Here we go.
One thing that identifies us as Indians wherever in the world we may be is our murder of the English language. For those of you who can laugh about it, please take the opportunity to watch a Russell Peters show. He’s hilarious, and his “Indian English” accent, with all the right gestures and expressions, is brilliant. I know that a lot has been written about the peculiarities of Indian English…….there are at least two published books that deal with this topic. However, I have decided to press on and list out a few more. The well of “Indianisms in English” is so deep – and inexhaustible – that I’m fairly certain these anecdotes will entertain.
For those of you who have ever spent more than 10 minutes in Delhi, you will understand when I confer upon it the singular honour of being The Chosen Home of the most priceless Indianisms…primarily because it is such a wannabe city. It is strange how you can have such extremes in one city. Delhi has only two classes in that sense. It has, I think, the highest number of erudite people in India (did I just hear a collective gasp of indignation from the entire population of West Bengal?), some of the most sophisticated, cultured and civil people in India. Those not part of this group are therefore part of the second – a motley collection of some of the most crass, slovenly, rude and unnecessarily aggressive people you will ever come across. Unfortunately for us, the latter class, as we all know, is the clear majority.
Anyway, back to the point. Years ago, in Kamla Nagar, passing that typically Delhi establishment – a clothing store aspiring to be trendy and with-it – I saw a sign on the window. “50% discount on Ladies” it said. Well, that certainly perked up my college libido, and in I went. The uncleji behind the counter beamed and rubbed his hands in glee…till he saw that I was wearing chappals, hadn’t shaved in a week, and probably not bathed in more. Ignoring his suddenly materialised frown, I went straight to the point. “Where are the ladies? Can I see them?” I said, pointing at the sign. Sadly, his completely befuddled look told me my witticism had fallen flat and, not knowing what to do next, I left.
Then there were these ubiquitous signs all over Delhi, on the doors or gates of many residences and commercial establishments alike, which gave the name of the person – say an Anil Kumar – and went “Anil Kumar – Entry only from Backside”. Of course, Anil Kumar had in all probability got the property in question through an estate agent who advertised his services as “Tonny Estate – Sell, Purchase and Ranting”. Delhi also has the maximum number of variants of the spelling of puncture. Don’t believe me? Delhiites, look around you.
Years ago, a doctor told me the story of how a husband brought his wife to her for treatment. On being asked what the problem was, the husband replied, “Doctor, my wife, she is not able to pass dung”. Now, I know that we have historically treated our women as cattle, but this was a bit much.
While the “what’s your good name?” syndrome is thankfully – by and large – a relic of the past, we still love introducing ourselves with a firm shake of the hand, a level gaze – and a “my goodself Mayank” thrown in. That really cracks me up. My goodself! What the eff is that?
The less said about telephone etiquette, the better. (The less said about etiquette, the better. Period.) We love to have long and loud conversations, especially while watching a film at the theatre. Or at other inappropriate venues. Particularly irritating are people who call and ask “Who’s speaking?” Well, moron, since you asked the question, obviously you were. Did you hear me say anything? And, regardless of the reply, our doughty caller carries on: “Myself Vineet this side.”
Indians have another peculiar trait – we omit definite article in most places where it is the needed, and use it where it’s not. And we are just loving the use of the present continuous. We have also coined some new words. Prepone is a well known example. Here’s another one. What’s the word for a keepsake, a gift to mark an occasion, something to remember an event? Indians use the word “momento”. It’s actually memento, of course. News channels love using the term “downed their shutters” – now I am the not getting what this is meaning, OK?! And yes, we are also very fond of the uniquely Indian expression “neck to neck”. Doesn’t that conjure up images of some awkward – and fairly strange – teenage petting?
Not that Mumbai lags behind in the creative English exhibition of thoughts in the local dialect. I saw a poster on the wall at an industrial estate the other day. It read “Boys for Exhibition/Sale”. Now correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this a practice that is frowned upon in most societies, if not punishable in a lot of them?
And then there was this sign I saw outside a showroom the other day. It said “Thursday Close”. Considering it was a Wednesday, I suppose they got that right.