Livinghigh: Cheap Boss
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 4:53 PM /

Cheap Boss

Will never get used to the Mumbaiyya way of getting someone's attention by making lewd kissing noises, something akin to a nymphomaniac songbird's mating call, cheap cheep cheap... and its many other variations. I found it weird at first, insulting then, shocking when I discovered that my broker was trying to call me in the same way, and became resigned to the universal fact that Mumbai will be Mumbai when even cabbie drivers started making sucking noises at me.

Then of course, there is the fact that a highly professional work culture in the city has gone overboard, so that every single individual you meet on the road, from the local vada pav maker to the doorman at your office becomes your 'boss'. Perhaps, the only person I don't address by that supreme salutation is my boss at work. For all intents and purposes, she prefers to be called by her name, even though she controls my wallet-strings.

One thing that definitely does not work here is the chummy and o-so-confidential bhaiyya, that does the rounds in Delhi. In capital-speak, bhaiyya can fit for anyone - from the tall barrel-chested military man on Chanakyapuri, to the mustachioed Surdarji who steers your auto-rickshaw, to the Ramu in baggy bermudas who gets you your morning paper, or the kindly soul at the mithai shop who's trying to help you make up your mind as to which overpriced sweet to buy.

But when a friend of mine tried a coy and o-so-sweet bhaiyya here in Bombay, she got a rabid glare that accused her of trying to be elitist. Pipe down, woman - the mighty glare seemed to say, - this is Mumbai, and all animals are equal here, except some animals, and those kind of animals certainly do not include you! My friend piped down suitably, and promptly shifted to 'boss'.

While Calcutta takes off on the bhaiyya hang-over and prefers to call every able-bodied male, from the age of 15 to 99 dada, meaning older brother, Chennai goes the work-culture way of Mumbai, and everyone becomes a saar, or sir. The uses are very much the same. If any outsider tries to get the dada or the saar pronounced right, you are immediately recognised as a pretender, but then, the denizens of the mighty cities are pleased as punch that you're at least doing as the Romans do when in Rome, and so you might be rewarded by a a quick show of thirty-two teeth, before the cabbie takes you for a ride. Pun intended.

In which case, you have a perfectly great story to recount to your 'boss', while you buy your ticket from him in a gleaming red BEST bus, after you come back home.


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