Cultural misunderstandings…

It now transpires that Harbhajan Singh said, in his native Hindi/Punjabi, “abey teri maan ki ”.

At least, that’s what he and his team are saying.

And, as reader 10YearsLate says in the comments section of this Blogsite, for the uninitiated and the linguistically unaware, the Hindi/Punjabi swear phrase above roughly translates to: “ Hey, your mother’s …”.

“maan ki” is commonly (and unfortunately) heard in India — particularly North India — and sounds like “monkey”. Symmonds, no doubt, drew the monkey conclusion.

Well, that’s the case of the Indians anyway!

As 10YearsLate says, “Given that demeaning references to mothers, sisters and wives are kosher in the Australian sledging lexicon, this may be considered legit.”

I think it is worse than that.

[Tongue-in-cheek mode ON]

I actually think that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to get closer to the Australians! His pre-tour cultural-briefings may have told him that there are three sure-fire ways to achieve this objective:
(a) tap someone’s bottom — a sure sign of mateship,
(b) say something nasty about someone’s mother or sister — only mates have sledge-rights on mothers and sisters,
(c) wait for the post-day drink-frenzy to make friends over glasses of beer.

Such sharing of beer and war-stories, visiting teams are told, are to be compulsorily had after the “what’s said on the field is left on the field” type “hard but fair” Australian way of playing!

He was a bit tired of all the beer that had been consumed in the tour up until then. Every word that was said up until then on the field had been drowned with these glasses of beer that just had to be consumed as war-stories were exchanged. Moreover, the drunken haze left him with not much money, a lot of friends — that he actually did not want — and not much memory of what was actually said the previous day! It was working well, in one sense, but for someone with not that much money and for someone not used to consuming as much beer as he was now forced to consume, it was all getting a bit too much!

So, he wanted to try another tack… He was batting well at this stage and had pulled his team out of trouble. He was willing to risk option (a) of patting someone’s backside. After surveying the field, his eyes focussed on Brett Lee’s well-appointed hind!

Rather than wait for the post-match drink-frenzy, he proceeded to tap Brett Lee on the bowlers’ well-appointed bottom. He may have chosen the right bottom to pat, but did not realise that Andrew Symonds had his eyes on that piece of real estate!

When Andrew Symonds saw this, he saw red! He proceeded to claim exclusive, perpetual and royalty-free rights for performing said task on Brett Lee’s bottom! He threw a sledge in Harbhajan Singh’s direction. Quite miffed at being reprimanded for his bum-tap and quite annoyed at having to now wait for the post-day what’s-said-on-the-field-is-left-on-the-field-drink-frenzy to make friends with this hard-but-fair bunch of muscular Australians, he proceeded to hurl the words “abey tere maan ki …” towards Andrew Symonds.

His pre-tour cultural briefings may have told him that if a bottom-pat didn’t work, an abuse would. After all, play “hard but fair” is the national way of playing!

So, it is likely that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to start proceedings early in an anxious bid to not wait for the post-day “what’s said on the field is left on the field” drunken stupor!

Unfortunately, Andrew Symonds heard “maan ki” as “monkey” and, the rest, as we say is history.

It was Harbhajan Singh’s fault. He should have chosen Brad Hogg’s bum to pat. I doubt anyone in the Australian team would have been as protective of his backside real estate as they would be of Brett Lee’s.

[Tongue-in-cheek mode OFF]

Meanwhile, it also transpires that the two teams exchanged lists of offensive words prior to the series. And “bast**d” did not make the cut! So, Australia’s case will be that, it was perfectly kosher for Brad Hogg to utter that word in any statement flung in the direction of the Indians!

Section 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct says:

Players and teams are barred from Using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, gender, colour, descent, or national or ethic origin.

The Indians will argue that the term “bast**d” is insulting because “it questions a person’s descent and is highly sensitive in the Indian cultural context”. Hence, they will argue that 3.3 is an appropriate level of offence to slap on Brad Hogg. This may not wash with the Australians. Read this, for example! Moreover, the Australians will say, if it was as big as the Indians are now making it out to be, it ought to have been on the pre-tour banned-words-list!

There is only one way out of all of this.

“The teams should tear up that catch agreement and should plonk the entire Oxford English dictionary, Cappeller’s Digital Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Websters Online Hindi Dictionary, etc into such pre-tour off-limits words-lists!”

That way, nothing will be said out there and the umpire will make alll calls on catches!

— Mohan

14 responses to “Cultural misunderstandings…

  1. very well written article Mohan

    I read somewhere that Symo said very bad lesbian words to Harbhajan for patting LEe’s rear. Would be good if Indians take it up as well.

    Its amazing to see Lee’s silence in all this.

  2. Oh get over it. OK, we’ll except your lame excuses for Harbhajan (one of the worst behaved players in modern cricket) and let him play. Throw out the suspension, who cares. Your Chinese water torture method has worked, we’ve had enough of your complaining and self-justification. Give it a bone mate, Cheers.

  3. Sorry, we’ll “accept…”

  4. Funny article mate, well done. Nice to see someone putting forward something other than the usual rabid, hatred inciting rubbish that I have read elsewhere, which I, as an Aussie find insulting. Not insulting to me mind you, but insulting to Indian cricket fans who deserve better.

