I have written before that the words ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome’ were seldom used in our childhood. Now that I think about it, there are no literal translations of the word ‘welcome’ in Bengali. When we were gifted something, we used to say “I absolutely love this.” (bhishon bhalo laglo). And we smiled big. That was saying thank you. And when we were thanked in some way, we reciprocated gratitude by either smiling big in return or saying something like Spanish speaking people say – de nada. We said some variation of “oh that was nothing”.
I wished my Uncle and Aunt a happy marriage anniversary this morning. In response, my Uncle blessed us, “Tora khub bhalo thakish.” (All of you stay well). That was his ‘thank you’ for my wish – his blessing. And my Aunt said, “Khub khushi holam.” (That made me so happy). My wish made her so happy!
As I pulled books for customers this morning at work, I mulled over the sentiments. My good wishes made my Aunt happy. That response is so much more meaningful to me than ‘thank you’. It spoke to me and made me smile. I could visualize her face thousands of miles away, smiling at my words reading my wish on her special day. That brought a smile to my morning.
Baba too had trouble saying thank you to wishes. When I wished him a ‘happy birthday’ or ‘happy anniversary’ he got a little confused and wished me ‘same to you’ in response. And ma scolded him that he did not follow ettiquette – ‘Arreh, thank you bolo!’ (say thank you). But ‘same to you’ was funnier and his confusion was so endearing. We always laughed.