Embracing English

When I was posted to Kerala (Palghat) in the year 2000, I did not know a single word of Malayalam, except for the fact that the word “Malayalam” is a palindrome. In my new assignment, I had to often talk to press persons. Every time I used to talk to them, I used to invariably get the answer, “I got it” – which made me wonder as to why, they have a special way of saying, “I got it” – even from normally Malayalam speaking persons. I reasoned, that this may be because of Kerala being the most literate state in the country. Months later, I had to bargain with a vegetable vendor, and for something that I said, he replied, “I got it!” – I was, amazed at the English speaking veggie vendor when it suddenly dawned on me that he couldn’t have possibly said, “I got it” – I then began a research into the term, and found out that all these days, I was being told, “Aikottey” – in Malayalam, which means, “OK” or “let it be” !

But it was not only the Malayalam that confused me. The SIMBLE English that is spoken in Kerala, is a different English altogether. Whenever I heard them say Lorry, I distinctly remembered the North Indian festival of Lori. When Rajini’s movie, Shivaji the Boss was released, many asked me, “Sir, have you seen Shivaji the Bose?” I started calling my North Indian boss as “bose” – and he immensely enjoyed it.

Once, at a new year party at the Railway colony, music was being played, which was a bit slow for party music. Suddenly, a malayalee youth, who wanted the music to be fast and loud, started shouting, “Roke music!” “Roke music!” – Luckily, the sound system guy did not know Hindi, or he would have promptly stopped the music.

When I got transferred, after eight long and very happy years in Kerala, I knew that I had to ”adjust” to the new “Tamilish” that is being spoken in Tamil Nadu. “Sir” was replaced by “Saar” and I found myself at odds with the English that is spoken in Tamil Nadu. To tell about the Tamilish, one requires another full blog, so I will stop here.

Recently, I got an SMS from an acquaintance, wanting a berth on emergency quota, thus : “Sir, please give birth for my son in train No.—-of date—-“ I preserved that SMS for quite some time, and only recently deleted it, after showing it to my wife, who was a “spoken English” teacher once.

In Railways, we often used the term, “Window Trailing Inspection” to denote an open window in the last carriage at the end of the train to enable the inspecting officials to see and inspect as the train moves. One day, I was amused to see a note that said that one of the top officials was going on a WIDOW trailing inspection! I had preserved that note for quite a long time now, hoping to include it in some book that I might write someday.

But in my travels all over, I have found that English, is one uniting factor. English, even though it is a British legacy, is the only language that really brings people together. Imagine people from Jammu, Himachal, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, etc, meeting together and trying to have a meaningful discussion? Hindi will have an edge over other languages, but certainly, English will have an edge over Hindi?

Once, when I had to visit my wife’s place in North India, I had the occasion to interact with some of her relatives, and one of them repeatedly asked me to eat well, and not feel shy. (In North India, the “damaad” is fed, fed, and fed, till he is fed up!). He repeatedly kept telling me, “please eat nicely, and don’t embrace me” – I kept wondering as to how I could possibly “embrace” him when I was atleast a few feet away from him. Only later I realized that I was, actually, “embarrassing” him!

Embarassing or not, English is one language that is embracing us, literally!

(Note : I am from South India, and my wife is from North India – which is why we were able to really appreciate Chetan Bhagat’s “Two States” immensely. We have gone through a lot together because of and despite our cultural and lingual differences, and we have taken a lot of efforts to see that our child is not affected by these two states…..But we fondly hope that the day will come in India, where no one will be able to say, that he is from this state or that, and that, he or she is, simply, a Bharath vasee! ( “Indian” is also a british coinage ?) – The great Tamil poet, Bharathi, speaks of India, only as “Bharatham” – the land of Bharat. When it was decided that India will have her Freedom, Lord Mountbatten received a number of letters from astrologers to not only change the date of independence from 15th August, 1947 (as it was considered inauspicious by the astrologers) but also on naming the country as “Bharat” instead of India…..)

No Blade of Grass for the Indian Grasshopper

This could be good title for a budding writer sometime in 2050, when the entire country will become a huge, concrete jungle – unless something happens to stop the cannibalization of agricultural lands by greedy real estate developers and to a certain extent, industrialization.