  5. In India, the equivalent words for mother F is freely used in every language , in every state. Furthe, having been brought up in Tamil Nadu and Bangalore, toher commonly used obscene words are son of a bitch, go and F your mother, son of a thieving psistitute , son of a mother F etc

    So, there is no point or justification on talking about what Aussies say to their mates.

    Why did Bhaji say something in Punjabi to a non -Punjabi? He has had enough exposure to so many non-Punjabi speaking countries–including–probably PAID–interview and tour of his house in ENGLISH, fluent one in that.

    I think that a highly paid Professor in Law and liguistic study has cleverly found a way out for the Sardar—incidentally, why didn’t use the word Sxxx that is commonly used in the North in relation to one’s sister and did he erupt at MIDDAY!!!!
    If someone asks as to , if Bhaji informed M Procter re Maan-Ki, I bet the defence will be,’ I was ONLY asked re MONKEY and if I brought up the issue of Maan-Ki, I will be INCRIMINATING myself!!!”

    As I have said in the past, ALL cricketers are arseholes and some are worse than others and at tribunal and pennant committee hearing, NONE of the players heard or saw anything remotely resembling what the Umpires say!!! Because, they know the repercussions on the field, next time the two teams meet!!!

  6. Mark from Sydney

    Mohan, I think the Indian team management are denying this rumour.

  7. May be they started the rumour, so that they can deny it later!!

  8. shut up raydixon
    if the truth is hard to bear, you guys go running to momma.

  9. Mark from Sydney

    Sriranga, what’s her address? I don’t want to get lost!

    You have been sledged.

  10. Mark from Sydney

    India’s version of the Sydney saga
    Mihir Bose – BBC sports editor 10 Jan 08, 07:35 PM Indian sources insist Harbhajan Singh did not use the word ‘monkey’ during the episode at the Sydney Test that provoked the recent cricket crisis between Australia and India.

    But they have admitted to me he abused Andrew Symonds with a highly offensive remark about his mother. Which is clearly wrong.

    They, however, also now claim that he was speaking in Hindi and that the three Australians who heard him – Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke – misinterpreted the words as ‘big monkey’.

    While his mother tongue is Punjabi, Harbhajan is also equally fluent in Hindi. And though I should not repeat the words he used, I am told there was a reference to Symonds’ mother, with Harbhajan using a Hindi phrase that could have been mis-heard as him saying “big monkey” in English.

    Yet crucially, at the hearing held after the match, while denying he used the word ‘monkey’, Harbhajan admitted there was general abuse between him and Symonds, but did not clarify what he did actually say, nor that it was not in English.

    Indian officials now plan to make those facts clear when a New Zealand judge hears their appeal on behalf of the International Cricket Council.

    But as one source at the first hearing told me, “had the Indians made it clear that Harbhajan had not spoken in English, then match referee Mike Procter would have had to acquit him on the grounds it was a misunderstanding.”

    Why Harbhajan did not make this clear to Procter is not obvious, but may in part be down to the curious way the hearing was held.

    As we know, the hearing went on for four and a half hours late into last Sunday night and saw Procter ultimately conclude that Harbhajan had racially abused Symonds and ban him for three Tests.

    But there is no transcript.

    In fact, the only written reports of the hearing are the notes of Nigel Peters, a QC and MCC committee member, who has since returned to England where he is currently engaged in tutoring judges.

    His involvement with the hearing was somewhat coincidental. He happened to be in Sydney on holiday to watch the Test, and was roped in fairly late in the day by ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed.

    The Indians also seemingly did not take the hearing seriously. They went in without a lawyer and left their advocacy to manager Chetan Chauhan. Although Chauhan has been a politician, he is hardly trained to do the sort of legal work a hearing like this requires. At one stage during the hearing, Chauhan apparently had to be advised by the ICC’s legal representative that he should not make statements but actually ask questions of the Australians if he wanted to advance his case.

    One source at the hearing told me: “If the Indians had a lawyer they would have made mashed potatoes of the hearing.”

    Instead they appeared to rely heavily on the fact that Sachin Tendulkar was going into bat for Harbhajan. Tendulkar has a god-like status in India and his integrity is beyond reproach and he told the hearing he did not hear Harbhajan use the word ‘monkey’.

    But as far as Procter was concerned, this was not as convincing as the Australian testimony, because Tendulkar was at the other end of the wicket when Symonds and Harbhajan exchanged words. And he only joined in after Harbhajan had gestured to him to come to his rescue.

    Umpire Steve Bucknor, who filed the report on the incident after receiving the complaint from Ricky Ponting, also did not hear what Harbhajan said. He heard Symonds’ initial words, prompted by Harbhajan patting Brett Lee’s back with his bat. But taking it to be jokey banter, Bucknor kept on walking to square-leg.

    In weighing up the evidence he did have in front of him, Procter also however took into account that there was ‘previous’ between Harbhajan and Symonds, during last autumn’s Australian tour of India when monkey chants were directed at Symonds by the Indian crowd.

    And the Australians, in their submission, while admitting they are the so-called kings of sledging, argued the use of the word ‘monkey’ raised it to a new and unacceptable level. They also referred to the fact that monkey chants have in the past been used by English football crowds against black players.

    Chauhan tried to counter by saying the word ‘monkey’ is held by many Indians to refer to a god, and it is not considered offensive in India in the same way it would be in the West.

    But all that cut little ice with Procter.

    And the detail of this whole affair shows just why Harbhajan and the Indians have plenty of lessons to learn.

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  13. This is why I read Great post.

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