The Tower of Babel
Unknown Flemish Master |1587|Tower of Babel | Kurpfรƒยคlzisches Mueseum

The English language will soon be ready to accept its millionth word. Unrivaled in its ability to have accepted a rich stream of words from other languages – Germanic, Latin, Spanish and Sanskrit, to name a few – the English language is currently estimated to possess a rich repository of over 999524 words. The one million mark is just 4876 words away !It is difficult to come up with a precise count of words in any language, let alone that has 300 million native speakers, another 300 million who use it as a second language and a furthur 100 million who use it as a foreign language. Over 45 countries list English as their official or co – official language. Half of all business transactions are done in English. 70% of all postal mail in the world is addressed in English.

The proliferation of the internet and a near pervasive online global culture have also contributed to new challenges for traditional linguists – new words such as ‘smiley’, ’emoticons’, ‘wiki’, ‘blog’ have now made their way into common vocabulary.Even ‘Obama’ is now an accepted word in English language ! My favorite new word is ‘screenager’ – a teenager who spends a significant amount of time in front of the computer.

So, what does this all have to do with our life in Sainik School
? Plenty, I submit. Words, typically originate from the culture they represent. While there are umpteen theories on the evolution and origins of all languages, it is an accepted notion that languages evolve from, AND are intricately tied into culture, rituals and artifacts.

We were all part of a unique sub-culture as Sainiks. We had our own rituals, traditions, interactions and artifacts. We utilized opportunities as they came by, survived insurmountable challenges at great odds and communicated in ways no one else outside our sub-culture could possibly understand. The margin between success and failure was minimal at best. In the process, we created new derivatives of language that can be perceived as mysterious, amusing and nostalgic. We created our own Sainik Lexicon. So, here is a small sampling of the Sainik Lexicon.If these take you back to the life spent in Sainik School, I’ll be gratified.

Oliver Twist asks for More!
Oliver Twist asks for More!

Carborandum : The world knows this word as a compound made of silicon and carbide used to manufacture ceramics – for us it was a biscuit/ cookie served with tea that presented some unique dental challenges ! Hard to bite, difficult to swallow, low in taste (how about that for a tagline!) – this was ONE unique culinary creation.

FIT : Ah, the alphabet monster that terrorised several of us ! No matter how serious one’s ailment was, the avuncular doctor in the MI Room always had his pen ready to scribble ‘ FIT’- meaning, stop whining, you are fit for all physical activity.

Book Cricket: Move over IPL and 20-20 !The thrill of cricket was invented in our dormitories long ago. Books were used as cricket bats to fend off googlies bowled at us with a bowl made from many pairs of old nylon socks sewn together, and anything that could be improvised to be wickets.

Oliver : Woefully undersized trousers, with legs falling short of one’s ankles. Derived from an illustration of Oliver Twist at the dramatic moment when he did the unpardonable and ‘asked for more.’

Jazz : Not a form of music that enthralls listeners all over. In SSKZM it meant a state of mind – akin to “cool” or “chill”.

Condemn/Condemnation : The process of surrendering used and worn out items distributed by the school to the Quarter Master (QM) to procure newer supplies.

Chair Punishment : A form of punishment. It meant getting yourself into a position where you imagined a chair and ‘sat’ on it, as if it really existed. Often, it had the effect of bringing one into an ignominious position that wasn’t very ‘relieving’, particularly when the knees buckled and you got kicked in your posterior. Ouch,that still hurts !

Naresh : A straight-laced guy. Can’t really find any fault with a Naresh – always perfect in all aspects of student life at SSKZM.

Krishna/Mahadeva : No religious significance whatsoever. Refers to two thatched-roof movie theaters in the Kazhakootam area that provided the ultimate form of entertainment to weary Sainiks.But getting there ( aka bunking) was a risky affairoften with dire consequences.

Piggery : Pig farm or sty. The precise origin of the word hasn’t been traced but is suspected to be anologous with nunnery.

Center-path : A strip of asphalt often used as a platform to deliver punishments.Several of us have suffered on this ‘platform of torture’ doing ‘knee-rolls’,’front rolls’and several other indigenous forms of punishment.

The Centre Path at Sainik School Kazhakootam

Cock-house : Not where roosters ruled the roost, but the House that won the maximum points in intra-mural competitions, and by extension, the bragging rights to strut like one.

House Master : A Teacher privileged to be your ‘Ooper-wallah.’Your destiny while in School would seldom be more than what your House-master wanted it to be.

Laddu-house : Carborandums and ghee-chappathis didn’t often satiate appettites.To make up for the lack of culinary delights in our school Mess, Sainiks often flocked to, albeit discreetly, to a remote corner of the campus where a staff member sold home-made sweets to unsuspecting kids.

Exemption (also boot exemption) : Mostly used in a medical context where you have been granted your release from doing something streneuous, often for a putative medical cause that probably wouldn’t stand medical scrutiny.

Own-arrangement : A procedure used to classify students who made their own arrangements for their rare trips back home for vacations. Contrast with ‘school arrangements‘, including ticket reservations.

Plucker : A cadet who demonstarted a specialised skill of helping oneself to the bounties of Nature braving the perils associated with this activity – a warder, a contractor or even a School Master, and the doom that attends such moments. ‘Coconut pluckers’ were few and far between, but were the most sought after for their athleticism.

Contractor : A person who takes the school’s fruit-yielding trees on an annual lease.Contractors had runners who fan out to the woods to apprehend the unsuspecting ‘pluckers’ as they settled down to enjoy the spoils of their labor.