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. No longer do you see him tilling the lands – he is busy searching for a job in the nearest city, trying to become a dhabawala, taxiwala or autorickshaw wala, because he thinks that he can make more money being an autorickshaw wala than being a farmer. What a fall for the glorious Indian farmer!

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. Because he no longer gets the kind of labour he used to get once upon a time. All the labourers that he used to get once upon a time have migrated to the urban areas to work as construction labourers, which give more daily wages. The poor little Indian farmer is struggling to get labourers to work in his lands, and all the labourers that he does get are asking for sky high wages because everywhere else, that is what they get.

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. The easiest way for him to get more money is to start growing cash crops – which will give him more and immediate money and where the gestation period is very less. Who cares whether the country’s foodgrain production goes down or not? One poor little Indian farmer will make no difference, he thinks. Unfortunately, a lot of poor little Indian farmers make up a big number and the result? There is shortage of foodgrains and pulses, and prices shoot up.

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. Once upon a time, he was the undisputed Indian who really safeguarded India’s cultural treasures. Every kind of village festival and celebrations to mark cultivation, etc, were observed. These days, as he doesn’t have much money, he is content to do a puja on his laptop if he has one, using a computer programme that causes sounds just like a regular puja (the old grandma in the other room thinks that he is really doing the puja) or attends the government sponsored village fair or trade fair and sometimes even manages to get to dance the village dance for a small sum – the tourists are happy, you see.

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. The person who was the source of agriculture, crops, and grains, ad lastly, one who GAVE JOBS, is himself searching for jobs these days because maintaining farmlands is so costly. Either he has to become a very rich farmer with lots and lots of lands, or he could sell his small piece of land to the bigger landlords or real estate agent – there is no middle path where he could still till and live.

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. The original Indian farmer depended more upon his hard work, and depended upon his immediate community’s support and hard work. The new ones send their children to the states for study, who don’t come back. Even if they do, they force their parents to opt out of farming. Some even come armed with an MBA degree, and really do business and agriculture the aggressive videshi way – that traditions die a slow death.

The poor little Indian farmer, is almost extinct. Thiruvalluvar, the ancient tamil sage, said, “Uzhuthundu Vaazhvaarey Vaazhvar; Mattrellam Thozhuthundu Pin Selbavar”, meaning, “Only those who till the land and live, live – all others go behind the person who tills the soil”  Today, no farmer sees his profession or work as that of a wonderful lineage – Many farmers are busy trying to sell their land to the real estate developer and settle for a flat in their own lands!

If you are one of the readers who read this and if you do believe that Indian Agriculture needs a boost in the proper direction to help SMALL FARMERS who really make a lot of difference to the economy, then please use the net and do something to help the Ordinary Indian Farmer. In fact, many of India‘s “NETIZENS” are not even aware from where their chappatis or rice comes from.Even Today, despite so much of Industrialisation, America’s Agriculture has remained vibrant and strong because the tradition continues. In India, people are OPTING OUT OF AGRICULTURE because they find it no longer lucrative. Sad, isn’t it?So, if you are one who owns some land, or if you happen to come across anyone who wants to quit Agriculture because it is not lucrative enough, let’s do our bit and atleast “encourage” those persons – It may not really help in actuality, but even if  one out of hundreds or thousands do go back to Agriculture, it is good for the country.

I am prompted to write this because recently, I met a group of about 15 youngsters in Coimbatore Railway Station,trying to go to “Chennai” to eke out a living – Surprisingly, almost all of them possessed lands and were revolting with the idea of their parents to follow the family’s traditional work – AGRICULTURE – and when I asked them as to why they were trying to go away to far away Chennai instead of living like kings in their own land, one of them said, “It is so boring in our village – atleast in the city we could see a few movies as and when we want ” – I remembered the old film, Guide where Guddy enacted some beautiful emotions. I could only see guddy in each of these youths – enamoured by the film industry and its illusions, they were trying to go to a city and live each day in penury because they think that City life is somehow better than village life, and the life of a farmer is lesser than that of an autorickshaw wala…….There is nothing wrong in following a dream – but if you look at their logic, it is said to see that they were  not being properly guided…..All the same, I didn’t have the time to counsel them, even though I spoke to them for some time to know about their “dislike” for agriculture, and hence this blog. In future, if I happen to see someone like them, I sure know what to do…..