About Phrases

Pankaj Gupta
11 min readJul 11, 2021
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Life’s Philosophy from Common Sayings

Our Indian culture and beliefs in the life as it was lived since yore is best reflected in the common sayings and phrases often used to illustrate our point. This stock of phrases is our heritage and while some have been drawn from the folklore, some from mythology or history and if Kabir has been rich purveyor of existing social mores, Tulsidas and Rahim are not far behind, not to forget Chacha Ghalib whose tight couplets formed a kind of lingua franca of its own. I have always been a great fan of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases but here I have no intention of compiling an exhaustive work on the above lines but to only emphasize the integrity of perspective in our Indian Society with a certain catholicity of approach, an existence which is all life inclusive and sound moral values being imparted through them. One way or the other, these sayings form a lasting impression on the youngsters and when used by the Grand parents or the Mother, are able to build the character and in any case are highly valuable advises. So here goes

Hisaab Pai Pai Ka, Bakhshish Laakh Ki (Bakhshish:- Largesse)

The saying has been my favorite and tells an important aspect- nay the most important part of life i.e. Money. It tells us about the attitude we should have while handling money. Translated it means, ‘Account for, up to the last Paisa (but) Gift is invaluable’. Now the word Bakhshish has a strong Mughal Court undercurrent and may not be liked in the present day but I cannot let go unexplained, the central message due to disapproval of one word alone. It says that when called for to give account, go hammer and tongs about it and give as full details as possible, down to the last paisa. Thus when called to give the account, do not pass-over small details or make a short shrift of it. Take it seriously and give an impeccable account. This will raise your standing and character, and will enhance your estimation in your own eyes. So far, so good. What about the gift? What stance you should have about the Bakhshish i.e. Largesse? It means that somebody has, out of generosity and out of large-heartedness given you something. Therefore please do not try to put value to it. It is invaluable and that is how it should be treated. Suddenly the phrase takes you from the prosaic money matters to the lofty heights of high moral ground and shining character and that is why I like it. Also it says that while respecting yourself, do respect others for their generosity and that is perhaps the essence of democratic and civil life.

Sai Itna Deejiye, Jaame Kutumb Samaye

Mein bhi bhookha na rahoon, Sadhu na Bhooka Jaye


Bada hua to kya hua, Jaise Ped Khajoor

Panchi ko Chaaya nahin, phal lage ati door

These two Dohas tell about measure of asking and giving. In the first Doha, the householder asks the Providence that he should not only be able to provide for the family and have his meals but some more so that the elms seeker can also be fed. You are not complete if you are able to provide and feed yourself and your family only. Your welfare is inclusive of fulfilling your social responsibility (whatever it may be at that time) also and the part of society dependent upon you also must be catered for. Hence while asking for yourself and your family, do ask for fulfilling your social responsibility too. Have you come across any prayer where the person praying, asks something for someone beyond your immediate family’s gratification? How praiseworthy, how all inclusive and how far-sighted the enunciation.

The other Doha is all about giving, expressed in double negative. It says that No-one can be Great if he does not share the fruits of his well being and does not provide shade for all kind of life, though maybe he is very tall. The likeness given is of Date Palm tree. How dismissive of the feigned greatness of few without social responsibility and sharing.

Maan Baap janam ke saathi hote hain, karam ke nahin

So many things are said in this one saying that one gets a little confused as to which one to say first. Hence, first I will take the literal meaning. Parents are your partners for bringing you on earth but are not your partners in your actions. Or to say it in general terms they go but a little distance with you in your life (perhaps adulthood). There is a message for parents also in that not to cover yourself with added responsibility beyond certain point in life, because it is not your responsibility. As far as the offspring is concerned, this is full Karma theory. Your Karma is your right and you must do it properly. No one but your own actions will be with you, which are your real partners and will determine your future.

