Jai Ho for Cheers!
Travelling to different countries in different continents and meeting people with different cultures speaking different languages, the question always come up on what we say when we propose a toast or have a glass of wine in India. I notice a sense of disappointment when I tell them it is simply ‘Cheers’ because in every language other than English it is different. After going through a set of possibilities I believe ‘Jai Ho’ should be coined, says Subhash Arora who has fetish to introduce new local words for wine terminology
Salud, Salute or Saude are commonly used words for raising a toast in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese language- all meaning health. Santé or A la Votre Santé (to your health) has a similar meaning. They drink to life when they say Lechaim in Israel. Zum Wohl has the similar meaning ‘to health’ in Germany though for beer the word Prost is used. No matter if you are proposing toast even with the tenth alcoholic drink that is positively harmful for your liver or may cause cancer, you wish each other good health!
In central Europe- words similar to ‘Na zdorov'ya’ in Russia are used-again meaning ‘to health’. Na zdorov'ya (Ukraine), Na zdrowie (Poland), Na zdravie (Slovakia), Na zdraví (Czech Republic) Na zdravje (Macedonia) or Na zdrave (Bulgaria) all sound similar and are used for either good health or long life.
Gom bui (Cantonese), Gan bei (Mandarin) are used in China and frequently in Hong Kong as well. Unlike in West, it means you empty the glass after each toast (this might explain the high consumption of traditional Chinese alcoholic beverages!). Kampai (Japan) is also similar. Yung sing is also used in Chinese though I profess ignorance of its usage, it means Sing and Win, thus denoting victory..
Soft spoken and usually polite Thai word ‘Chai yo’ might remind you of ‘Chai ho jaye’ (how about tea) but it means Good Luck. It also sounds like Jai Ho of which I talk more, later.
English left us the legacy of Cheers- as they did in Australia, New Zealand and many of the earlier colonies. Even in the US they use the same though Bottoms Up is an alternative-not for wine, I like to believe. It implies looking at the bottom of the glass or literally emptying the glass and chugging the drink-hardly favourable for those who like to sip their way through fine wine
Proposed Word for India
With the world looking upon India to change its terminology in wine, it is implicit that we should also find a substitute for Cheers left as a legacy by the British. We are not aware of what they used earlier in India, say during the Mughal times, but Cheers has been accepted as the only used word thanks to the British.
As we think of new vocabulary for wine, which will take decades, it is easier to change the word ‘ toast’ with a substitute. Some people advocate the word ‘Chak de phatte!’ Used commonly in Punjab, it loosely means ‘bring the house down’ implying let’s get sozzled’ although originally it was used as a war cry by the Sikh warriors against the Mughals. The parochial word perhaps could be used for whisky or beer, it is certainly not appropriate when drinking wine – a more elegant drink. Similarly, sometimes Punjabis try using ‘maujaN’- meaning ‘fun’ or ‘let’s have fun’-but again a regional terminology.
There are words like ‘Jai Ram’ which might make sense to some as you invoke God but there would be uproar from a section-a big section of society against trivialising religion and it’s not worth the effort to seek consensus. Jai Hind would have a similar problem-someone would surely go to the court, what with the Constitution encouraging prohibition! No cheers there!
We could translate the meaning or essence of most commonly used foreign words; they talk of health or to your health. This would mean ‘Sehat’ (health) or aapki sehat ke liye (to your health) or simply aapki sehat. This sounds quite appropriate though it is in Hindi.
After a lot of deliberation, the most appropriate word that comes to my mind is Jai Ho! An inoffensive word, it means victory and it could satisfy the inner urges of many people. ‘To victory’ could be against corruption, communal forces, secular or anti-secular forces, against diseases, against superstition, against the politicians and bureaucrats. Each person has different aspirations and visions of victory and it will satisfy all.
Equally importantly, A R Rahman, the progressive music composer immortalised it and internationalised it through the song which I even hear playing at discos overseas, thanks to the hit movie Slum Dog Millionaire. There is hardly any Indian who has not heard of it or not hummed it on many an occasion. It may even fill you with pride and perhaps even encourage you to have a glass or a sip of wine if you don’t care for wine.
It will have a quick social acceptance and though the word is perhaps centuries old, A R Rahman may get the credit for re-introducing it. But India would get recognition for dusting off a speck or two of the memories of colonial past.
So next time you pick up a glass of wine to raise a toast, don’t say Cheers – Say Jai Ho! You might even have a tinge of pride! And remember it was delWine that encouraged you to use it!
Subhash Arora , President
For details of equivalent words in other languages, please visit:
Some of the other words coined/modified by me for wine terminology are Vinotaler, Swaad and of course ‘Wine is not alcohol… it has some.-Arora
Coincidentally, I learnt today only from newspapers that a docu-film on A R Rahman is being shown on the Discovery Channel at 9 pm tonight. So the timing for the article is perfect too and who says there is no such thing as coincidence?! Jai Ho!!