‘I missed saying bhenchod to people who understood it. It does not mean ‘sister fucker’. That is too literal, too crude. It is, rather, punctuation, or emphasis, as innocuous a word as ‘shit’ or ‘damn’. The different countries of India can be identified by the way each pronounces this word – from the Punjabi bhaenchod to the thin Bambaiyya pinchod to the Gujarati bhenchow to the Bhopali elaboration bhen-ka-lowda. Parsis use it all the time, grandmothers, five-year-olds, casually and without discernable purpose except as filler: ‘Here, bhenchod, get me a glass of water.’ ‘Arre, bhenchod, I went to the bhenchod bank today.’ As a boy, I would try consciously not to swear all day on the day of my birthday. I would take vows with the Jain kids: We will not use the B-word or the M-word.

In my first New York winter, wearing a foam jacket my parents had bought in Bombay which actually dispersed my body heat out to the atmosphere instead of preserving it, and sucking in the freezing winds during my mile-long walk to school and drawing them to my body, I found I could generate warmth by screaming out this word. Walking into the wind and snowdrifts, my head down, I would roar, ‘Bhenchod! Bheyyyyyn-chod!’ The walk to school led through quiet Queens residential streets, and the good Irish, Italian, and Polish senior citizens who happened to be home in the daytime must have heard this word on very cold days, screamed out loudly by a small brown boy dressed inappropriately for the weather.’

From Maximum City
Suketu Mehta


2 thoughts on “bhenchod

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