Category Archives: Speak Indian

Word of the Week

Delhi – The city of the big hearted.

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Dilli or Delhi Haat : An open air food plaza and craft bazaar located in New Delhi, India.

New Delhi is India’s capital city.


Dilwalon ki Dilli

‘It’s a jungle out there and Delhi is one of the scariest!’

Or so they say… but to us Dilliwaalah’s (Delhiites), it is one of the most wonderful cities in the world. We embrace fondly both its beauty and its craziness. And we endlessly reminisce and sing its glory.

We wait patiently in the perennial traffic jams honking our horns every 10 seconds to make certain that someone hasn’t fallen asleep at the wheel. We squeeze through narrow streets and jostle with 100s of other shoppers in Chandni Chowk  (moonlit market) to get to our favorite halwai (sweet seller) or Chaat (savory) shop. We haggle incessantly in the sabzi mandi (vegetable market) over a few rupees and demand free dhaniya (cilantro) and mirchi (hot peppers). Precariously perched, we ride the cycle rickshaws for cheap and then wonder how the poor hauler makes ends meet. We chomp on our golgappas (puffed crisp pooris with tamarind sauce) with devout passion and chat fervently over our aloo (potato) chaats (freshly prepared savories).

We shamelessly flaunt our rich in their comfortable bungalows in the upscale neighborhoods of the south as well as our poor in their slums in the east. We consider ourselves progressive and argue for intellectual freedom yet revert blindly to inane traditions when it comes to the crunch.

But despite all our failings, when it comes to heart, no one has one like us.

The Indian Way- Everyday Etiquette: Bhai Sahib and Behenji

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A street side stall where a vendor sells Soan papdi or Soanpapri which is a popular South Asian sweet with a crisp and flaky texture.


“Kaise diye bhai sahib?” What is the asking price, brother?

“Bees rupiah kilo behenji.” 20 rupees/kilo sister.

A conversation very similar to the above, modified to fit the situation and scripted in various regional languages, can be overheard if one happens to wander inside any store, or pass by a street shop  on any given day in India.

I am not talking about the skyrocketing prices of fresh fruit and vegetables (that’s another topic altogether,) but of the way two strangers address each other.

The housewife who is trying to find the best deal she can as she goes around the market, addresses the vendor as ‘Bhai sahib’ [Bhaee-saab]. Hindi: भाई साहिब  Bhai – Brother, Sahib- term of respect.

She uses this term even though he bears no relationship to her.

Similarly the tradesman or vendor responds with the term ‘Behen ji’ [Bahen-jee] Hindi: बहन जी Behen – Sister, Ji – gender neutral term of respect.

Indians use these terms often during the course of a typical day while doing business with strangers; such as while buying groceries, haggling over the price of fruits and vegetables, dealing with the milkman, or hailing a taxi or an auto rickshaw.

It is a means of establishing a temporary bond or kinship which places the conversation on a congenial and non-confrontational platform.

So on your next trip to India, these two terms should come in very handy.