Deccan Herald

                                                       Sunday Herald/25 July 2004

Angreji, as we proudly continue to use it!

Over the years, we’ve taken the Queen’s language and turned it 
 into one effective hotchpotch, reports SHEILA KUMAR gleefully.

There is a hoary chestnut of a tale that periodically does the round in India’s ad 
 circles. A doughty veteran wanted the Indian branch of his advertising firm to
 retain a catchy slogan he had put to effective use all over the West. The
 catchline went ‘Lads and Lasses, go for it’. 

“But sir,” bleated one brave Indian soul, “will it work, in India?”

“I will make it work in India,” boomed the creative whiz. So he went ahead
and the Indian translation/transliteration ultimately read ‘Ladoos and Lassis,
 go for it’. Amidst gales of ensuing laughter, it was forcibly borne upon the 
great man that even the great unifying language of English has its pitfalls 
especially in what is politely known as the developing nations! But ladies 
and gentles, that’s just how we use English in India. 

Look around you and the examples not only spring at you, they thwack you 
hard sometimes. ‘Fine for plucking Flores: Rs 50%’ admonishes a notice 
board at Doddabetta in the Nilgiris. Far away from the Blue Mountains of 
the south, beside a winding road that leads out of Srinagar, a roadside tea 
shop offers something unique: ‘We answer Nature’s Call for you’ it says, 
referring, one imagines, to the existence of a bathroom on the premises. 

All along the highways of the country, dabhas offer an intriguing mix of the
 original Punjabi fare mixed with local cuisine: it’s Kongu Panchabi food 
near Coimbatore, Punjhabi Farsan off Ahmedabad, Panjabhi Biryani on 
Andhra's NHs and in one magnificent instance just beyond Kochi, 
Panjabi Payasam, too, was on offer. Do appreciate the different spelling
 of the word ‘Punjabi,’ too.

Look at the flourishing literature - with a dash of dashing poetry thrown in - 
on the back of our trucks. ‘Horn OK Tata’ please they cajole and command 
 simultaneously. ‘Don’t stare badly, Blackface’, I read once, deeply impressed 

 at this transliteration of the famous ‘Boori nazar wale, tera mooh kala’. 

Get into conversation with a citizen of small town India, west, east, north 
 or south, and it is a revelation, no less. Convinced at their dexterity in the
 use of the language, they will converse only in Inglis. The talk will be 
 peppered with observations like ‘believe you me’, ‘I will explain him’ 
and ‘nonsense persons’. You, with more than a rudimentary knowledge
 of English acquired  thanks to the strict ministrations of Father Joe 
or Sister Patricia, may find yourself hiding a smile. 

And that’s the key. In almost all of suburban India and a larger part of urban 
India than they would like to let on, it’s a particular brand of Indian English 
that is being spoken, and spoken with great effect. This Lingua Indica is not 
quite the sort pioneered by Shobhaa De in Stardust all those years ago; that 
was early Hinglish. 

Many southerners would read ‘Rocky sure is a cho-chweet mard, no?’ 
with bemusement, shake their heads and say, “OK, da, let’s go put off one 
tea.” To the Hinglish kitty have now been added Kinglish, Tinglish, Malglish, 

and of course, Laloo-glish.

While many will have it that the actual progenitor of this working language 
 is the redoubtable Salman Rushdie, the truth is still, as Chris Carter and 
 the X Files  team would have it, out there. Rushdie certainly revolutionised 
 literature with his poignant Indian-ness of style and content. Midnight’s 
 Children opened the door for other literary luminaries like Vikram Seth,
 Arundhati Roy, Hari Kunzru  to step through, as well as all the pretenders
 who came in their wake. Suddenly it became cool to read about People 
who are Excitable and Voluble. And Speak in a Particular Way. 

Coming back to the mad ad world, they were quick to jump on the bandwagon
 even if they weren’t too sure just where it was heading. And so the merry 
 hodgepodge of English and regional dialects continued, selling everything from 
cakes to Cokes to cosmetics and selling them super-successfully. Deejays and 
veejays spouted sagacious sayings in a mix of English, Hindi, Bhojpuri, Kannada, 
Tamil, what have you. Radio City Bangalore has its delightful Lingo Leela, 
and frequently has intrepid listeners call in and sing translations of popular 
English songs. Which leads to amalgamations of the following sort: Backstreet 
Boys’ Backstreet’s Back, All Right becomes Pichla galli lauta, theek hai. 
Laugh if you must but hey, it works, right? Ditto for all those intrepid films
 made by indie filmmakers in not-so-Queen’s-English, films like Jhankar Beats and 
the like.

Out in the so-called sticks, where a pizza is rightly spelt ‘pijja’, they 
 have done away with pretensions altogether. 

A look at regional papers will throw up fascinating tid-bits. Here is a headline 
that reads ‘Sensation prevailed due to kidnap of boy.’ There is a  course 
for ‘short-heighted’ men; elsewhere, you are advised that to aim for 
 ‘small goal’ is a crime. 

The jury is still out on the print media, though. Are they following archaic 
 British traditions of language, being ultra-reader friendly or is it just plain 
confusion? Or maybe all of the above? Which is probably why we read of
 train passengers being ‘looted’ or gratitude ‘being paid’ to some one. 
 Sometimes it’s sheer inability to get a handle on English, of course: ‘After the 
burglary, he was a sadder and wizened man’ read one unfortunate report; 
 another talked of being  ‘spell-binded.’ 

And I cannot end this piece sans my all-time favorite, a headline which appeared 
in one of the country’s leading dailies, quite a few years ago. ‘CM sore over 
Bangarappa’s mum’ it said. Dumbfounded perusal of the story made it clear that 
the CM was upset at Mr Bangarappa’s silence on some issue. Mum’s the word, 
of course… and yes, that works, too!

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