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Posted at: May 11, 2019, 1:44 AM; last updated: May 11, 2019, 1:44 AM (IST)GIRLS@GUPSHUP

Aur batao on auto disconnect

Aur batao on auto disconnect
Illustration: Sandeep Joshi

Aradhika Sharma

Dear Diary Didi,

Why do people keep saying ‘aur batao’ during phone conversations? It puts so much pressure on you to give an interesting reply. No matter how smart you are, there’s no way you can respond intelligently to ‘aur batao’. I, for one, sink into a zombie-like catatonic state, struggling to think of an intelligent answer that will adequately satisfy their query. Reminds me of the way I used to feel during my science class in school when the teacher would call me to the blackboard to balance an equation or question me about the speed of light in space. Considering it was she who marked my papers, I knew that she singled me out only to embarrass me. Humph!

Even after being asked ‘aur batao’ at least a million times, I’m still clueless about how to answer the query/greeting correctly. Which answer would be fascinating enough to satisfy the questioner? Does she/he want to know my views on politics? Is he soliciting a comment on the western disturbances? My favourite chat show? My speculation about who will win SaReGaMaPa Li’l Champs? My plans for Mother’s Day? My maid woes?

The other day my cousin called and lobbed the ubiquitous ‘aur batao’ at me. I decided to teach him a lesson and proceeded to give him an account of every minute of my activities during the weekend. I included the most mundane, boring details and finished my 20-minute long litany with a description of the moong ki dal and lauki that I had for Sunday dinner. I was met by complete silence at the end of the speech. Thinking that we’d been disconnected, I gingerly asked: “Hello, Gagan. Are you there?” His response was: “Yes, yes, I’m here… aur batao, what’s new?”

Sometimes, people try to get their ‘aur batao’ into the conversation before anyone else does so that the monkey is off their back. The timing of the phrase is crucial. Like the duelists in the medieval times or the cowboys at gunfights in the Wild West, the combatant who is the first to the draw is the winner. ‘Aur batao’ reminds me of a grenade. You bite the pin off and throw into the other’s arena. Let it explode in their akhara before it gets chucked into your territory!

Incidentally, almost every language contains this irritating conversational gimmick. Punjabis say ‘hor dasso’ and the English equivalent is “What’s new?” I’m convinced that everyone feels a little nonplussed when faced with this googly of a query. Waise, I’ve discovered a smart rejoinder. Whenever anyone says ‘aur batao’. I say: “Oh! Same old, same old! Aap batao”. Thus, putting the asker in the unenviable position of desperately searching for a bright answer. Ironically however, although I might have won the non-versation battle, but I’ve lost the conversation as both of us squirm and writhe, searching for means to take the tête-à-tête forward.

Seriously, I think the call should auto-disconnect after the third ‘aur batao’!

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