Dinner – Night / Bada Khaana : The special dinner that truly lives up to its billing as the most important meal of the day. Often this is an event in honor of some VIP. Dinner -night desserts were wagered during high-intensity bets.

Night Route March : If the sea didn’t come to Sainik School, well, one moonlit night every year, the school would go to the sea shore and have fun, surf and supper – as though in symbolic acceptance that w were but kids picking pebbles on a dimly lit shore of a sea oh unfathomable knowledge.

Chaayakkada : A strategy in basket ball to have a tall, reasonably good shooter stationed near the basket to get fast breaks.

Grass-cutting : Manual mowing using rusted metal ‘slashes’ – one of the activities most detested by students, since the activity was mostly scheduled when one badly needed a post-lunch nap.

Matron : Mom away from home. If it weren’t for their ‘matronage’, many ears would have fallen prey to wax and inflammation, andร‚ย  nails would have been the haven for untold quantities of dirt and grime.

Box-Room : The room where you stored ‘trunks’ or metal boxes in which you safely kept your valuables that you didn’t need during the school year.One got access to these once before every vacation, that is, if you weren’t adventurous enough to let yourself in through a spot up there that beckoned, using bed sheets that doubled up as ropes.

Even after 25 years, I can precisely remember and visualize the contexts in which these new words evolved and were used.So, what did I say earlier? The English language needs 4,867 more words to reach the million mark? We have a few here and I’m sure you all will have a lot more. Let’s continue this discussion.

Author’s Note.

{ I would like to thank several friends who provided inputs for their article, mainly Mr Pradeep Kumar, Roll No 1136, himself a talented writer for unearthing several hidden gems from our lexicon and thus making my job way too easy. }
This article originally appeared in Sangamam 2008, the Commemorative Silver Jubilee Souvenir brought out by the Class of 1983, Sainik School, Kazhakootam.

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About the Author

Krishna Kishore

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Dr. Krishna Kishore, Roll No 1351 is from the Class of 1983, Sainik School Kazhakootam. A PhD in Telecommunications Policy and Management from Pennsylvania State University, he did his Masters in Science (Communications) from Southern Illinois University. Dr. Kishore currently is the U.S. Leader for Knowledge Management & Strategy for the Technology, Media and Telecommunications practice for the world’s leading consulting firm Deloitte & Touche. He is based in New York.

He has been associated with Asianet USA as an Anchor and as US Correspondent for Asianet News. He is the Anchor of the weekly show on Asianet US Weekly Round Up, a news mashup of the events in the US for people back home. He is also the U.S. correspondent for The Mathrubhumi – he writes a monthly column on international affairs and has over 100 bylined articles with several appearing in the front page.
He has also reported on the 2004 U.S.Presidential Elections, PM Manmohan Singh’s US Visit, Katrina and Rita Disasters, and several other US events for television.In 2009-2010, he won five awards for media excellence from leading organizations..

Mathrubhoomi’s Weekend Edition carried an article on Dr Krishna Kishore which you can read here.

The hugely popular US Weekly Round Up News Mashup for Asianet TV.

5 Responses

  1. Sir,

    Thank you for that wonderful article. Ive added a small sequel to that. You having touched upon medical aspects such as ‘fit’..Im reminded of ‘Bone growth’..which was an adorable ‘chikungunya’ of our times!

    Patented jointly by Kazhaks and Trivandrum medical college, Ive never heard of it thereafter. In the service academy that I spend my subsequent 3 years, I’ve seen ‘stress fracture’ a naval cousin of ‘bone growth’. But the bones never grew .

    It was a wonderful problem that let you put a long plaster on your leg..with little disturbance to the mischief and fun of school. Above all it allowed the beneficiary to choose his plate in the mess hall devoid of squads/PT/Hold ups etc.

    Im not sure if this persists now.


  2. I am B Ramesh 1116, with UN now.

    One more add on to your list of acronyms:

    Kola case – not typical murdercase but vazha kola smuggling case.

    Best Regards

  3. Book Cricket: Move over IPL and 20-20 !The thrill of cricket was invented in our dormitories long ago. Books were used as cricket bats to fend off googlies bowled at us with a bowl made from many pairs of old nylon socks sewn together, and anything that could be improvised to be wickets.

    Amendment: Book cricket was something else too… refers to the cricket played in junior classes during night studies after finishing your home work. It is played with the one sitting next to you (student in junior classes sat in pairs)…two teams are written and after the toss one goes for batting….then starts the book cricket….one opens the pages in a random manner and looks for the page number (and the other records the score)…if it is 68 then select 8 and mark as 6(as it exceeds 6)…..if it is 50…then “0” and the the batsman is out…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Roll No
    . (you missed this out….how can you miss this!!!!!!!!!): This is the unique number with which you are born in Sainik School (you don’t have a choice on this) and with which you will be known for your life time and even after that……… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Appu (745/76/Prasad)

    1. Ah.Yes ๐Ÿ™‚ And mostly it was the History or Zoology text cos that was the thickest..Ingenuity seemed to be the average cadet’s middle name ๐Ÿ˜› which I would like to believe is still the same. The Roll No was our the Kazhakian’s custom Bar Code ๐Ÿ˜€ As Dr Krishna Kishore said, may this help souls to go forth and discuss ! ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. ๐Ÿ™‚ Chayakkada , Laddoo House were all extinct by the time we got the dictionary in our hands! So was Naresh..but, what you said is absolutely true Sir, “we created new derivatives of language that can be perceived as mysterious, amusing and nostalgic. We created our own Sainik Lexicon.” Brings back a lot of memories.Thank you for that..

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