Author Archives: Helen Kong

“Hitting your foot with an axe”

Main piece:

Apne aap pe kulhadi maarna

“Hitting your foot with an axe”

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant is an international student from India. Her grandmother first taught her but everyone uses it in their day to day talk.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It means that when you put yourself in trouble. You planned everything but in the end there was trouble. For example, Person A is manipulative and tells everyone that Person B is cheating in school to ruin his/her reputation. In the end, it turns out that Person B never cheated and everyone finds out. Person A’s plan backfires and is now known as a bad person. This is when you would say, “Apne aap pe kulhadi maarna”.

Personal Analysis:

This is really similar to the American saying “shoot oneself in the foot”. The meaning is universal because the situation is a common occurrence in any society. The indian equivalent of a gun is an axe. It shows how different cultures are familiar with different weapons and might hint at what time period these proverbs started.

 

Menehune

Main piece:

There’s a hawaiian troll called Menehune. They’re knight soldiers, but they’re also small and tiny. They look like oompa loompa but they’re dangerous. They march in the night to check on things.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

The informant learned about Menehune in her public elementary school in Hawaii. It is part of the material for the mandatory hawaiian culture class.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is part of the Hawaiian culture that’s taught to kids who live in Hawaii.

Personal Analysis:

It’s ironic that these trolls are small but dangerous. The juxtaposition of these opposites is what makes these unique and unexpected. It seems like it was made for entertainment purposes and a story that has been passed down. It gives more life to Hawaii during the night.

 

 

Kabir ke dohe (Kabir’s couplets)

Main piece:

Kabir ke dohe (Kabir’s couplets) are couplets from India.

Here is one of them:

“Pehle Agan Birha Ki, Pachhe Prem Ki Pyas

Kahe Kabir Tub Janiye, Naam Milan Ki Aaas”

Translation:

“First the pain of separation, then the thirst for love

Says Kabir, only then will you know joy of the union.”

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant’s grandmother used to teach her these couplets because they were popular.

The informant believes that this couplet means first you experience the pain of separation then you can feel love. Only from the pain of separation do we feel the pangs of love. Then there is hope of union. This is the story of life – lovers meeting, separating, and realizing their love for each other then holding the urge for union and an eventual union. In Sufi tradition, it is a reflection of man and God – realization of the separation from God, the pangs of love and urge for union with God, and the eventual joy of union.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is shared with children in school.

 

Personal Analysis:

I never grew up with couplets, so it’s strange that other cultures see this as regular. The meaning is universal though and it can be said for lovers, family members, God, and anything else we love.

 

Panchatantra = Indian comic book

Main piece:

“Panchatantra is a folktale comic book for kids created to teach morals and important life lessons. In one of the stories, there is a god/deity, who is disguised as a poor female street beggar. She goes to a rich family household and asks for food and money. They say no, so then she moves on to the village and goes to a poor couple’s house. The couple has like no food or anything but she asks for food and water. They give her one roti (which is like tortilla/bread) and water even though they had none for themselves. So then when the rich family and poor couple wake up, their lives are switched.

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant said she got her Panchatantra from her aunt on her 4th birthday as a gift but it was very common and every kid owned it. Informant said that the story shows that no matter how much you have- a lot or a little- you should share with people. It teaches people to not be selfish and greedy.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is read by kids as a comic book in India.

Personal Analysis:

The Panchatantra is like Aesop’s fables. It is a good way to combine something fun and educational. It is not education in a literal or academic sense, but it is one way that India teaches kids how to be generous. It shows the values of the nation that cares about giving rather than receiving.

Door ke dhol suhaavne lagte hai

Main piece:

“Door ke dhol suhaavne lagte hai”

The drums sound better at a distance

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant learned this in grade school when she was studying in India.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It has a similar meaning to “the grass is always greener on the other side”.

Personal Analysis:

I don’t know if drums actually sound better at a distance, because it might sound very loud and messy. In a rhetorical sense, I can see that something that’s loud and entertaining might seem good from far away. It might mean that the small details of the drum is not that pleasing to the ear, or maybe the drums from up close is too loud that it’s not that great. The American version of grass makes me think of the american dream and having a nicely mowed green lawn. I think that cultural differences make one more relevant to another area. I grew up in the States and don’t really know if the sound of a drum is as meaningful in a proverb.