KATHMANDU, May 28: There exists a secret language in the long school corridors and on big school grounds. Most of us have surely stumbled upon it, or even speak it.
If you spoke the language, you’ll remember those moments in school when you swept into the classroom with your friends, discussing secrets without the fear of anyone else intruding in your private “friends only” space. You would talk, smile, and giggle, without a care in the world.
There are no dates or explanations relating to the language’s origin. While it is commonly known as “P Language” (P for “Palsi,” whatever that may mean, again!) in Darjeeling and other hill stations in its vicinities, there exist many other alternatives in Nepal, too.
You have ‘cha,’ ‘ta,’ ‘chha,’ ‘ma,’ and even a strange sounding ‘e’ to choose from. A school will mostly have a predominant letter or language while the other letters will be used by a few others.
With the various options to choose from, it ultimately boils down to choosing one that’s most popular amongst your peers. After all, you learn it with the sole intention of communicating with them.
Srijana Subba, 23, a student of Bachelor’s in Business Studies, says. “I use the ‘cha’ language and I think it is the easiest of all. Some of my friends use ‘e’ instead of ‘cha’ which I find very peculiar sounding.
At times, they speak with me in that language and then suddenly remember that I don’t speak it. However, I can tell what they are talking about.”
So how does one speak it? The most common way people use it is by including the particular letter in front of every syllable in a word.
For example, if you want to say,” Ma ghar jadaichu (I’m going home), what you do is use the letter in this way- cha-ma cha-ghar cha-ja cha-dai cha-chu. Quite simple. Since it is not very difficult, one just needs practice to be able to converse fluently.
The novelty of having your private language to talk with amongst your friends and siblings is what spurs on most people. And of course, puzzling people adds to the fun.
Grishma Maharjan, 16, a grade 11 student of GN College, says,” I learnt it from my cousin when I was in the sixth grade. It was ‘cool’ and it would make sharing secrets easier without being (easily) caught. Until recently, I used it to communicate exclusively with my cousins. But when I discovered that even a couple of my friends know the language, it has become more fun. People often look very perplexed when they hear us speaking, and I love watching their expressions.”
And while schooldays are always the time people first learn the language, don’t think that it is left behind the school gates. Some still find it very useful even after many years of saying goodbye to school.
“I was still in school when I first came to know about the “ta” language. I decided to learn it because I thought it was fun to have your own code language. It is handy when you have to say something ‘secret’ in front of everyone,” recalls Poonam Maharjan, 24, a post-graduate student from TU.
She has now been using it for the past 10 years. "Etif mitai bitrother fitainds etout ditat etai sitaired ditis litanguage witith etiu etal, hiti etis gitanna kitil miti”. Now this is her way of saying
“If my brother finds out that I shared this language with you all, he is gonna kill me." I’m sure it would be quite mind boggling to hear something like this.The language makes it convenient to talk about private matters publicly. Sharing opinions without offending anyone is also easier if you happen to know it.
Most people use Nepali while speaking in their code language. Though we shouldn’t rule out English, Nepali is just more common and many say is easier to speak in.
And who thinks the language is just for girls? Boys also acknowledge the usefulness of this language.
As Poonam adds, “I was in the music group of my school along with my younger brother, Suman, and his classmates. I would often hear them converse in this rather strange language whenever they wanted to share something they wanted to laugh about, and it took me quite an effort to convince my brother to teach me.”
Kalyan Shrestha, 21, an undergrad student of Kathmandu Don Bosco College, says. “I was in either grade nine or ten when I learnt it.
My friends spoke in this strange lingo and I thought it would be cool to be able to decode it just for fun. Initially, I wanted to learn it because my friends were speaking it and I desperately wanted to know what they were talking about.
Later, I thought it would be cool to puzzle other people. My friends were very secretive about it so I must say I learnt it by listening to them talk. Slowly, when I guessed a few words correctly, one of my friends was compelled to teach it to me. But I rarely use it these days and only with a select few of my friends.
People get puzzled and it feels great. It’s like you’re speaking some ‘alien’ language which people are breaking their heads to understand, like some top secret FBI code.”
Do you speak the language? Then you must remember how much fun it brought you and your friends during your schooldays.
All those talks in between classes, the lunch hour gossips, and sometimes even the telephone conversations in front of your bewildered parents might now only be fond memories.
So the next time you call up your friend or talk to your sibling, just break into your own Da Vinci argot and see the conversation taking a new turn.