Tag Archives: Indian proverb

Not Everything Is About You

Context: AH is a 26 year old from Karnataka, India. He is a graduate, international student studying environmental engineering. He is also a really good friend of mine. I asked him to tell me some folklore while we had lunch one day. 

AH: Back home we say “kumbalakai kalla andre, hegalu mutti nodikonda”

Translation: “When we said the pumpkin is stolen, he checked his shoulder”

YM: what do you mean ? 

AH: Well there’s the saying “When somebody shouted Pumpkin Thief, the person who heard it, touched his shoulders to check if that person was referring to him!’

AH: This idiom is used for “People who are usually in the habit of assuming that everything said or done is referring to HIM/HER only!!”.. These people just assume everything is pointing towards them even though the person did not mean or refer anything to them. These kinds of people make a ‘Hue and Cry’ over nothing, build a mountain out of ant-hill and thus make fools of themselves 

AH: it’s a common proverb used

YM: that is interesting, and why a pumpkin ? 

AH: It’s just a story.. They wanted something heavy a person would carry.. So a pumpkin was used. The story is from simpler times, ruled by kings. When these petty thefts were common.. If it was something lighter, he wouldn’t have to carry it on the shoulder

AH: So, the proverb to make sense they just added pumpkin as a logical assumption

YM: that makes sense, what are your thoughts on it ? 

AH: I think it’s a good proverb to point out those people that need to get their act together… I also think it’s used to point out the guilty conscience in a person. As in, he touched his shoulder because he stole it…

AH: In our generation generally will use it to mock someone, it’s like saying “GOTCHA”, when you find your friend is guilty of something, and is not disclosing it

Background info: AH heard this from his parents growing up and would use it with family and friends. 

Analysis:  I agree with the interpretations AH gave about the proverb. I don’t think the proverb is necessarily about giving advice but rather about pointing something out or calling someone out. It is more of an indirect way to expose someone for something they have done. In this case it seems to be a metaphorical phrase.  Personally, I haven’t heard of any proverbs that are similar to this one in the common everyday language. However, there is a quote by Plato that similarly touches the concept, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” 

Gujarati Proverb Common Around Diwali

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: मिच्छामि दुक्कडम्

Transliteration: micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ

Translation: “May all the evil that has been done be fruitless” or “If I have offended you in way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed, then I seek your forgiveness”.

Piece Background Information:

One specific thing that’s very interesting- whenever we meet someone on our new year’s day, we say micchāmi dukkaḍaṃ”. It basically means, “forgive me for anything I’ve done wrong over the past year and I want to start over on a clean slate with you”. Our new year, I think, comes right after Diwali- this big festival of lights. So it (the new year) is the day after that because the whole thing about Diwali is that it’s the conquering of good over evil, based on an ancient story.

So the ancient story is about this lord, he was called Lord Rama. He was a king who was in exile and his wife Sita was taken away by this evil king named Ravanna. So he crossed what is now called the region, the sea crossing between India, the south tip of India, and the current Sri Lanka to go and get his wife back. And they had like a fourteen day war where they basically, the two sides were fighting, and it ended with Rama putting an arrow through Ravana’s chest to kill him. The festival of lights celebrates his return after exile, back to the capital city.

Basically, we are asking for forgiveness from the other person and we want to start the new year off with a clean slate.


Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in Ronald Tutor Campus Center on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Through setting off fireworks, lanterns, and the like during Diwali, partakers in this tradition are recalling the celebrations that were believed to have taken place upon Rama and Sita’s return to their kingdom in northern India, after having been exiled and defeating King Ravanna. In this sense, Diwali can be seen as homeopathic magic as it is performed in order to bring about new beginnings/ wipe the slate clean through recalling the similar instance in which the slate was wiped clean for the once exiled Lord Rama. It also follows the Earth cycle as the celebration’s dates are dependent upon the Hindu lunar calendar.

For more information on Diwali, see Sims, Alexandra. “What is Diwali? When is the festival of lights?” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/diwali-what-is-the-festival-of-lights-and-when-is-it-celebrated-a6720796.html>.

Indian Proverb

ಆರೊಗ್ಯವೇ ಭಾಗ್ಯ

Aarogyave Bhaagya

Health is Wealth

Meaning: Being healthy is much more important than material wealth in one’s life and must never be neglected. 

I had met the informant though my dental honor society on campus, and after getting to know her I asked if she was familiar with any Indian proverbs or legends to help me out with her folklore project. Her parents were both born in Bombay and when they moved to the United States in the 1980’s, her grandparents moved along with them. Several years ago, her grandfather unfortunately died of cancer and she always remembered her grandmother saying the proverb above, explaining that without your health you really have nothing in your life because none of the other material objects matter.

I asked the informant if she knew the Sandskrit translation of the proverb, but her parents never taught her how to write in it. She asked her dad if he could send a Sandskrit translation of the proverb, which is listed above. I asked her more about the proverb, and she explained that its a very common one used in India and that most are familiar with it, having learned it from relatives or from others in the community. I liked hearing this proverb because my mom has always told me whenever I’m down that “at least I have my health.” Being healthy really is one of the most important blessings in life, and its reassuring to know that other people across the world value family and health over material objects.