The month of June is regarded as the beginning of summer in USA, whereas in Odisha it marks the beginning of the end of the blistering summer season. Raja Sankranti, a prevalen, popular festival pertaining to Odisha, especially in its long, rich Coastal part, veers around the same time – around mid June per the Gregorian calendar.
It is also considered as the harbinger of cooler rainy season, as the South West monsoon rolls over the state, lashing it with stripes of rain, bringing much needed relief from heat and prickly humidity, healing the parched earth dried from a long Indian summer.
As the silvery monsoon rains ornament the thick humid air, the perfume of PODA PITHA (baked rice cake) pervades the environment. Young and old alike play on swings, with men snarling their blackened teeth and girls exposing red pouty lips – post effect from chewing PAAN (betel leaves with colored condiments).
The drenched earth, now softened by the rains gets ready for tilling, marking the beginning of the tilling season. I still cherish the memories of trips to my ancestral village for a fun filled lunch of GHEE (clarified butter) laced NADIA KHECHUDI (coconut sprinkes sweet rice), followed by afternoon session on DOLI (swing).
Dinner would be PITHA rice cakes) and more PITHA – the icing on the cake would be occasionally PODA PITHA made from ripened TAALA, fruit from tall palm trees, as a fitting finale to a day of RAJA MAUJA (fun).
Couple of summers ago in Odisha, on the morning of RAJA Festival, I switched on TV. A promotional song LEMBU, ATI CHUPUDILE PITA (Excessively squeezed lemon taste bitter) from an Odia movie scheduled for the Raja release was playing in background, as an Odia actress, dancing to the tune of a song from that movie was being interviewed.
It didn’t go unnoticed to me, that a discussion about an Odia movie, between an Odia anchor and an Odia leading actress getting released on a leading Odia festival, was taking place with a typical accented Odia with almost an equitable spread of 50% Odia, 30% English and 20% Hindi.
A person usually speaks with an accent when speaking a language other than the mother tongue. Odisha is perhaps the only place on earth, where many love to speak their own mother tongue with an accent.
Came evening, the local Odia channels, started giving me more headaches than a cold virus. During the Odia news, the screen flashed in English “BREAKING NEWS”. Transliterated, it means BHANGA KHABARA (broken news) and is literally true, from the way the Odia anchors and newsreaders spoke in needless accented Broken Odia.
Like torrential rains, came pouring in more “Breaking News” – DURDANTA APARADHI CHAKULI GIRAF (Notorious criminal named CHAKULI has been arrested). And more, NAKALI GUTHKA COMPANY UPARE POLICE RA CHADHAU (Police raids on fake chewing tobacco company).
As if not enough, I have come across a few more terms or phrases of modern Odia, derived from Hindi. A few samples below :
CHUTIA BANEILA (Chutia Banaya) – Made an ass of me.
MAHANGA PADILA (Mehnga Pada) – Prove costly.
KANA KHECHUDI PAKUCHI (Kya Khichdi Pakta hai) – What’s cooking
God save my mother tongue. Either it is enriching itself by liberally accepting the influx from other languages, or destined towards oblivion.
Written by Sambeet Dash