When “Bicycle Dogs Fail” in Pakistan

Posted on July 28, 2009
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Humor
28 Comments
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Owais Mughal

Eons ago I used to have a Sohrab bicycle. After a million revolutions of the wheel and few rotations of earth, it developed a certain mechanical fault. The fault was beyond my capabilities to repair so I took it to our street corner bicycle shop. The owner and chief mechanic of this shop was known as Badshah Khan. He was indeed the badshah (king) of this street corner. After I explained to him the problem, he asked me to ride the bike infront of him and give him a demonstation of what was wrong. So I did. Watching me helplessly trying to ride the bike and failing miserably, Badshah Khan moved his head up and down as if he understood every thing, then he let out a cold sigh (sard aah!) and said:

woooaay, is ke kuttay fail ho gaye haiN (bow-wow, its dogs have failed)

(Note: The word “woooaay” as written above has no meaning. In Urdu (and Pushto) it is called ‘muhmil’ word and it is used to put stress on the meaningful sentence that follows next)

“Whaat?” I asked in disbelief. “What do you mean by ‘kuttay fail ho gaye haiN’?” There are no dogs around here. And what did they fail in? Their exams?

ye jo tum cycle pe khaali khaali taang chalata hai…ye kuttay fail hota hai Badshah Khan answered.

I think I understood then. The ball bearing which connects bicycle pedals to the main gear had got some ‘play’ in it. It is mostly caused by the misalignment or overloading. Therefore I kept pedalling but the cycle never moved as the force never got transferred to the wheels. This mechanical failure, where a bicycle’s ball bearings fail is commonly known in Pakistan as ‘kuttay fail hona’.

Once I came over my amusement, laughter and disbelief, I noticed that it is a very common terminology in Pakistan where almost all bicycle riders know what is meant by ‘cycle ke kuttay fail ho na’.

Badshah Khan told me that it was not possible to repair or adjust ‘kuttay’ (ball bearings) in his workshop as it will require advanced machinery, therefore he replaced the whole bearing for Rupees 10. ‘aakhir marta kia na karta’ (what other choice did I have?), I said ok and got my bicycle repaired.

After that day, whenever I see a biker running pedals fevereshly but without being able to move, it makes me smile – becaue it does look very funny – but more than that I exaclty know what is mechanically wrong with the bike. “os Cycle ke kuttay fail ho chukay hotay haiN” (That cycle’s dog have failed).

I wonder what was the background/ history of this terminology in Pakistan. I have thought and thought again but to not avail. I can not relate a ball bearing’s failure to a dog’s failure by any stretch of imagination. Can you?

Do you also know of any other funny terminologies that are commonly used in Pakistan’s Auto/Machine industry?

Photo Credits: Title photo is from wikipedia.com

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28 Comments on “When “Bicycle Dogs Fail” in Pakistan”

  1. AF Ahmad says:
    July 28th, 2009 9:14 pm

    Here is my guess of where this terminology originated.

    The assembly that contains the ball bearings and the pedals also has a sprocket, which has teeth. If the skin of your ankle has ever been caught between the sprocket teeth and the chain, and if a dog has ever tried to sharpen his teeth on your ankles, you would know that the result of both these actions is eerily and painfully similar. So when the sprocket assembly fails, it can be translated as “kuttay fail ho gaiy hain.”

    I know it’s a stretch, but that’s how one keeps the mind supple – by stretching it.

  2. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 9:24 pm

    Af Ahmad. good theory :)

    lets wait to listen from others too.

  3. Allah Wasaya says:
    July 28th, 2009 10:36 pm

    when a screw, bolt or nut loose their threads they say, “Is ki ChuRiyaaN fail ho gai haiN” (its bangles have failed) but thats a bit understandable compared to kuttey being failed!

  4. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 10:42 pm

    allah wasaya, you are right. ‘choorian fail’ is more understandable but ‘is ka kia kijiye ke kuttay fail hona’ is a very universal term in bicycle industry :) It always makes me laugh to think about it and also to imagine a respectable person sitting on a cycle and then pedalling hard without going anywhere :) And that is why I wrote this post to discuss if anyone knew the origin of the term ‘kuttay fail hona’ OR other similar teminologies

  5. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 10:47 pm

    Another term i enjoy is ‘silencer DHOLKI’ of a car. I am not very mechanical savy but I can guess that ‘dholki’ is the wider part of a car’s silencer assembly and is somehow in the shape of a small ‘Dhhol’ i.e. Dholki and hence the word :)

    There is also a car part called ‘CHIMTA’ :) I believe it connects a car’s wheel to the differential/suspension. (correct me if I am wrong). This CHIMTA thing has one end in the form of a fork, hence the name Chimta :)

  6. jawad says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:03 pm

    I enjoyed your story, and I dont doubt its veracity. But something does not seem right. Its been a long long time since I had a Sohrab of my own. It sounds like your pedals were turning freely. In other words, one full turn of the pedals is not causing a full turn of front sprocket, right? This sounds like a broken crankset.

    The pedals are attached to cranks which are rigidly attached to the front sprocket. It sounds like the failure of this attachment. The bearings are just there to make sure the center shaft (axle) can rotate inside the bottom bracket. Bearing failure would simply mean additional friction or inability to turn the crank. Loose bearings would also cause in-and-out play in the pedals, but they would not make your crank slip as you describe it. Did I miss something?

    So, in conclusion, the dogs were innocent. Or the referred to the crankset.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crankset

  7. jawad says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:09 pm

    When my cousin Asma was about 5 years old, she would get off her tricycle and put air in all the tires with her imaginary hand pump. In true Badshah Khan style she would hold the bottom of her kamiz or frock between her teeth as she pumped with great rythm and focus. She would also rock back and forth in addition to up and down.

