The Swearing Banarsi

The swearing Banarsi is a very famous and long lasting stereotype. The deceitful and cunning Banarasi Thug is famous too, but that stereotype isn’t comparable to the previous one. There’s an all-Banaras famous funny story that challenges at first and then confirms the stereotype:

Once a traveller from the famous city of X came to visit Banaras. When he was leaving his city for Banaras, many people came to tell him about things famous there.

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They talked a lot about the ghats, galis and temples of Kasi. They requested him to bring one thing or the other for them and he made a list of their names with the articles of their wishes. They also mentioned the famous trait of the Banarsi: swearing, heavily.

The traveller reached Kasi and visited all the places that were famous. He went for shopping and bought all that he’d noted in his list. All this while, he yearned to hear and see the famously mentioned swearing Banarsi in action. Not even once did he hear anyone swearing anywhere at any time.

He stayed there for the customary two nights and three days and then packed to leave for Allahabad. He took a rikshaw and asked the rikshaw puller called Ghanshyam to take him to Cantt Railway Station.

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The journey began near Bhelupur. It’s a long way from there to the Station. So, they started talking. X told Ghanshyam all about his experience in Kasi. As he was reaching his destination he told Ghanshyam how people had asked him to observe the worst habit of a Banarsi: swearing. This worked the gentle Ghanshyam into some kind of fury. He could not remain silent any more. How could people hold such negative stereotypes about his city? (Not in the exact words.) He protested vehemently, explained X how wrong he was and all. When X persisted in his stereotype and also quoted several authorities on the issue, there was no controlling Ghanshyam any more. He finally cried in anger and desperation to save the honour of his fellow Banarsis: “Which @#$%^&*!!@# says that Banarsis swear? It’s all a big @#$^^%$ lie.”

There are many ways in which Banarsis boast about their tendency to swear. Funny anecdotes and longish jokes being some of them. There are events to celebrate the cathartic powers of swearing. There are festivals on which swearing is a part of the tradition, e.g. Holi. Assi is very well known for one long standing tradition: the evening Holi Celebration of scatological kind.

Places have their own way of developing abuses. Banaras has its own way too. The richest range of vituperative lexicon is found in the Banarsi dialect. It’s this very lexicon that’s most commonly and widely used for general purposes. There’s a difference in the use and intensity of swearing when the insult is actually meant and when it’s a light habitual banter among friends.

My first encounters with the real Banarsi swearing were spread over a long time span. I learnt that certain words were taboo the hard way. I started using some of them, I am told, and was punished for that and forbidden to use such language.

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