Updated: Jun 15
What, you don’t speak Bangla, the national language of Bangladesh?
I know I didn’t - until two months ago. Now I know one word in that language, yes only the one –matal, that is - but it’s an important one.
It means ‘shitfaced.’
What, that’s not a verb, it’s an adjective, you probably protest, but bear with me.
It all started in M & R, a mom and pop ‘supermercado’ just across the street from my house. The place not only has everything you can imagine and more, but also stays open until 11pm every day including Sunday.
The owners, a cheerful and humorous couple called Mithu and Papry, had taken me under their wing from the moment I moved to Palma. They had let me film in their shop and themselves starred in some of my promotional videos in Cantonese for Spanish World Hong Kong, taught me lots of Spanish and acted as my human contact persons during lockdown.
During those difficult months they stayed open as usual, bravely facing the virus-ridden hordes in various types of see-through visors of the type Mad hazmat-suited Scientist in disaster films about pandemics; always smiling and helpful while flattening the curve as best they could. With fresh vegetable produce.
In fact, they were expanding where others contracted, especially in the wine department. The shelves seemed to be brimming with more and more exotic wines, and new ofertas (offers) seemed to pop up weekly including excellent Mallorcan wines for only 2,90 a bottle.
Then, in late July, Mithu had some news.
“We’re starting our own wine label.”
Well, that’s what I thought he said, but surely it couldn’t be? My Spanish, never good, had actively regressed through the months of never talking to anyone.
“The name is Matal.”
You mean matar? Kill? That’s a funny name for a wine.
“No, matal. It’s Bangla. It means – er - shitfaced.”
The neighbours must have thought someone was indeed being killed in
M&R that day, but was just me screaming with laughter through a double layer of cotton.
I mean - a wine called ‘Shitfaced’! It was the funniest thing I had heard all year. Especially seeing that Mithu and Papry are both Muslims and can never taste their own product.
Yes, Mithu, real name Masum Parvase, naturalised Spaniard and resident of Mallorca for twenty years, is a somewhat unusual Muslim in that he is a keen importer of interesting wines and all kinds of spirits, but “don’t tell my family in Bangladesh.”
He cooperates with a bodega on the Spanish mainland, and it was the owner of that bodega who, earlier this year, suggested to Mithu that he should start his own label, which the bodega would produce especially for his shop.
And so Matal of the famous brand M&R, like its namesake supermercado named after the couple’s two daughters Maisha and Raisha, was conceived.
I decided on the spot to have a launch party for Matal, and in keeping with the general ironic tone of “making a wine they can never drink,” I told Mithu and Papry I would have a party for them to which they wouldn’t be invited.
How we laughed!
I thought developing a new wine would take ages, what with the stamping of the grapes and the bottling, but only four weeks later, with a disappointing lack of fanfare, there it suddenly was, standing modestly in the wine shelf: MATAL. Blanco, tinto and rosado.
I brought my own glass and corkscrew to the shop, correctly guessing Methu and Papry wouldn’t have any proper wine glasses. Or bottle openers.
It must be said it wasn’t your average wine tasting as I had to drink through a face mask, pay for the whole bottle and open it myself, but oh, how it was worth it.
And not only for the story, but for the taste, too. The Rosado was actually very good, the Blanco was a fine table wine and I never drink red wine, so have no idea about the Tinto.
The day of the launch party arrived, and I had invited everyone I know in the neighbourhood, including, of course, Mithu and Papry. One can get too ironic.
All the guests had bought Matal at M&R on their way to my house, and that’s when I realised Matal is now a verb, in English and Spanish, for:
“Let’s Matal!” cried the English guests.
“¡Vamos a matalar!” cheered the locals.
Mithu must have suddenly remembered his Muslim roots, because neither he nor his wife turned up for the launch ceremony. We had to send someone out to get them in the end, and even then only Mithu came. He posed for photos somewhat uneasily and hastily drank a glass of Coke Zero of which I had idiotically bought two litres, before escaping back to the shop.
Well, if one doesn’t want to see people matal’ing, it’s always a good idea to come at the beginning of a party, don’t you think?
Two days later a couple from the party called me: “Hey, let’s matal in the Quarantine Park tonight!”
That’s when I knew a new verb had well and truly arrived.
MATAL (as a noun) is available at
Avinguda Joan Miró 114
Palma de Mallorca
Tel: 637 623 817