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Home / Blog / Stories behind Sayings: Camel (f)or Cat?

Stories behind Sayings: Camel (f)or Cat?

by Rajat Kumar 27 November 2021 3 min Read

Stories behind Sayings: Camel (f)or Cat?

Sayings are where the constraints of grammar fall flat. Sayings are where the limits of our language are pushed. Sayings are where everyday speakers insert their ‘Private Meanings’, (hello, Wittgenstein lovers).

Sayings have stories. 

For how else did they come to be used like we know them now?

And, this blog series is just a telltale of such fascinating folklores! 

For today, let’s take the Kahawat “Uunt ke Gale mein Billi”. 

For the uninitiated, it means a compulsion, a bound, and (figuratively) a dilemma.

Now, how did we arrive at these meanings? Read on.

Long time back, in a rural setting, a farmer had a really headstrong camel that was rash, rampant, and reckless. It was so bad that it even forced heavy losses on him. It bugged him to such an extent that the farmer resorted to selling and getting rid of him for once and for all.

gar qais ki vahshat kaa kuchh uunT asar letaa
laila ko gira deta aur bhaag khaDa hota
Zareef Lakhnavi

But not a buyer in the village nodded into buying this burden of a beast. 

Oddly, once when a seller agreed to buy it, the animal ran away from him!

uu.nT jane kidhar nikal bhaga
jalte sahra men ham ko Thahra kar
Adil Mansuri

Soon our protagonist, the farmer, had to track it and was forced to return the trifling sum he got for it and retain his camel.

Troubled to the nth degree, he resolved to auction it at the NaKHKHaas - a cattle ManDi. 

When the farmer’s wife found this bit out, she was was having nothing of it and blurted out, “Bahut Khoob, ek din biwi-bachho.n ko bhi bech aaiyega!”

Unruffled at her wife’s advanced sarcasm, the farmer yanked the camel to the NaKHKHaas, but with a little touch up. He tied to his neck a loose lasso with a cat at the end of it!

banai jo bhi tarz us ne vo fan ki jaan hoti thi
ki us me uu.nT ki gardan se lambi taan hoti thi
Qateel Shifai

Onlookers, bystanders, and passerbys, whoever saw the strange Camel-Cat Combo was left startled.

And then the farmer called for bids:

Un.nT das rupay mein, billi sau mein

Jis pe paisa saath hai, donon ka sauda saath hai

People started flocking the scene, everyone from potential buyers to nobodys, piqued an interest in the deal. Although there was an opening hesitancy about this Catch-22 pricing - the camel being marked at ₹10 and the cat at ₹100 - the buyers’ instinct soon kicked in and business picked up.

The bids kept increasing with more buyers entering the equation, and quickly there was no one who could come up with an intelligent guess about how much the camel would go for!

koi pahlu nazar nahi ata
dekhiye baithe uu.nT kis karvat
Pandit Jawahar Nath Saqi

Sparing you of more details, the animal-duo went for about ₹370! Which was a big deal back then.

As the farmer returned, he handed over the camel’s ₹10 to her wife, which she discarded with disdain. Next, he gave her the remaining ₹360. Now, she was caught in a fix, whether to throw these away as well or not.

I am sure you’re smart enough to guess what happened afterwards. It’s certainly not a “Uunt ke Gale mein Billi” moment, or is it?

us kaa teDhaa uu.nT na dekh
apnaa ullu siidha kar
Mohammad Alvi

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