If there is one statement that characterizes Delhi (and I mean polite statement here :-), it would have to be ‘Chak de phatte’. I have heard this phrase in Delhi at multiple fora, by various people, carrying out various activities (usually on the dance floor, or on a cricket field, or generally in random conversations) Though I have heard (and used) this phrase many times, I did not know its meaning. So I decided to get to the bottom of the exhortation / exclamation.
I first checked with a couple of Punjabi buddies, but drew more or less a blank there. So I turned to big brother Google, and found a wealth of information. A couple of interpretations of this phrase struck me as relevant, which I thought worthwhile to reproduce here:
1) In olden times, whenever Sikh infantrymen attacked enemy Mughal camps, they would pull out the pegs of their tents, thus burying the enemy under the heavy fabric. These pegs were called ‘phatte’. Also, when these same dudes were running back to base camp, they would destroy any bridges (made of wooden planks) to prevent hot pursuit by the justifiably bemused enemy. The wooden planks are also called ‘phatte’. So to ‘chak de’ or take out the ‘phatte’ means to sock it to the enemy. Therefore whenever anyone needs to be encouraged, (s)he is wisely and enthusiastically advised to ‘chak de phatte’.
2) ‘Phatte’ is also synonymous with wooden floor boards. So when desi bands in the UK needed a cool phrase to hook their music (bhangra) on, they used a literal translation of ‘beat up the floor boards’ or chak de phatte
3) The best explanation is this one: the slit between the two pieces of cloth stitched together to make a kurta is called a chak. When this slit tears (phat jaana in Hindi) due to excessive dancing, it signifies ‘chak de phatte’ :-)
You could believe in any of these, but it is not important. What is important is that you continue to chak de phatte!!!