Tag Archives: Indian proverb

बंदर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद (How can a monkey appreciate the taste of ginger?)


My informant, AS, is a 19-year-old Indian male who grew up in Mumbai, though he has lived in Southern California for the past three years. He now attends UCI. He is fluent in both English and Hindi. This piece was collected during a facetime call, when I asked him to share a typical Hindi proverb with me.


Main Text:

Proverb: बंदर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद 

Phonetic script: bandar kya jaane adrak ka swaad

Transliteration: Monkey what knows ginger(‘s) taste

Translation: How can a monkey appreciate the taste of ginger?


Informant analysis:

“It’s basically used when someone doesn’t appreciate something of quality. For example, if I don’t like the taste of something like caviar, you’d use this proverb.”



This proverb would appear to show that in Indian culture there is a healthy respect for the finer things in life, and a negative attitude towards those who don’t appreciate quality goods or work. It’s interesting because I can’t think of a direct English equivalent, beyond possibly “enjoy the finer things in life.” This might point to very different cultural values between Hindi-speakers and English-speakers

Ab pachtaye kya hot, jab chidiya chug gayi khet

Hindi: Ab pachtaye kya hot, jab chidiya chug gayi khet

Translation: Now what do you regret when the bird has devoured the field

What that means is that, why do you want to regret now, when the bird came and it already ate all of the seeds of your farm. It means why do you want to regret something that has already happened. Basically don’t regret what’s in the past and you should always concentrate on the present and the future, because regret doesn’t make our future life happier or more successful. I think this saying talks about seeds and stuff because India was a primarily agricultural economy and saying in India are related to the rural life.

What type of situations would you use that?

Like whenever people are bitching about other people, or saying a past situation was not nice or whatever. 

Thoughts: I think this is a great proverb for happiness. It shows that the past is done, and the only thing we have control over is the now. It is Hindi equivalent of the saying “no use in crying over spilled milk.”

Ah, Yes, Procrastination is, in Fact, Bad: A Proverb

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘P’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 48-year-old Punjabi woman, born and raised in North India.

P: So, we say, ‘kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. Pal mein pralay hoyega, bahuri karega kab?’ (If you can do it tomorrow, do it today; if you can do it today, do it now. Disaster can strike at any moment, when will you do it then?), now, this is a Kabir doha. Now, this basically… what it means is, he’s talking about the meaning of time in a person’s life, and how it is about… if there’s anything you need to do, you should do it that very day. In fact, not only that particular day, if you’re doing it that day, you might as well do it right away. Because, you never know — ‘pal mein pralay hoyega’ (Disaster can strike momentarily), what happens if tragedy strikes? Then, all your unfinished work is something that remains unfinished. So the meaning of time is what he talks about, in a person’s life, and the importance of doing things as soon as you can. 

I: Do you have a hypothetical situation in which you would use this?

P: It’s pretty self-explanatory, right, like… if someone is procrastinating too much, or not managing their time well in their workplace, a colleague or a junior. You can tell them this then, and they would understand. 

Original Script: काल करे सो आज कर, आज करे सो अब। पल में प्रलय होएगी, बहुरि करेगा कब ॥

Romanisation: Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. Pal mein pralay hoyega, bahuri karega kab?

Word for word: Tomorrow do then do it today, today do it now. In a moment disaster happens, again when will you do it?

Translation: If you can do it tomorrow, do it today; if you can do it today, do it now. Disaster can strike at any moment, when will you do it then? 

Comparable Proverbs in English: Tomorrow never comes, Time flies, Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.


This proverb is one that is used very commonly in India, one that rhymes and is known by pretty much everyone who grows up speaking Hindi in their family: it is sort of a paremiological minimum for Indians, believed to have been said by, as the informant stated, Kabir, an Indian poet and saint in the fifteenth century, establishing a terminus post quem for this proverb. Time, even though it is something humans gave a weight of meaning to, has always put pressure upon us, to manage it correctly and therefore earn some form of prosperity or success. Procrastination is frowned upon in every modern sphere, especially considering the influence of capitalism on productivity as a concept, but this pronoun is veritably old, from fifteenth-century India, showing that this isn’t an idea that originated with capitalism or modern ideas of productivity. A similar sentiment is echoed in an English proverb, prominent in the United States: never put off until tomorrow what you can do today [For this version, see: Predelli, Stefano. “Never Put off until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today.” Analysis, vol. 56, no. 2, 1996, pp. 85–91. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3328163.]. Both these sayings talk about time and its fleeting nature, specifically with an emphasis on the idea of the ‘tomorrow’ that never comes (another proverb, tomorrow never comes), and the ‘today’ that is fleeting and must be utilized correctly and productively.

Proverb – Come and hit me bull

Context & Background:

An example of a proverb similar to ‘asking for it’. Translated from Hindi to English.  Informant – collector’s father.  

Performance: (in person)

Proverb: “Aa Bail Mujhe Maar”


Aa: come

Bail: bull

Mujhe: me 

Maar: hit

Translation: Come bull, hit me.   

Explanation: When someone tells you this proverb it means that you’re asking for it. It’s like a person is walking around in a red cape, asking the bull to get agitated and hit them.       


Yet another example of calling someone out for making a mistake. This one is easier to understand because the translation makes sense in English and in Hindi. This is more frequently used than others because of how easily it slides off the tip of the tongue. When you don’t complete the chores that mom gave you and she comes and scolds you later, you can say that you were asking for it or, “Aa Bail Mujhe Maar”. But this would not be a good instance to use this proverb, because you are comparing your mom to a bull, and unless you want more yelling, you should use a different proverb. 

Indian Proverb – “After the Ramayana is over, she’s asking who is Ram and who is Sita.”

Main Piece

Informant: “Another saying translates to “after the whole Ramayana is over, she’s asking who is Ram and who is Sita.” The Ramayana is a super famous story in Indian culture and history, and is also very long. Ram is the main prince character, and he is also a god reincarnated, and Sita is his wife. So basically you are saying you just heard this long story and now you’re asking who the main characters are.


My informant is a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles, California. She is of Indian descent, and her knowledge of Indian folklore comes from her father. 


Informant: “It’s used in situations where someone asks a really obvious question after hearing the whole story, which they would have known if they were paying attention.”

My Thoughts

I have studied the Ramayana before. I know how intricate and complex the stories are, and I am familiar with how long they can be. Having researched and learned about the Ramayana, this proverb was something that I can understand and laugh at, which is why I enjoyed this proverb. 

I have heard variations of this proverb before in English. But clearly, the English version does not reference the Ramayana. This shows that a proverb can be translated into more than one culture. In other words, proverbs can be cross-culturally valid. But during the translation process, certain key elements are changed to make it more culturally relevant and accurate. In this case, the Ramayana would be substituted for another work. In the English version, I have heard Harry Potter used instead of the Ramayana.