Skip to main content

The importance of being 'Nyaka'

'Nyaka' is a Bengali term which beats translation. It could mean coy, coquettish, scheming, la di da. There is no one word which captures it. The term is used in a pejorative context and has a sarcastic tone to it. Used a bit more for women than for men. Has a feminine context when used for men.

I posed the challenge of translating 'nyaka' into English to fellow Bengalis in Facebook. Here's a sample of the answers that I got.

I have removed the names and kept the statuese as is, hope it's not too difficult to read

Bong man 1

Coy.....but that does capture the essence
14 December at 14:37 ·

Me
No ...not entirely. A colleague just suggested precocious. Maybe its too intrinsic a Bong trait to be translated :)
14 December at 14:50 ·

Bong woman 1

kol-lan, difficult to get a english / hindi word for nyaka.
14 December at 15:11 ·

me
that's the point
14 December at 15:15 ·

Bong woman 2
oh, i think the essence of the word 'nyaka' will be lost in translation. just like getting a bengali word for 'smart'. 'ustaad' is the closest ( as suggested by my bro) but it is a derivative from 'ustaad'. may be that's why we keep hearing bongs saying " bhishon smart";-)
14 December at 15:51 ·

Me
and then there is 'paaka' . Precocious would be somewhat there for paka but not as colloquial
14 December at 15:54 ·

Bong woman 3
affected, spoilt, irritatingly coy, are words/ phrases that sound somewhat close to me for nyaka
14 December at 16:45 ·

Bong woman 3
even pampered, could do somewhat
14 December at 16:45 ·

Bong woman 3
pampered drama queen could also work
14 December at 16:47 ·

me
ok ...the context i am looking at would be similar to 'aar nyakami korona'....say a person created a problem/ dispute and then kept beating his or her chest about it...just to clarify this is an academic discussion to illustrate a point :)
14 December at 16:48 ·

Bong woman 3
ya understood, in that context drama queen, appeals to me
14 December at 16:54 ·

me
i suggested that too...but apparently that was 'too strong'
14 December at 16:57 ·

Bong woman 3

arre it is more to do with how you say it that determines whether it is strong or weak na? so even if you say you little ass to someone who you are affectionate with, it may not come across as a gaali na
14 December at 17:38 ·

me
true a lot is in the inflection... we are a deep race
14 December at 17:39 ·

Bong man 1

I like this conversation
14 December at 17:42 ·

Bong woman 3
in the garb of affection you can get away with a lot....jus kidding..., but obvious that you are enjoying - given you too belong to OUR race that makes conversations as a way of life
14 December at 18:02 ·

me
and if this was a challenge try adikhyeta :)
14 December at 19:35 ·

Bong woman 2

chalak = street smart adikeyta = gluttony nyaka = acting the dumb blond act to get your work done
14 December at 21:16 ·

Bong man 1
Superb!!!!!
14 December at 21:18 ·

Bong woman 2

SM says coquettish.
14 December at 21:23 ·

Bong woman 2

A Csays : It took me a sec to make out the word...than a hearty laugh Nyaka is a word best suited to bongs only ,because I guess we r the only ones who can be like that but in a cultured way....others r more like Shaunda -Gunda types.Nyaka does not have a exact english or hindi connotation .In hindi/english it would incline to something not nice (vulgar), which it is not suppose to be .So just stick to Nyaka in all vernacular lang .
14 December at 21:24 ·

Me
Maybe we shd ask Arnab Goswami to debate at New Hour Bong woman 2, isn't adikhyata a form of nyakami. Taking on from A C can we say that Nyaka is like Mithunda and Bappida... Unique
14 December at 21:44 ·

Bong woman 4

nyaka is not pakka. it is sort of taish bangali mei! which again begs to be translated. nyaka is someone who wears high heels to the pao bhaji stall and says, " bhaiya...yeh vegetables sab bisleri mein dhoya hai na?naka is sharmila tagore in mere sapno ki raani. just watch her expressions.
14 December at 22:05 ·

