It’s difficult to cope up with new words being added on to our dictionaries as we grow up – some we use, some we do not, some we understand, some we ignore.
It was in 2009, when I started my B.E., that a new word was added to my vocabulary – “Maal”.
To reach the bus-stop, that was only around 500m away from the College building, you need to walk past the boys’ hostels lined up on the way adjacent to the building. And if you’re alone (provided, you’re a girl) or with a bunch of other girls, your ears are sure to echo with the chants of the word “maal” coming from those hostels.
It was scary on the first few days, so scary that you feel like running to the bus stop as fast as you can. After a few days it became more embarrassing than scary – you feel like you’re being noticed, you feel conscious about yourself, you wonder if your clothes are revealing your contours, you cover yourself well with your dupatta and walk on.
Eventually, we started taking a “Tempo” (sort of an auto-rickshaw’s big brother) to wherever we wanted to go, to save us from walking on those streets.
Gradually, we evolved from being timid freshers to bold final-year students, forgetting about the atrocities some words played with our minds, three years back. “Maal” became a word of daily use - a girl would compliment another by saying, “You’re looking like a maal.”
But how does a “maal” look like? Nobody knows. It’s just that we looked at the world through rose-coloured glasses. We considered “maal” to be something good or may be something equivalent to hot or sexy; and hot and sexy are “good words”, right? They are to be used to compliment women because we no longer remember words like pretty and beautiful. Usage of such words was common; and common was okay, acceptable, normal, ain’t it?
Years passed by and I forgot about the way we are teased when we walk on the road. Just a few days before graduating, I happened to go somewhere as soon as I could and there were no Tempos available, so I took to walking. When I passed through one of the boys’ hostels, I, a final-year “bold” student, was hurled with words like “maal” from the dark windows of the hostel. I smiled at the “childishness” of the teasers and their assumption that they could humiliate others this way; I was, after all, a mature person now. What appalled me that day was not the fact that I was teased by people who never grew up but by the fact that as I walked, two “friends” of mine who belonged to that hostel told me, as they walked past me, “You should have taken a Tempo, instead.”
So I ask myself again today, are the words like maal, hot, sexy, etc really compliments or are they simply meant for objectifying women? But I would never know, all I know is that the world will never cease to use such words and I, on the other hand, “should have taken a Tempo, instead”.