In the present day context, a great emphasis is laid on the filial love and continued loyalty of the offspring. Sometimes a great control is exercised even on grown up sons and daughters even to the extent of exercising financial control. In the times of breaking joint family and formation of nuclear families, this becomes anachronistic and a certain chasm is created. It may be a western model but just a little close thinking will reveal that when we have adopted their language, food, dress, and working methods, would the living methods be any different. In a very interesting contrast, I heard Bobby Jindal, Governer Louisiana (Of our Indian Origin and one of our own Agrawals) in a recent speech and he has to say the following:-

“The American dream I learnt about was a country where the circumstances of your birth don’t determine your outcome as an adult, an America where we can do better than our parents, an America where every child is told, you could be the first in the family to go to school. You could be the first in our family to become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or start your own business.”

How sensible and how inspiring! What is the corresponding Indian Dream then? Go ahead and tell me whether any such concrete dream is there common to large section of India which is close to present day reality. I have a scene from my favorite film coming to my mind to illustrate this. In ‘Namakhalal’, grandfather Omprakash asks a grown-up Amitabh Bachhan whether he dreams off about girls and whether he feels a pinch of delight in general and AB in his very typical rustic simplicity replies that yes he does all that and much more and being asked in specifics replies that he dreams that he is serving his grandfather very sincerely and that he is having delightful times when he dreams that he is pressing the feet of his grandfather. This may be a generation ago. Now it seems that Aap ka dream is to protest and complain. That robust manliness of Gandhian method that we will raise ourselves to that height where government does not have to aid and run our institutions and we are self sufficient seems to be missing. Be as it may, parents also have to think that offspring are birds of passage and they should be told sufficiently early to be able to be good persons and responsible citizens and earn their livelihood as responsible members of society, whereas the offspring should also not think that as grown-ups, they can continue to cling to the mammary glands of their parents and must have their own hopes and aspirations, their own dreams and visions which they must set about to achieve.

Another way to explain the above saying, even by repetition, is that offspring must be told in clear terms that your action today alone will be responsible for your tomorrow.

Dhee Jamai le gaye, Bahuein le gayi poot,

Hum rah gaye Oot ke oot

This is the old-timers ‘Reality Check’ and describes the same truth as above that off- springs are birds of passage and that the parents have to fend for themselves. This of- course is not a desirable kind of situation but is imminent in the present day scenario. That the situation earlier also was similar is the truth as per this saying above but the current trend of old age homes is the most recent and apparently tragic result. This was not the case earlier, not because sons and daughter were not going away, but because earlier, the joint family was intact and out of large number of sons and daughter, some still lived together even if some moved out. Now two offspring being the norm and both moving out, even before marriage, for jobs at different locations, the parents are perforce bound to fend for themselves. Nowadays even in two daughters scenario, parents are known to be dividing their time between the daughters and their own home. I know a retired officer who has both his daughters settled abroad when the couple used to be seasonally sensible in passing the summers and rainy days with daughters and winters in Mumbai in his own flat and was very upbeat about it. The real tragic case is where one of the parent couple is crippled or severely ill and requires constant looking after. However life is life and all kinds of situations and all kind of solutions are worked out. The main and the crucial aspect to be remembered by the parents is that they should be financially healthy and should not develop insecurity else a ‘Baghban’ kind of situation will develop and would be a pure disaster.

Aaj Nakad Kal Udhar (Cash today, on loan tomorrow)

Udhaar Prem ki Kainchi Hai ( Lending is scissors to love)

Dost Ko Dushman Banana Hai To Udhaar Do ( If you want to have enmity with your friend, lend him money)

