then again it's just my view :)

    1. It isn't to say 'holier than thou' at all. Good to see you see that too. I see we think exactly alike on the post above, which is point 1 out of the 3 there.
      The rest of the your comment is about 2+3.
      You will notice how I am with you even on the 'hypocritical nature of our society'.
      It's true we make mountains of molehills but it all comes down to - are we making them or are we letting another make those mountains for us? Say, the government over-powering arms.
      Live and let live is idyllic thinking. Yes, we have more important things to talk about. And yes, we all need to grow up. Including the Indian society. Because whatever said and done a large section does support the bringing down of such programs.
      In all this, we need to find our stance, and arrive at our voice. This above was mine, above cuss words in particular and communication with me in general. I am glad to have heard your voice too.
      Thank you so much, Naba, for taking out the time.

  11. right , I am not sure how you will take it , or maybe I am a hypocrite BUT I hated the show , especially because it was in Hindi or maybe I felt offended more because it was in a language other than english, for some reason the it felt more offensive in hindi than if spoken in english.

    Another issue is that I am totally against CELEBRETIES doing that , it is another thing a normal person doing all that , but these people are whom kids want to copy etc , so they have a responsibility and I dont think they should have done this, I dont think you would find a BRAD PITT or a HArrison Ford or Robert De niro doing such a show or using such a language even if they have sometimes harsh dialogues in a movie...

    I know all this pallava about freedom of speech But find me a person who will not mind such language being spoken inside their own home.. IF you wont speak such language yourself OR dont want your kids speaking that language then I dont think it should be allowed to be on public domain .. it may be harsh But I dont think it is fair to say you can switch off the TELE.

    I would not allow such language in my house , hence I dont use such language and this has GOT NOTHING to do with culture etc, our culture was much more advanced in olden days then it is now, we were the nation who gave the world the kamasutra and we are the same nation where this so called MORAL police is policing our MORALS..

    I was reading the above comment and your reply sorry to say this is not a SMall thing or a molehill , fire starts from smoke. It is a molehill for those who will allow such behaviour and language in their own home or probably use that language themselves BUT for me it is a MOUNTAIN..

    if that makes me a hypocrite then I AM ONE ..

    1. Why are you calling yourself a hypocrite? As I see it, you are the more honest of the lot. :)

      I understand the idea of 'celebrities' and 'role models'. You are also bang on when you ask if we'll accept gaalis as generously from strangers.

      For me, it is fair to say switch off the TV, as it is fair to switch it off when my son is around. Policing must be our role first, rather than the authorities'. By putting it all on them we are giving away not just our work but also our responsibility.

      We don't find it cool or necessary to use this language in our homes, at all. It's got nothing to do with culture, I agree. I mean come on, the same people who write reams on how breaking the queue is lack of Indian culture are cheering Roast. Really, hypocritical.

      It is a mountain for me if it's used in my home. Like I said, I don;t think GoI has any biz "banning" this. Today it's this show. Tomorrow it could be your book. Who should decide? Us, in our homes. Not as a movement but as a family. Exactly what I am trying to say above in the article.

      You are FAR from hypocritical, Bikram. Thank you for being honest. Hardly anyone realises it's importance. :)


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