Bawas love a good gaali. Not in the ‘choice abuse’ meaning of the word, but more in the ‘inventive use of unmentionable words’ one. In a humorously bawdry, not tawdry way. An easy identifier for a bawa is whether, within five minutes of their being introduced to you, they speculate solicitously about the limited mental capacity of your great-grandparents and try and calculate how much more degradation had occurred by the time you were born, and wonder whether you are at this stage even capable of cleaning your own arse.
After which they will ply you with some drinks, and feed you till you cry for your liver.
This sort of behaviour shocks the more conservative communities of India. Oh heck, it shocks most parts of the world. Because the use of expletives is seen as a sign of vocabularly weakness and moral turpitude. And this is why such language is condemned in negative terms – foul, filthy, crude – in the hopes that it convince people not to use such words.
Except they aren’t. At their best, a gaali can be flowery and complicated and funny and can in fact help defuse a potential flare-up. It takes a certain delicate skill to come up with a sufficiently complex and derisive gaali that somehow fails to be offensive. It is a mark of a person’s linguistic skill, instead of a comment on their nasty nature. A person who can swear inventively (not casually) is also less likely to be a stuck-up, do-gooding prig.
So go ahead, let loose a few volleys. You’ll feel better. And you might make someone laugh too.
I leave you with the words of the ineffable Stephen Fry:
“The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a fucking lunatic.”