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Kya Baat Hai

क्या बात है

Kya Baat Hai. Literally translated, the phrase means “what a thing.” Kya baat hai, we were told, is used to express great amazement. Specifically, we were later told, it is used by old men at classical or traditional music concerts when a great instrumentalist or singer has just performed. Kya baat hai. What a thing.

Our group has adopted this phrase to express ourselves. When we saw something beautiful, like the Panchachuli mountain range in Uttarakhand, or when something unexpected occurred, like arriving in Udaipur City thirty minutes before schedule and scrambling off the train at 4:30 am, we responded: kya baat hai. When I learned about the amazing nutritional value of finger millet and the spectacular bread it produces: kya baat hai. When I learned I had had multiple conversations on the overnight train to Jaipur after taking two Dramamine and didn’t recall them in the slightest the next day: kya baat hai. When I discovered that the shared auto rickshaw only cost a mere ten rupees, as opposed to the hundreds we had previously paid, kya baat hai.

When it finally hit me that I would spend the next seven months in Udaipur, living in my new home, working at a new organization, I was left staggering, and deeply overwhelmed. Kya baat hai. What a thing this is, what a feeling this is. It means more than “amazing.” Kya baat hai, to me, means “I have been moved.” In what direction, I can’t say. Perhaps positive, possibly negative, most always in a grey area between the two, the phrase expresses the gravity of what I am feeling. I use it jokingly to describe the stray dog that would follow me for five kilometers through city traffic, but I use it more aptly to describe the feeling of radical transition I am currently experiencing. When everything feels new and different, and those new and different things feel permanent (I have no real way of differentiating between nine months and nine lifetimes at this point), I feel deeply moved, equally excited and unsettled. To describe this state, there is no better statement than “kya baat hai.”

On the third night in my homestay, I was shown a twelve minute long video of dancing at a relative’s wedding. When the video ended, and every set of eyes in the family turned to me for my reaction, I responded in the tried and true way: kya baat hai. My family erupted with laughter. A week later, they continue to tell everyone they meet about the odd American girl who uses odd phrases reserved for old men who enjoy classical music, they continue to laugh at me, but I don’t mind. It was the first time I had heard my new family laugh. Even better, I had made them laugh. After that moment, I felt infinitely more at ease. In the most unexpected ways, this phrase has given me a chance to express myself, to make a heavy time lighter, to laugh in the most uncomfortable moments. And when the next curveball is thrown my way, and on Bridge Year they’re infinite and inevitable, I will probably swing and miss, at which point, someone will shout “kya baat hai” and we’ll play on.