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Home / Blog / The Strange Connection between Dastak and Baalak

The Strange Connection between Dastak and Baalak

by Rajat Kumar 12 November 2021 3 min Read

The Strange Connection between Dastak and Baalak

Few days ago, while stumbling upon three little girls playing, one of them addressed the other two as, ‘Ye ChhoTii hai, aur wo ChhuTkii.’

No sooner did I hear how effortlessly the girl inflected the two words than I instantly saw myself transported to my lingo-hunting mode!

What happened after it? Just read on.

To begin, let’s make sense of the two words above in the title.

Baalak & Dastak - What makes the two words alike? The ‘Ak’ that you see is suffixed at the end of the two words. What does it mean?

The little ‘Ak’, actually means Little! Baalak (Baal + Ak), thus, means a little Boy or ChhoTa Bachha.

Similarly, Dastak (Dast + Ak), although it means a knock at the door, actually is used in Persian for a spindle (remember, Captain Hook) , and quite literally, and perfectly, translates to ‘Short-on-Hand’. Additionally, it also means a pass, one that can be exchanged in “small hands”

shahr me patton ne dastak chheD dii

ai havaa kyaa jangalon ka sin gaya

 Mehdi Jafar

What we learn from the two words is that the ‘Ak’ is suffixed to make a noun or adjective diminutive or small. What’s amazing is that the suffix is common to both Sanskrit and Persian!

Take a look at some more interesting words which follow the suit:

Muush - Rat
Muushak (Common to both languages) - Mouse, i.e. a small rat

KunDak - a little pot
Abrak - a little cloud

There’s yet another fascinating word, used abundantly in Urdu poetry. Here’s a verse by Miir:

Chashmak chali gayi thi sitaaron ki subh tak

Ki asmaan ne dida-daraai tamaam shab

Chashmak, literally a little eye, is a gem of a word! It has a host of meanings ranging from a wink, a moment, a misunderstanding, and most importantly, close to its literal meaning a small eye i.e. a peep-hole, or a magic-eye which is fixed on doors to see through who’s knocking.

But the little ‘Ak’ connotes some other different meanings as well!

It’s used while addressing someone endearingly, and again, is common to both languages.

Take Putrak (Putr+ak) from Sans., which means dear son (Priya Putra), and the same mirrors its Persian counterpart Pisarak (Pisar+Ak), dear child. Another such set is:

Ambika (Fem.) (Sans.) - Little or Dear Mother
Maamak (Fem.) (Pers.) - Little Mother
And, surprise, surprise… from German

MutterChen - Dear Mother; following the same line of logic!

The ‘Ak’ also has overtones of a contemptuous pejorative; to make it easy, our very own colloquial ‘Kahiin Kaa’. As in ‘Paagal Kahin Kaa’.

Take some examples:

Kukkarak (Kukkah + AK) (Sans.) - little dog; as trifling as a dog
Sagak (Sag + Ak) (Pers.) - little dog

Don’t take the ‘Little Dog’ as a cute pup or something, for it unapologetically means “Kutta Kahin Kaa!”

There’s one more detail we’re left to unriddle about ‘Ak’, and that’s its role as a descriptive noun, i.e. like the English suffix ‘-ish’ - Yellowish, Childish, etc.

Ruupak (Sans.)- like the form of, similitude
Pushpak (Sans.) Flower-like; reminiscent of Kuber’s Pushpak Viman?
Kafak (Pers.) - (Lit.) wrist-like; the mark that’s left on the wrist or ankle by wearing a bangle, anklet, or sacred thread.

dekha hai jab se rang-e-kafak tere paa.nv me

aatish ko chhoD gabr hue hai hinaa-parast

Sauda Mohammad Rafi

And that’s the long and short of this ‘little’ suffix. Crazy to think that the young girl, in her lisping tongue, was coming from such a rich lineage of word-order, that too, completely unaware of it! Isn’t that being an Ahl-e-Zabaan all about?

For those who are curious yet, the Maskavas Forštate, a street in Riga, Latvia is known in Russian as Moscowachka, or Little Moscow, and the word Vodka, literally little water, follows the same logic; the ‘Ak’ forcing the issue again!

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