Some twelve summers ago, I was introduced to Sikkim’s Do Re Me. While in conversation with a few Delhi University students – younger than me – I was introduced to the notes and nuances of a good Sikkim-style conversation. La, Lei, Las – generously in use that day, slowly started to make way for other words, as I left the room.
Over the next few years, I understood that, if La, Lei, Las, Hajur and Hawas was the man wearing a tailored suit and serious expressions over conversations around tea, Ambo, Achchi and Thet was the old school friends’ reunion at the next table.
Jargons of the insider, to familiarise oneself with the glossary of Sikkim’s own slangs means friendship and the perfect way to sound local. Most of these words are exceedingly versatile and generally no fun, unless exaggerated.
To begin like a dictionary, let’s just take A for Ambo! as the first example. AAM-BOH is an expressions just undeserving of a lowercase. Without a single dull syllable, it makes the perfect response to whatever it is that gets your senses blown. For those with high standards, the Gangtok cable car ride. For the dramatic, mild earthquake aftershocks. And for the expressive, a tear jerking movie scene at Vajra.
Next the sweet Achchi is what you’d tell someone wearing ‘an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikini, for the first time today’. It’s a gentle tease. Said like a shy and soft sneeze, it is a well-intentioned slang, perhaps coined to make one blush. Never embarrass.
Another word close to it is Achoo. A reaction to the, feet-numbing-Gangtok-winter-cold.
Then, there are the dopplegangers. The Hindi word Khatra changes meaning as it moves eastward. In Sikkim, a plate of pork momos could be Khatra, and still relished. Or your new shoes could be Khatra and still have the perfect grip. Khatra, contrary to popular Bollywood meaning of the word, is an indicator of Aweeeee-someeeee-ness in Sikkim. What’s more, it can make the perfect Instagram response to #nomnom, #goodvibes and #vacaytime, as well.
However, a better and fitting comment to uploads of cute babies, puppies and grandparents would be Amuiniii, toned exactly like Rachel Green’s ‘Oh My God!’
Of these many words, archived in our minds, there are a few villainous, hand-me-down colloquialisms. Maybe, spoken without much thought. JAMA LAUNEY is one such. Here, two very decent words come together and make an insult. Launey is an innocent word, meaning to wear. Jama is another sweet, nothing to hide in the closet word for, a skirt. Now, if suffixed to pants, hats and shirts, Launey is pretty ordinary. But if you add launey after Jama, you can turn it into an insult.
In my opinion, Jama Launey needs a makeoever. Every single woman achievement needs a #jamalauney. Maybe Sikkim’s very own version of #throwlikeagirl, #runlikeagirl and #fightlikeagirl
My personal favourite in the dictionary of slangs, however is Amamamama. If slangs came with taglines, this one’s would be ‘Unstoppable!’ Stretch the Mamamamas as far and long as you want to. A very close cousin of Ambo, it could very well be the hero of Rajneesh’s speech. Versatile like the F word, let it wear any hat that you like.
Amamamama, what a cute cat!
Amamamama, what an ugly house!
Good, bad, ugly, the slangs spoken in Sikkim are many. Most can be assembled in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and other nearby neighboring places, who share quite a bit in common, word-wise.
Bring back the forgotten Boka and Mula. Replace Hello with Yes Mams!, flying high with Mastaa and laugh at yourself with Aloo Bhaechu. Say heaabyyy instead of heavily drunk. And if you are done playing Mr nice guy, just spit Thukka or Thuiyaa to whatever it is that disgusts you.
Post contributed by Roshni Chettri
photograph contributed by Kunga Tashi