Bong woman 4

oh. i think sanchita hits the nail on the head. nyaka is the bong version of dumb blonde. brilliant.
14 December at 22:07 ·

me
hmmm
Bong woman 4 ... That would be right up Tiger's street. And I don't mean Danny. Sharmila T or her bahu, Poo wd be a great analogy. But what about when one uses it in a bitter way?
14 December at 22:23 ·

Bong woman 3
Sharmila T's Bahu? Who is that Kol-lan...yup agree Sharmila abso fits the bill....
Bong woman 2, I love the eloquent way you define nyaka, though my version of one is more like Sharmila T, and so obviously not the dumb blonde but a sexy siren with affected mannerisms :-)...Kollan nyaka in a bitter sense reminds me of those wicked shashuris and step ... See Moremothers in Bengali cinema who would give gaalis like nyaaka, delivered in a shrill-pitch, and prefixed by a sarcastic and sing-song hmmmmm, suffixed by mukhpuri type of words :-)
14 December at 23:00 ·

me

Bong woman 3, very good analogy for bitter nyaka. Bahu as in Bebo in K3G
14 December at 23:18 ·

Bong woman 3

Aah ok, Bebo :-).....
14 December at 23:21 ·

Bong woman 5
Coquetish
15 December at 02:03 ·

Bong woman 3
Coquettish, charming and irritating, all can be flavours of nyaka, but all nyakas neednt be all of those, tai noi ki?
15 December at 07:15 ·

me

good one Bong woman 5
15 December at 08:04 ·

Bong woman 2
this could be heading towards a 'nayaka analysis / analogy' summit. but then anything for much food and booze. unfortunately dont have enough bengalis in goa who would want to discuss this through :)
15 December at 08:52 ·

Bong woman 1
Bong woman 4your description of 'nyaka' reminded me of someone who we know.." sookha bhaaji and diet coke ;-))
15 December at 09:37 ·

Bong woman 2
Bong woman 1, we too have this variety available. they order sukhi bhaji poori and then dab a tissue to get rid of the extra oil from the puris :)
15 December at 11:03 ·

me

Diet Pepsi and rum :) I was thinking the same thing Bong woman 2 about the 'summit' must bookmark this for posterity. Wonder why hardly any Bengali men have commented though. Any thoughts?
15 December at 11:38 ·

Come to think of it, Ash, with her 'eesh' in Devdas would be a good example.

bong man 2 (would that make me Bong man 0?)
tahole, jeta daralo, english of nyaka is shormila...right?
15 December at 18:24 ·

12 comments

Popular posts from this blog

Philosophising is fine but action is what matters

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."We were introduced to this quote from Karl Marx by a gentleman named Samit Kar who taught us Marxism in Presidency College. We had a paper on Marxism as a part of our Sociology course designed by the Calcutta University in the mid 1990s. I was not into Marxism, which seemed so anachronistic in the post Berlin Wall fall days, and wasn't too keen on these classes.
However there was no forgetting this line of Marx as Professor Kar would keep repeating it. He was so fond of this line that a friend of mine and I wondered if this is what he told his wife the night he had got married!  I must mention that prof Kar had graciously invited all of us from class to his wedding at a place called Shinghi Park and it was a happy evening. Whether his favourite Marxist quote was a part of what was discussed later that night was not something that we ever found out.

From what I remember, and…

Queue-spreading because its spelling is the least of our problem with queues

Scene 1:

I had gone to pay local taxes at a government office in Bandra a few days back.

I was directed to a table where there was no-one else waiting. I went up to the officer at the desk and submitted our papers. He keyed in the details in to his computer. The results flashed immediately. I gave our cheque, so far so good.

Then the officer pointed out that the cheque was Rs 12 (twelve) more than what was due. We looked at each other and tried to figure out what has to be done. Suddenly an elderly corpulent gentleman came and sidled up and stood beside me. I waited a for a couple of seconds. I thought he might have a question for the officer. I looked at the encroacher. He smiled at me. There was no-one behind me and yet he stood beside me.

I looked at him and said, 'do you mind standing behind me? We are discussing something here.' He smiled at me and said, 'no problem, I will wait.'

I drew my breath and said, 'can you please stand in the queue while we finish.&…