Friday, January 20, 2012

Romancing the language

"I know such English that I will leave the British behind. You see sir, I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English, I can run English, because English is such a funny language. Bhairo becomes Byron because their minds are very narrow. In the year 1929 when India was playing Australia at the Melbourne stadium Vijay Hazare and Vijay Merchant were at the crease. Vijay Merchant told Vijay Hazare. look Vijay Hazare Sir , this is a very prestigious match and we must consider it very prestigiously. We must take this into consideration, the consideration that this is an important match and ultimately this consideration must end in a run. In the year 1979 when Pakistan was playing against India at the Wankhede stadium Wasim Raja and Wasim Bari were at the crease and they took the same consideration. Wasim Raja told Wasim Bari, look Wasim Bari, we must consider this consideration and considering that this is an important match we must put this consideration into action and ultimately score a run. And both of them considered the consideration and ran and both of them got out."

      I'm bad with languages. Considering the consideration that I don't have the aptitude to add further languages into my armoury doesn't imply that I'm bad in English. Which further implies that I can only tick English in application forms which request for languages known, spoken, read & written. I can speak Malayalam & Hindi, but expecting me to script those fonts would be a harrowing experience, for the readers.
     Our story wasn't love at first sight. I would read countless books and hardly bother about the language. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an equal to Enid Blyton, and Hardy Boys shared the same shelf with Ivanhoe. The stories were my trapdoor to the world of imagination, and English was just another subject at school. When I moved to high school though, the first page of a long romance unfolded. I replaced Malayalam (my mother tongue) with an additional paper of English. Spelling buzzed a new interest and I would spent hours together in getting mine right. Over the next couple of years, I bagged every prize on offer at school competitions for English. Debates, essay writing, spelling-bee - English was a fascination.
      When my dad realised my new-found love, he called in for re-inforcements. Half-a-dozen books were shipped from India. Within the lot, two of the books stood out. The complete collection of Charles Dickens & William Shakespeare.
      Good books are like wine. Initially, we desist the taste. But the more we drink the more we appreciate its value. The books that I read suddenly got thicker. Reading changed gears from a hobby to an obsession. My craving for literature would have put most junkies to shame.
      And then my world turned on its head. We decided to settle in Kerala. Initially though, it seemed a pleasant change, the green environment replacing mounds of sand. To keep in tune with the surroundings I managed to beg/borrow a few books, mainly Sydney Sheldon & Robin Cook from a hapless cousin. But as time went by, I started feeling suffocated. I was swept into the dark realms of glorified Manglish. My English medium school renounced English speaking students and my peers mocked my accent. I wasn't willing to jump on the bandwagon yet. They could seal my mouth, but I was at liberty to write my thoughts. Over the next 5 years, my spoken English took a beating while my writing skills upped several notches.
      I started with poetry, spending hours at the Physics & chemistry labs rendering pen to paper. It would eventually be deemed boring, but I had made a start. I stressed on two things. I wouldn't compromise on spelling mistakes and would never resort to using abbreviations in my writing. This helped on greatly when I started writing professional e-mails to clients. I would write precise, personalized emails and Americans loved it. I spent hours in polishing my accent, and with time it recovered the long-lost shine.
      Like any other romantic story, mine has had its share of peaks & trenches (notable trenches included blood-baths slight disagreements with my English teachers). I could never differentiate between past-participle and present-continous. I could read through paragraphs, plot the mistakes and correct it. But, I would never be able to explain the corrections. Over time, my English gradually progressed from a classical act to a commercial one. My romance had evolved according to Darwin's theory; Survival of the fittest.

"I am not an artist, really not even a writer; I am a poet. One of my friends said about me that I think all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a poem or tell a story about them, and perhaps this is not entirely untrue. To me, the explanation of life seems to be its melody, its pattern. And I feel in life such an infinite, truly inconceivable fantasy..."

P.S: I know such English that I will leave the British behind.....


  1. i will be damn happy if some Briton or American reads this, lovely post !
    good books are certainly like wine.
    you sound like an Foreign author to me, foreign author in my rural slang SOMEONE WHO WRITES RARE AND TOUGH WORDS..
    Today's metro and city children's are more familiar with most of the words, like MUMMY DADDY...
    lovely post :)DeepaK

  2. @deepak - Thanks buddy :) Over the years, I've realised that there are better Indian writers than British or American ones :)

  3. We live in an era where our conversations go like this..
    OMG! So funny. lol... lol.. lol

  4. Haha Manglish will become the new english when some guy like Dhanush comes along and sings a manglish equivalent of kolaveri :D

  5. Language is a totem that sometimes is completely understood and appreciated only by the person to whom it belongs. Our good fortune as Indians with usually more than one Indian language that we have grownup with is the fact that we can borrow the richness of syntax, vocab, and culture and marry it to the English that we use. As a matter of fact, (IMH, there goes the abb) if we have just borrowed a language and left it as it is, we have as good as rung its death knell. The magic of a Rushdie or an RK Narayan lies/lay in how they shaped and reworked the language to suit their settings. As much as one hates the regional versions of English, they are ultimately what keeps language evolving and alive. It is, of course, true that many Indian Authors writing in English have greater command of the language than native English speakers. In the offshore outsourced process sector, one sees this borne out over and over. Enjoyed reading your writing.