This lead photograph symbolizes the tongue-in-cheek theme of the associated article, that is, ‘lyadh’, a uniquely Bengali word that is possibly best and yet imperfectly translated as ‘sloth’. The photograph shows someone’s bed that has not been made after a night’s sleep and is in complete disarray, the handiwork of someone revelling in sloth. The bed is piled on with a blanket, two pillows, a discarded vest, used hand towel, open book, empty tea cup, and a piece of scribbled-on paper and pen – all lying in a scattered heap. A couple of cushions and a part of the bed railing also can be seen in the background. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Vartanama, Jan '19
What better way to avoid a tedious editorial than to write about lyadh?

‘Procrastination’ doesn’t even begin to explain this quintessential Bangali expression – lyadh! Neither does ‘laziness’, though ‘sloth’ might come close to it. Personally, ever since I became familiar with this term, it has always triggered visions of a thick, sticky and glacial liquid slowly swirling in a large iron bucket without any real purpose. Completely arbit perhaps, but may make sense to people who have a compulsive visual memory for names, places, animals and things. Or because like so many things Bangali, lyadh is also meant to be eaten!

Thankfully there have been no smell related associations with this viscous visual so far (or should it be vicious, or is it visceral . . . but who cares). There can be stinky varieties of lyadh though. Imagine yourself on a winter Sunday morning, lolling in bed till 11.45 am with a half-digested, rich Saturday night dinner and booze in the belly, sweat from the dance party still lingering on, and the blanket pulled up close. Only a brave soul would dare yank off the blanket to wake you up, or for that matter light a matchstick in the vicinity.

Talking to a queer friend also led to the thought of a typically gay lyadh (pardon the generalization but it’s too cold outside and it’s the easier thing to do). Think of those occasions where your ‘highly active’ gay partner lies on his back like royal waste, and watches with such privileged pleasure all the hard work that you end up doing (thank god for those extra crunches and lunges). What do you think will happen if you claim the label of the actual ‘active partner’? Very likely that you’ll have a ‘highly reactive’ and insecure species of the male on hand, a de facto ‘bottom’ breaking really bad!

This photograph is the same as the lead photograph; the only difference being that it has been flipped over – a mirror image of the lead photograph. The accompanying caption says “Believe me, it was hard work flipping this photograph!” The photo credit line says “Photo (dis)credit: Pawan Dhall”.

Believe me, it was hard work flipping this photograph! Photo (dis)credit: Pawan Dhall

Then there’s also the intellectual lyadh in the sphere of activism, a Kolkata must-have along with polluted air, mishti doi and rosogollas. The best example that comes to mind is those congregations of activists in crass commercial delis dissecting 50 shades of capitalism over horrendous Americano, and enough cigarette smoke to cause an ozone hole right over Ballygunge, Jadavpur or Jodhpur Park, areas in the city particularly prone to suchlike lyadh.

Now that I mention rosogollas, the recent dispute between Bengal and Odisha on the origin of this sweetmeat jumps, rather crawls to mind. If I recollect correctly the story I read during my first job in a newspaper in Kolkata, the rosogolla is actually an ‘accidental prime minister’ of Bangali desserts. This famous confectioner happened to drop a blob of chhena meant for crafting a sandesh into a cauldron of boiling syrup and hey presto – the blob swelled up with Sonar Bangla or rainbow pride into a drippy golla like none since zero was invented. Now if this isn’t techno lyadh, then what is? And if it’s lyadh, it has to be from Bengal, no? Hello, is there a geographical indication claim for lyadh yet?

I have to wind up now. I too want my share of lyadh! Why else do you think I wrote this piece when there are so many work phone calls to be avoided, numerous inhuman legislations to be protested and an entire government to be voted out? And you didn’t really think I’d give you more pleasure for free, did you? Get a life and try some self-help!

Main photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Author Photo

Pawan Dhall

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

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