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They call it Lathmaar.

That’s the dialect of Hindi they speak in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. My friend’s father who has spent his life there and is an authority on the subject had told me this.

Lathmaar; translating literally into beat (maar) with a baton (lathi). Meerut, the city, complemented it — the perfect setting.

The whole thing seemed at odds with my notion of the place as the only friend i had from that place spoke a kind of Hindi that was at once respectful, if not reverential.

Cut to the early November smog as the Golden Temple Mail charged into the countryside and onward to Delhi. 2009 was a great or horrible winter depending on how you could drape yourself in multiple layers of cloth.

The general compartment was jammed as could be with people wanting to go to Delhi, Bombay or any of the urban aglomerations that lay in between. Everyone was curled into a ball as the cold wind cut in through any space it could find.

I had taken refuge between the toilets as the wind played havoc with people. Its here that I realised, once again, it only takes one and so it proved.

One man in his twenties, muscles bulging, stood at the door enjoying the wind, oblivious to the plight of the rest, who either kept mum or politely requested him to shut it. Arms parallel to the floor, he kept at it with authority.

A freezing quarter of an hour later, a voice pierced the uneasy calm and the smog.

Oye pen ke laude, darwaazaa band kar le.

A translation is best left to your expertise.

It electrified the atmosphere and the man duly shut the door.

They call it Lathmaar in Western UP. With good reason too.


Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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