Gobblefunking with words


One of my favourite authors of all time has to be Roald Dahl. It is no coincidence that he has other British authors for company in my list of favourites- Wodehouse & Gerard Durrell. His short stories for adults are deliciously dark, and his books for children have many layers to them that would delight most adults. Adding to his wonderful writing are the watercolour illustrations by Quentin Blake, bringing characters to life with his fluidic drawings.

“The BFG”, or The Big Friendly Giant is in my opinion among Roald Dahl’s best works. This is the story of a young orphan, Sophie, who gets frisked off by a Big Friendly Giant for spotting him at “witching hour” of a dark night, when he was going about his activity of blowing dreams into little kid’s windows as they slept. The BFG is the “runt” of the far-away Giant world, bullied by the other giants and the only one that didn’t eat up little kids as they slept, subsisting instead on the disgusting “snozzcumber”.  The book follows Sophie’s adventure with The BFG, saving the world together from the other “human bean” (as the BFG calls it) eating giants.

Dahl has invented a number of scrumdiddlyumptious words in this book as part of our adorable BFG’s vocabulary, all of which have a wonderful ring to them. The BFG speaks with poor grammar and made-up words because he never had a chance to go to school, and sharply tells Sophie not to “gobblefunk around with words” when she tries to correct him. While many on the internet interpret “gobblefunk” to refer to Dahl’s imaginary language itself, it could also mean to mess around with words, or even be too nit-picky with them. Swizzfiggling, pigswiller, frobscottle, winksquiffler, phizzwizard and whizzpopping are only a few of Dahl’s lovely inventions, all of which are perfectly understandable in context. Our lovable giant also refers to Charles Dickens as “Dahl’s Chickens”, getting a chuckle out of the best of us.

I learned recently that DreamWorks has picked up the rights for the film which is due to be released in 2016. I can imagine it would be beautifully animated, what with the BFG’s huge collection of colourful airy jelly-like dreams lined up in thousands of glass jars, cottony pink dreams floating in giant land and beautifully coloured bubbles of dream-bits floating up BFG’s cave. This one’s going to be a golden phizzwizard!


Picture courtesy QuentinBlake.com


Solitude by the Ganges


For the last few months, I have been based out of Ludhiana on a project. Although I can go home every other weekend, I decided the exercise isn’t worth it given a 10 hour journey and regular flight cancellations due to the heavy fog that has engulfed the North of India and holding on tightly. So I decided instead to take a 5 hour long train journey to Haridwar. I always had a great desire to see the Ganga, and this was probably the best time to do so due to low pilgrim footfall in winter. A tough few months also meant that a break was needed, and what better than one of the holiest places in India?

This trip marked the “first time” of many things. It would be the first time I would travel by a train by myself. It would also turn out to be the first time I would travel in a train ticket-less. It would be the first time I would bribe an officer to get a seat on said train.

The first time I explored a city alone all day. And that’s where things got exciting. I expected to be overwhelmed at the Ganga’s beauty and sheer enormity. Instead, I was met by the sight of large piles of wet clothes on the stairways, men wearing small nothings that were also soaking wet, children crying because their parents insisted on dipping them in the freezing waters (parents who would otherwise bundle them with so many clothes that they would run the risk of rolling away), sellers shouting out to buy their wares of plastic bottles filled with the holy water and garlands, and families having lunch picnics. I ambled around, soaking in all the sights and sounds, and soon found myself in the midst of small shrines which nestled marble statues of Radha & Krishna, Hanuman ji and Shiv lings. Each shrine had a pandit who called me over to take prasad. And this is when my experience turned refreshingly unexpected.

In the South, where I have done most of my temple visits, any hint that a 27 year old is single is followed by a blessing that she quickly finds a suitable husband. Not just temples- I have had playful arguments with my grandmother who would do the same, urging her to instead bless me to get a good job or grades. Married women are promptly greeted with a blessing that her husband outlives her, because of course.

But not by the Ganga. The pandits’ first reactions when I approached them was to politely enquire if someone would join me. After I would answer in the negative, they would proceed to chant mantras and guide me to make offerings of flowers and ganga-jal to the deities. When it was time to customize blessings, I was asked if I was married. Newly single and overcome with pain, I would pull myself together and say that I wasn’t, waiting for the familiar Sanskrit words urging God to find me a suitable boy to marry. But that’s not what I heard. I was asked to stretch out my right hand to have holy thread smeared with vermilion tied around my skinny wrist, because if I were married, the thread belonged on my left hand. Being a girl with a childish face, I was then asked if I was a student or a working professional. On answering, the pandits would recite a chant interjected with wishes that I progress well in my career and receive peace and prosperity.

The entire experience was a very refreshing one. My solitary spiritual experience was contrary to my expectation of one fraught with gender discrimination and judgment. And considering we were all by the Ganga, also made complete sense. This mighty river, revered as a Goddess, has single-handedly nurtured civilizations for centuries. She flows on, deep and silent, despite the many abuses she is subjected to. She needs no one, but without her, the millions of lives that depend on her would cease to exist.

What an irony it would be to tell a daughter of the land, standing besides the mighty Ganga, that she needs another for her well-being?