To be quoted at the end*

The first two are picked straight out of petty shopkeeper’s logo like Paanwala or local kirana shop. They are very sensible for that shopkeeper with his limited roll over and any unpaid amount being difficult to be recovered by him. They are rather funny also with those depictions that you see in the logo with person adopting policy of goods remaining unpaid being emaciated, lean and harried and the one ensuring payment of sold goods being very healthy or obese( Which is in olden days was the sign of health). However, with these contradictions or humorous depictions, the sayings have unerringly two very stark realities stated in them. One is that an inherent trust that operates in human relations becomes inoperative the moment money comes into play (I treat Trust as the holiest of human sentiment or conduct and any transaction devoid of it is bad. Since ancient times in India, Theft and betrayal of trust were near about sufficient to define all the criminal law ). The Second is that loaned amount is most difficult to recover. If earlier the Money Lenders used to keep Lathi wielding gangs then today Banks keep bouncers. I do not know as to what is there in the nature of money (Fitrat) but money once lent comes back through most arduous a route. Hence the third phrase that ‘Make your friend your enemy by lending money’. It is also true that honor is attached with money. Hence asking for money perhaps brings down your self- respect. Therefore, when loan is not repaid on time then asking for it and reply in negative takes you to the pits of self-respect and highly embarrassing. But this then emboldens you in a false bravado when this exercise is repeated number of times and you criticize the lender that, ‘Had we had the money, won’t we have returned it?’ or, ‘It is easy for him to demand and embarrass me but he has no trust that for circumstances beyond my control, I would have repaid the total amount with interest!!!’ Or amongst friends the borrower is heard saying that ‘for him it is child’s play to lend but for me how difficult it is?’ and ‘he must realize that while he is spending on his fancy goods I am making hardly the two ends meet’ or ‘It hardly makes a difference to him with his rolling wealth or nice financial circumstances’ as if the lender is at fault.

It reminds me an interesting incident of a rich and a gentleman Landlord in Bengal who was large-hearted to a point of fault. Once he was moving on Chaurangee lane in Kolkata with his friend, when suddenly he changed his direction on a side lane. The friend with him was bemused as the Landlord had no apparent business or work in the side lane. He was perceptive and asked the Landlord as to what he wanted to avoid on the main lane? The Landlord hesitated and then replied that he saw at a distance an old acquaintance who was quite well off earlier but was in compromised financial position now. He asked a substantial a sum and the Landlord loaned it. The situation has not improved for that acquaintance and he is finding it difficult to repay. Once in a while when this acquaintance falls before the Landlord, he makes promises which are obviously false and both the Landlord and the acquaintance are highly embarrassed. Now the acquaintance was seen at some distance and would have come before me and perforce would have given the same lies and explanation which would have embarrassed both of us no end. Landlord thought it fit to avoid the whole situation and changed the lane.

However those were the good old days where gentleman like behavior was ubiquitous. Nowadays people have made it their profession to not to repay the loan and be very upfront about it. The lender asks in a cautious and conciliatory a manner whether the borrower would consider repaying and borrower replies in a prompt and confident and unapologetic a manner that immediately after the next festival or after a fortnight or some such date as it comes to his mind, with no intention to remember the dare even, let alone repayment. A counter question is sometimes that, ‘Have you not got it back? I will check up and let you know?

Hence the last phrase which was unquoted*. I know it is not fitting here but I have evolved a relationship. It is ‘ Do Good and Throw It In The Sea’. Once, a habitual borrower asked me a large sum. I could perhaps afford that but the borrower was habitual with poor track record. I worked out 1/10 amount and told him that I will gift you that much amount for keeps with a request to make no promises to return it and save us the blushes. More than that I cannot afford to give away and I do not lend such vast amount as per service policy and conduct rules. The borrower did not know where to look and I was saved the blushes as he walked out.

Such is the ephemeral nature of money and as said about Police, perhaps wrongly that ‘neither you can be friends with Police nor its foe’ but correctly about money that neither you can be with it nor without it !!!!!!

So be it


Goddess Laxmi


E-231, Windsor Park Pankaj Gupta




Pankaj Gupta

A retired Police officer, he enjoys creative writing based on his experience of interacting with people. Why pankajgupta.tk? Dedicated to his three kids (tk)