‘Kya Patakha Lag Rahi Hai’ How Did Firecrackers Become Stereotypes?

Words like Patakha, Bomb, and Phuljhadi come to mind as we approach Diwali. These words are like the festive soundtrack. But, have you noticed how these very words take a completely different tone in varied aspects when it comes to songs, texts, or catcalls?

Ishika Thanvi
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Credits: Youth Ki Avaaz

Credits: Youth Ki Awaaz

Diwali is just around the corner and as we gear up to celebrate, words like Patakha, Bomb, and Phuljhadi immediately spring to mind. These words are like the festive soundtrack, adding to the charm of the occasion. But, have you noticed how these very words take a completely different tone in varied aspects when it comes to songs, texts, or catcalls? It's time to unravel the layers and understand what this linguistic transformation means and how it happens.


Let's dive into a crucial dimension of our society - the gendered language. We're not talking about grammatical gender here, but rather how words and phrases can have masculine or feminine connotations. Many of these associations go unnoticed but play a significant role in shaping our perceptions of what's considered masculine or feminine. These gendered words often reinforce societal assumptions and stereotypes. They can even be weaponized as catcall slogans or tools for demeaning others.

Stereotypes are all around us, and they're deeply ingrained in our minds. The conditioning for these stereotypes comes from various sources, and one of the most influential is the media.

Television, films, and other forms of entertainment play a significant role in shaping our beliefs and perceptions. This is where we need to focus on understanding how music and films contribute to propagating gender stereotypes.


Entertainment And It's Obsession With Mirchi, Bombs & More

Bollywood music serves as an excellent example of this phenomenon. It's notorious for using absurd phrases that, in the context of entertainment, can be quite amusing. But here's the twist: many of these phrases, like Jalebi Bai, have been marketed in a way that attaches them to hypersexualisation and objectification. This transformation is a direct result of how Bollywood has chosen to represent these words and phrases, contributing to the reinforcement of harmful gender stereotypes.


The objectification isn't always as direct as you might think. In fact, it's a shared experience, especially among women, to be catcalled with words like mirchi, bomb, or fatakadi. These words, when translated, might have entirely different meanings, but due to our deeply ingrained social biases regarding what's 'hot,' 'exotic,' or 'sweet,' we unconsciously attach these biases to these seemingly harmless words. It's not limited to women alone; words like 'meetha' are often used towards men and others. The end result is rampant objectification, where people are reduced to mere objects, quite literally.

The most frustrating part is that when individuals are called out for this behaviour, they often resort to a seemingly reasonable excuse: "It doesn't mean anything." This is precisely how benevolent, everyday sexism persists in our society.

The intention here is not to advocate for the complete abandonment of such words. Instead, it's about addressing the issue of casual sexism that's so deeply ingrained in our social fabric that we unconsciously alter the connotations of words.

In a world where our language is intertwined with our cultural norms and values, it's essential to be aware of how words can perpetuate biases and prejudices. Let's take this Diwali as an opportunity to reflect on how we use our words and make an effort to change the narrative for the better.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

Suggested reading: Ghar, Gaddi, Paisa: Lyrical Analysis Of Material Desires In Hindi-Punjabi Music

Bollywood objectification sexism Diwali gendered language Patakha