  8. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:10 pm

    Jawad, you are also right :) In all these years I’ve forgotten whether it was pedal part that had got play or the back wheel hub. One of them did for sure. I kept rotating the pedals, the chain also moved but the wheel never moved. This symptom is called ‘kuttay fail hona

  9. Musaafir says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:27 pm

    Actually I think the proper term, in major parts of Punjab is “Kuttay murr gayy hain”, literally, “The dogs have died”.

    Another popular one is, “Godday reh gayy hain” literally, “The knees have given way”, when a car’s ball joints (struts) fail.

  10. Owais Mughal says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:30 pm

    Musaafir :) Yes I know the term “GODAY reh gaye hain”. I remember this ‘GODA’ test used to be a must before one could buy a used car. A car was driven in sharp circles, with windows down and people (i.e. driver, one hired ‘mistry’ and driver’s family on back seat) had their heads sticking out of windows; all trying to listen to any sound coming from car’s knees i.e. GODAs i.e. ball joints. Good recall :) :) This one made me smile.

  11. SB says:
    July 28th, 2009 11:58 pm

    Well..the explanations offered are trying to be just polite…

    the “kuttay” in the “kuttay fail hona” is just a rhyming replacement for an otherwise unparliamentary expression or use of the word ‘balls’. What the person is actually saying is “balls have failed”… now use the slang versions for ‘balls’ … got the drift…

  12. Shazia R. Hussain says:
    July 29th, 2009 3:23 am

    What do you say to the mechanic when your car needs wheel alignment?
    You say, “gaddi side mardi aye”

  13. July 29th, 2009 4:35 am

    “Bush maar kha gae hain” when you have problem with rubber bushing.

  14. FU says:
    July 29th, 2009 8:17 am

    I do not know which parts of a car these terms refer to,but I have heard in many car workshops,even in Karachi, the terms ,”GODAY” & “GITTAY” being used in reference to something wrong with a car. May be some one can throw light?

  15. July 29th, 2009 8:27 am

    isko to padal kahty hayn shayad lolx

  16. July 29th, 2009 1:00 pm

    Mybe this term has something to do with the sound they make when they fail.

  17. Me Never Ever says:
    July 29th, 2009 1:28 pm

    ha ha ha what a beautiful post pure nostalgia brought huge smile on my face while reading this i use to hear other terminology about water hand pump if it doesn’t pump the water they say “es di dubbey khatum ho gaiye aey ” (its leather seal has failed )
    great post thanks for the trip to memory lane

  18. aijaz says:
    July 29th, 2009 4:40 pm

    nice memory recall ..thanks :)
    it was the same ‘fail kuttai’ in multan too :)

  19. Amin says:
    July 29th, 2009 5:36 pm

    Nice post. However, Kutty are not ball bearing as described by you. Kuttly are the mechanical gear that engages the chain movement to the wheel in one direction. The grooves se are cut in the inner side of a ring and mechanical (spring driven) dog ears engage these grooves to move the wheel. A British may have called it dog ears in Pakistan (India of that time), hence the name.

  20. Sajjad Junaidi says:
    July 29th, 2009 8:46 pm

    Amin, I agree with your theory.
    Owais, very nice post. Our neighbourhood cycle shop owner was Gul Khan. We used to confuse him allot with time to return the bike or the time we took the bike. I think he knew what we were up to and did not want to upset his kids clientele for 5 or 10 minutes extra riding pleasure.
    Sajjad

  21. Naeem Ahmed Bajwa says:
    July 30th, 2009 2:32 am

    This reminds me of a favourite Pipliya (PPP) slogan, frequently heard in Lahore during election campaign, “Tupaan paat gayian tey kuttey fail hogey”, (Bicycle was election symbol of IJI at that time)

  22. Owais Mughal says:
    July 30th, 2009 9:58 am

    Naeem Bajwa. That was a very funny slogan. Thanks for sharing :)

  23. Owais Mughal says:
    July 30th, 2009 10:06 am

    Sajjad. This “Badshah Khan Cycle Works” also rented bicycles at 1 rupee/hour and with 30 minute increments, therefore 10 min rental was also charged full 50 paisas :) I totally remember the days of arguing over few paisas on cycle rent. Good recall of memories.

  24. N Alv says:
    July 30th, 2009 3:02 pm

    I think Mr Amin has given the most eloquent description of those hard to find ‘kuttay’ which was bane of my existence in my early teens.

    Back in mid eighties I discovered to my horror what awaits the unfortunate owners of ‘imported high end vehicles’.

    Literally few days after buying a 18 speed , green colored racer bike for a princely sum of Rs 4500 —I got the shock of my life when my ”kuttay” failed. I may have been the local self proclaimed ‘rich brat’ in my middle income ghetto of Nazimabad; the bicycle was popular in the boys several adjacent streets, it ran perfectly —-the problem became apparent only at certain maneuovres and gears- and thats when I could feel the pain of my failed ‘kuttay’

    I could never find the kuttay specific for my bike—-I think this experience formed the basis of several of choices later in life——.

  25. Owais Mughal says:
    July 30th, 2009 11:38 pm

    N Alv. thx for sharing your experience here.

  26. MB says:
    August 1st, 2009 2:52 am

    What about political bicycle . . . :)
    I guess the post also relates politics
    Are not we doing exactly the same thing since 47?
    Who will repair our bicycle :)

  27. hm says:
    August 1st, 2009 10:37 am

    Enjoyable read!

  28. S A K says:
    October 14th, 2009 10:41 am

    Very intersting story, lolzz

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