‘Half’ Stories

By Author   |   Published: 16th Apr 2017   12:33 am Updated: 16th Apr 2017   12:43 am
One by two: A man shares a cup of tea with his child. Photo: Hrudayanand

To pass the time or “for time pass”, as we Hyderabadis generally prefer to put it in our local lingo, let us check out some idioms, and words or phrases in general, having to do with “half”.

As a tribute to the brilliant, lately departed actor Om Puri, let us begin with a “half-truth” or Ardh Satya – after all, it was in a film by this name that he gave one of his many outstanding performances. And we could also mention the comedy East is East in which, throughout the movie, whenever (in the role of “George” Khan) he is asked by his British wife Ella, “Cup of tea, George?”, replies pat, “Half a cup, Mrs”. So too it is at Irani cafés in our twin cities where friends come in for a chat over an “aadhaa-aadhaa” or “one by two”.

For people with small appetites, or jobs with uncertain incomes and tenures (a phenomenon that has exponentially increased since the menace utterly dishonestly described as “liberalisation” began its bulldozer roll in the early 1980s), and who therefore need to keep a tight check on lunch or dinner expenses so as to save up for rainy days, relief is to be had in eateries, and at pushcarts, makeshift stalls, kiosks and suchlike, in the “half-thaali” meals offered for rates as reasonable as Rs 20 or 30. As regards “half-plate” offers of individual items with rice as the cereal base-whether chicken- or vegetable- biryaani; chicken-, egg- or vegetable- fried rice; and so on, North Indian friends and colleagues never fail to remark both as to the magnanimity of the quantity dished out and the ease with which we southerners manage to polish it off. The former often go halves over “half-plates”!

Bollywood has its takes on “aadhaa-aadhaa” and fifty-fifty, such as in this song sung by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar:
Pyaar kaa vaadaa, fifty-fifty;
Kyaa haey iraadaa, fifty-fifty?
Aadhaa-aadhaa fifty-fifty …
[Lyricist: Anand Bakshi; Music Directors: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Film: Fiffty Fiffty; Year: 1981]

Then there is another one, rendered by Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor, in which an observation is made and a concern voiced:

Aaadha-aadhaa haey chandramaa, raat aadhi;
Raeyh naa jaaey tayri mayri baat aadhi,
Mulaaqaat aadhi …
Aadhay sar kaa dard is our way of referring to migraine; and borrowing the Persian word for half, namely neem, Hyderabadi Urdu uses the phrase neem paagal to say that someone is half-crazy.

HyderabadisFor lay “time-pass” psychologists who get a kick out of quick analyses, here is this poser, “half empty or half full?”, the reply to which may be a handy, rough-and-ready gauge of an individual’s broad outlook on life. The answer to this question could be used, depending on people’s responses, to categorise them as pessimists or optimists in general! 

We would like to end here by sharing some childhood memories. At museums, adults accompanying kids below a certain age would ask at the counter for the respective number of “full” and “half-tickets”. And on the Banjara RTC bus when the regular conductor (who had worked on the route for years together – even nearly a decade, and was part of the “family” just as all the residents of the sprawling locality and its widely spaced-out homes, and all of its bus passengers were) would take an off, a substitute occasionally raised his eyebrows quizically the instant he heard the utterance “half-ticket” and cast a dubious look at the precociously tall boy in question. An adult would settle the matter, even before the doubt could be vocalised, with a crisp: “Daykhraen na’in, bachchaa half-pants paeyhnaavaa haey?”

But at school there would be some pompous guys, though barely days into the senior section, taking inordinate pride in their newly acquired full-trousered persona and jeering at juniors, “Array o half-pants … ” or “Array o half-ticket … ”.

The last morning of the school week saw us leaving the house in a much more cheerful, upbeat frame of mind than on other days because Saturdays were aadhay din kaa school for us, which meant either heading home early and getting more time to spend with neighbourhood friends, or being picked up by mums and aunts and taken to the Taj Mahal (most of us would have puri-aalu and dahivadaa) or Kwality’s (famed for the very best chholay-bhaturay in town, as also for its Punjabi samosas and a wonderful chutney to go) and having the treat topped off by a Hindi film (English movies we did with friends) at a cinema in the vicinty – mainly Zamarrud, Navrang, and Vikranti.

Now, shall we ring the curtain down on our “half-stories” that, starting and finishing with films, have come full circle?