Saturday, November 13, 2010

The mother and sister of English

I am sure you have noticed that the English language used by most people these days is hardly ornamental. Or flowery. Or sexy. This article today in Livemint  shows how every Ram -Shaam, Jodhu -Modhu is becoming an author. And even with their numerous grammatical mistakes, they are hardly amusing to read. Check out this example from the same article - Chandraprakash Mohata’s Patyala Down De Throat… A sweet melody from pegs to riches
"...It was in a short time we had made ourselves comfortable with the computer machines; a bomb shell babe attracted our attention with an interruption. She seemed pretty with a perfect ten. Long hairs, sharp nose, thin lips twisted in a snarl.". In twitter lingo - #EpicFail.
What I really miss is seeing some good, old Legalese, where legal terms are combined in long-winded sentences, or varied or with permutations, with the initial design of legal or drafting precision but which otherwise add unnecessary complexity or inadvertently resulting in confusion. What fun I say ! Take this example taken from here.
When a layperson wants to give you an orange, he or she merely says, “I give you this orange.”
But when a lawyer - a master of legalese says it, the words he or she uses are:–
“Know all persons by these present that I hereby give, grant, release, convey, transfer and quitclaim all my right, title, interest, benefit and use whatsoever in, or and concerning this chattel, otherwise known as an orange, or citrus aurantium, together with all the appurtenances thereto of skin, pulp, pip, rind, seeds and juice to have and to hold the said orange, for his own use and behoof, to himself and his heirs, in fee simple forever, free from all liens, encumbrances, easements, limitations, restraints or conditions whatsoever, any and all prior deeds, transfer, or other documents whatsoever, now or anywhere made to the contrary notwithstanding, with full power to bite, cut, suck or otherwise eat the said orange or to give away the same, with or without its skin, pulp, pip, rind, seeds or juice.” Is it not wonderful ?
I am also pained by the diminishing use of Babu English or Butler English all aroundme. Take this example taken from here : "The extreme stimulus of professional and friendly solicitations has led me to the journey of accomplished advantages to proceed elucidatory and critical comments: wherein no brisking has been thrown apart to introduce prima facie and useful matters to facilitate literary pursuits . If the aimed point be embraced favourably by the public, all in all grateful acknowledgement will ride on the jumping border from the very bottom of my heart".  Did you #getit ? No ? Ask the meaning in an IIM interview and seperate the men from boys.
Or another one from the same article here: A book of ready-made letters for all occasions, recommending an ideal letter to a newly married girl says: "You adjusted yourself in the family of your in-laws. Always give good impression and impact to them by your every action". Pure epicness.
The point is this: If you want to write in English, write well. Or be funny (even unintentionally so if possible). Or at least write good Indian English,  but Abeyaar, Don't do Maa - Behen of Angrezi. Pliss.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Musical Career

(Title fully and content mildly inspired by Stephen Leacock’s – My Financial Career – taught to us in Class XI (or some other class) CBSE English)
When I was in school I was a leader. I was a leader of outstanding ability, who took on great responsibility. (Ok, more like someone – who stood “outside” the classroom a lot and was “held responsible” for the general noise coming out of the classroom too.) Being a leader (called “Monitor” and not CDO (Class Discipline Officer) for some weird reason), I had to take several important roles. Like “maintaining silence” till the teacher came to class, or “conducting the assembly”.
A morning assembly at DAV Public School Patna, where I studied from Class II to VIII, (you know Roman Numerals don’t you?) was no ordinary session. We used to have chanting of Vedic Mantras (including the Gayatri Mantra – we never removed our shoes though – although when BIG B did that he got into trouble), followed by “The Pledge” (where we used to pledge among other things – “...all Indians are my brothers and sisters...”), Thought of the day (where we used to say some proverb or something – stuff you frequently see as Facebook statuses these days), News of the Day (prepared by diligently copying Headlines from the 8.30 News on DD the previous night – must be hard doing it now when you have to take the news from Arnab Goswami’s mouth), Poem of the Day (where students “by hearted” either English or Hindi poems from their text books – mainly to impress their teachers to give them more marks), Song of the Day ( patriotic songs written in the school diary – most of which were later found by me to be Hindi Film Songs – such as Hothon Se Choo lo tum, Itni Shakti Hume dena Data etc) and Shanti Path. Add to that, there was a drum – beaten to shift people from “Attention” to “Stand-at-Ease”.
I had been performing all roles (with elan I thought) apart from singing the Song of the Day, but was fairly certain of graduating to be able to do that. I had been confidently rattling off my shlokas with impeccable pronunciation (regular viewing of BR Chopra’s Mahabharat gave me the added edge) and my Shanti Path rendition was world famous in Patna. Some of my poem recitals had received spontaneous standing applause from the students (mainly because students had to stand during the assembly).  I had a rich, baritone voice (although my mother kept insisting that it was a case of voice breaking during adolescence). I had a great stage presence (being “healthy” as a kid helped matters). My mother was an accomplished singer and so my genes were all right as well. All in all, my future as the next Kishore Kumar seemed well and truly on course.
In Class VI, a new Maths teacher – Mr Ram Kumar - arrived. He quickly went about impressing the girls by claiming that he was also a “famous singer” on All India Radio, Patna. Very soon, Math classes became part rehearsals for his next song on Radio (I exaggerate this part). And then the moment came. My turn came for “conducting the assembly” with the said Math teacher now playing a Harmonium next to me. I went about my business as a professional and delivered yet another great performance (I thought). And then I moved to the back to allow others to perform. I was taken aback a moment later, when the teacher hissed to me with clenched teeth – Don’t you ever come close to the mike again!! You don’t have the voice to sing!!! (Or something on those lines) My confidence in my voice was Shaken. And Stirred. And Snapped. And a lot more. My musical career received a devastating blow.
So that has been one blow I am yet to recover from. And while I have received offers from various sources, I have never again sung in public since that day, other than in group Antaksharis among friends, where I am found gently humming and lip-syncing.  

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