Talking in Tales: Munshi Charanjee Lal’s Collection of 10,000 Hindustani Idioms
The genius of a people can be told from the proverbs, idioms and maxims they employ in common parlance. How visual languages can be! How easily they transmit cultural values, ways of thought and prejudices carefully handed down to each successive generation. So what better way to spend an afternoon than skimming through a comprehensive list of Hindi and Urdu “muhavare” (idioms)? ‘Mukhzin Al Muhavarat’ by Munshi Charanjee Laal Sahib introduces itself as a collection which has,
“Hindi aur Urdu ke har qism ke muhavare aur istilaahen, das hazaar ke kareeb badi talash aur justujoo se jama kar ke darj ki gayi hain”
A collection of about ten thousand proverbs and maxims, carefully collected through a laborious quest.
We bring you our favourites to employ in your daily life. The next time you see someone for whom the word mischievous or turbulent fail to do the trick, call them “Aatish ka parkala” (a ball of fire). Or a person whose stride you can’t help but admire – yes, that that precious being can be referred to as “atkheleon se chalne wala” (one who walks with style and grace).
A closed fist, or a “bandhi mutthi” is a metaphor for a hidden truth and to wear a cloak of shame, “Behayayi ka jama pehen lena” can replace your daily euphemism for someone who has lost self-respect. To meddle in another’s business is to stick your foot into it (“paon aadhna”) or as the meaning in the book explains, “khwamakhwa kisi baat ya maamle mein dakhl dena”. The most relatable, “Peshaab ki raah mein baha dena” (to leave to drown with piss), very aptly means to spend unnecessarily on food and other eatables. The vocabulary of the meanings is almost as beautiful as the epithets and translations cannot do complete justice to it.
Presenting a collection for you to express different forms of anger:
“Botiyan kaat kaat khana
M: Nihayat gussa hona, bada lal peela hona”
To chew down a piece of meat
M: To be very angry, to turn red and yellow with anger
“Tan Badan mein aag lag jana
M: Hasad ki aag bhadak uthi, ji mein bohot naraz hona”
To have a fire light up your whole body
M: To have jealously arise within you, to get very upset
“Jal bhun kar koyla ho jana
M: Mayoos ho jana, muft mein dil jalana”
To burn and bake till you turn to coal
M: To be engulfed by sadness for no reason.
And one for beauty:
“Chaar chand lag jana
M: Bohot khoobsurat ya sundar dikhayi dena”
To have four moons light up
M: To look beautiful
And finally sane advice on keeping company:
“Kharbooze ko dekh kar kharbooza rang pakadta hai
M: Ek ke chaal o chalan ka asar doosre par zaroor hota hai”
A melon takes its colour by looking at another melon
M: You are always affected by the company you keep