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On English and snake-charmers

Three events in a row, have been rankling in my mind for some time now.

A birthday party earlier this year. The birthday-boy was English, and his grandma and I were making P.C (as my dear friend Sowmya refers to ‘polite conversation‘). She enquired about our plans to ‘settle down abroad’ and I replied that we intended to ‘head back home‘. When she said, ‘Well, good for your son that he is ‘here’ now, he can learn his language (English) here’. I laughed it off. Inwardly, I was SEETHING.

A chance encounter with a friendly Mum-Kid duo at a play-area. The mother was Indian, born and brought up in Africa, and now settled in the UK. In the course of our conversation, she happened to say – with evident surprise – ‘Your English is beautiful!‘ and wanted to know how I managed to speak English, coming from India.

Amsterdam

A little conversation on a canal boat in Amsterdam. The American couple seated in front of us, struck up a conversation, and happened to mention that they were surprised to hear my son’s ‘British/American accent’. Naturally, the question that followed was how he managed to converse with our relatives/friends back in India, and IF people in India could speak English.

Three incidents. They were friendly and innocent remarks, not meant to cause any harm or insult. However, the unspoken words set me thinking.

So, why is it that foreigners ASSUME that people in India do not understand/speak English?

It is not just foreigners. Even second generation British Indians (i.e. whose parents or grand-parents settled in UK and these folks were born and brought up here), seem to think the same way. I was asked by an ‘Indian’ colleague, if people in India could speak English, and if everybody was still very poor! I remember being quite shocked at the ignorance and stereotyped image she carried of her country!!

So, does India still project this image of being a third-world country, where people wear saris or dhotis, chew paan, speak only their regional language, and watch snake-charmers perform tricks by the side of the road?!

Pic courtesy: thedeafblog dot co dot uk

Does the word ‘India’ conjure up a picture of beggars and snake-charmers or monkeys performing tricks and people throwing coins onto a ragged cloth spread on the dusty road?

Does the western world not know how developed we are, on various grounds? We have miles to go, that is certain, but we aren’t exactly an undeveloped, tribal land today!!

Do they see us as Slumdog-non-millonaires? (On another note, I remember being angry at the producers of Slumdog Millionaire for projecting such a pathetic, stereotyped image of our country!)

Chennai city centre mall

Does ‘India’ not represent a modern and growing nation at all? What of all the IT parks and banks that have sprung up in the last couple of decades? And the dreaded call-centres that cater to western countries? What of the high-rise buildings and roads crowded with cars and bikes? I do understand that our villages are a far cry from cities. But they too, are developed in more ways than we can imagine!

Courtesy: Google images

If nothing else, what about our adorable Kalmadi, Radia, Raja and Kanimozhi :roll:? If nothing else, atleast these esteemed folks should give them a better idea of the state of affairs in our country 😆 😆

On an interesting note, I googled ‘India’ on Google Images, and this is what came up: Our flag, the Taj, maps, even a picture of Shahrukh Khan posing for Chak De 😆

Sadly, there was no Anna, and heavens be blessed, no Ramdev 😉

Courtesy: Google images

Now coming back to the question of ‘understanding/speaking English’, from my limited experience, most Indians can understand the language, and can communicate fairly reasonably, if one can ignore the grammar/pronunciation. Even the simple vegetable vendor can understand a few words. So if a foreigner were to visit an Indian city (I am not sure about remote villages), he can manage to get across a few basic words. Just as he/she would, in, say, Russia or Germany! Don’t you think?

Courtesy: Asiaforum dot co dot uk

On a lighter note, we can “…talk English, walk English and even laugh English because English is a very phunny language.”

Well, to the friendly American tourist on that boat – I strongly recommended that she make a visit, cover the grand palaces in Rajasthan, and go all the way down South to marvel at the exquisite temples. She genuinely seemed quite interested. Just before we left the boat, this is what I said to her:

‘I do hope you visit India some day, its a beautiful country. Only, don’t expect to see any snake-charmers!!’

She replied, with a smile, ‘Damn!! I was hoping to see some!’

So people, how do non-Indians perceive India? Any ideas?

Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Another non-post

Now where do I begin? Its just been so long. There are a hundred thoughts running criss-cross in my mind. Every incident, every emotion – turns into fodder for a new blog post, that I have very sadly, neglected to follow up on! So here are some tidbits…

1- What the heck is Arundhati Roy thinking?! While most people simply do not think, some successfully think crooked and turn into politicians. Others choose not to think at all, and turn into PMs. Some others think radically different, and make inflammatory speeches. I wish everyone who supports ‘Azaadi’ for Kashmir, actually charts out a ‘What Next‘ map as well. Where does Kashmir go from there?!!! By the way, I liked God of Small Things, but it was too dark, a little confusing and altogether depressing.

2- I was very upset to read that ‘….The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counter terrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan’. Sad. Very sad! My pro-Pakistani friends, please, don’t bother to ‘try explaining’ things to me.

3- I read this post at IHM’s blog and also the original post at TBG’s blog. Now I have never been a ‘feminist’. Atleast not the sort of feminism they show on TV. In my own way, though, I firmly believe in independence and space – as a matter of birth right – for any human being, man or woman! And if Indian society dictates that women MUST be in the kitchen, ‘enjoying’ doing ‘her’ activities, then that is ridiculous. Every woman is an individual first and only then a wife or mother or daughter-in-law. If she is denied this basic right, whether explicitly or in unspoken words and behaviour, then there certainly is something wrong!

4- For those of you who have not yet read this, please do click on Greatbong’s post and Khamba’s post on the latest Super Hero: ‘ArnabMan‘.

5- For those of you who did not watch Rakhi Ka Insaaf, shame on you. You missed something profound. The audience screamed ‘Rakhi Rakhi’ and the woman meted out justice, by asking the lover to marry the woman he has been having an affair with, with absolutely no consideration of the fact that this man was already married and had 4 children!! Rakhi had better join Muthalik. Together, they can get every couple in India married. Again, read Greatbong’s hilarious post on this.

6- And for those who have not been following our one and only Sultan Bhai, he’s been flooding Facebook with his Rajini wisecracks. This latest one steals the show:

Basketball player: I can spin a ball on my finger for 2 hrs… can u..??
Rajnikanth: How do u think the earth spins…??

Which reminds me that I am one of the very few people who has not yet seen Enthiran!!!

7- We have two new additions to our family – They are called Andy Juju and Radar Chichi. Who are they? Any guesses, anyone??

8- The weather has suddenly changed from ‘bright, sunny and hot’ to ‘grey, windy and cold’. Brrr….

Anyway, I leave you with a beautiful picture… a place that everyone must visit, atleast once in a lifetime!!!