Sunday, August 21, 2005

Right, Left, Authoritarian, Libertarian: The Political Compass

I can't believe I never posted this here. I'm not sure if anyone actually reads this, but for those who do, I urge you to go to and take the test.

This is is a fairly intelligent attempt to guage where respondents stand both on a political and on a social spectrum. The idea is that when we refer to people as 'right-wing' or 'left-wing' we are, of necessity, being highly reductive. For example, a Bushie might be socially very authoritarian but economically very libertarian, whereas a lot of people in the United States or other Western countries who identify as 'liberal' are very socially libertarian but less so econonomically, since they are more accepting of government intervention in the economy than libertarianism allows for.

In the Indian context, for example, parties like the CPM tend to be pretty interventionist economically (classic left-wing politics, pro-government, anti-private-sector, etc;, though of course these days the gap between rhetoric and practice is pretty large, think for a moment of the Left Front government in West Bengal), but also quite authoritarian socially, so that they are in fact quite the opposite of any idea of liberalism. The present version of the Congress, on the other hand, is on the whole reasonably right-of-centre economically but continues to have certain left-wing tendewncies (the Rural Employment Guarantee, for example, is pretty interventionist, and it's hard to imagine it having come from a more straightforwardly right-of-centre party like the BJP), but has social politics quite difficult for me to classify offhand (umbrella parties like the Congress usually have space for all shdes of social opinion, from very liberal to very conservative - think for a moment of the guy banning dance bars in Mumbai, who is a classic authoritarian).

Similarly, as the site argues, whatin the UK used to be a classically 'left-wing' party - Labour - is now significantly right-of-centre economically, and also more authoritarian than libertarian (post-7/7, this is clearer than ever before, with Labour's complete nonchalance when it comes to the erosion of civil liberties being typified by its staunch defence of the Metropolitan Police in the case of the Brazilian-who-wasn't-even-behaving-like-a-terrorist...)

In that sense, therefore, categories like 'right-wing' and 'liberal' and 'left-wing' are not entirely satisfactory. Of course, any such attempt to classify people is bound to have some shortcomings, like any summary measure, but this survey is pretty nifty, I think. Take the test, and report your scores! I'm interested to know where people stand...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mangal Pandey: The Rising

'Mangal Pandey: The Rising' is, at heart, a rollicking masala mythological, albeit one where the figure being deified is a human one, and the 'religion' is patriotism. I think a lot of the discussion of whether it is a good film or not, apart from the discussion of its technical (de)merits, production values, acting, etc., misses the mark because it treats the question of whether this film is serious history with more importance than it deserves. In fact, this is popular myth-making at work, not an exercise in academic history. Compare this with Aamir Khan's last pseudo-historical outing, Lagaan. That, of course, was more straightforwardly a fantasy, whereas this one is ostensibly imbued with a grain of truth and based on a real character and real events. However, this is less important a distinction than it might seem. Lagaan, too, was set in a particular period and milieu, so that it could be judged on the accuracy with which it recreated its period. Such is, of course, also the case with the Rising. However, the more substantive point I'm trying to make is that it doesn't really matter, beyond the basics of getting dates and places right in the case of the Rising which was not important in the case of Lagaan, that Bhuvan in Lagaan did not exist and that Mangal Pandey did, and that the cricket match did not happen (ah, but it could have!) and that the events leading up to the Mutiny did. To the extent that we know a little about Mangal Pandey's life and some incidents in it, it is probably important for the film to try not to deviate too much from the bare bones of the story, and it does not. However, it is actually redundant to discuss whether the rest of the film is faithful to history (i.e., for example, to ask whether there was indeed a bhang episode, or a mujra, or whether Rani Mukherjee's character existed (perhaps, instead, one should ask: could it, or could she?), except in the general sense of not playing too fast and loose with the known facts about the environment. The reason is that so little is known about Mangal Pandey that if one were to try to make a film that stuck to the little that is known, it would not last very long. Thus, it is important to realise that it is inevitable that the film will deviate from the 'known facts', and it is also important to understand that what the filmmaker is trying to do is to essentially encapsulate a particular 'type' of person or persons in a single character who will allow larger points to be made in a way that would not be possible in a big-budget piece of popular cinema without resorting to what I will call, for want of a better word, mythologisation. It's perfectly fair, of course, to question whether the intentions of the filmmakers are realised, and what might also be worth discussing is what we think of what they're trying to do in the first place.

The Rising is a pretty typical example of the process of taking the outlines of a historical story and padding it so it comes to encapsulate the themes the makers are interested in exploring, seen through the prism of a couple of larger-than-life characters. In the case of 'The Rising', the story of the Revolt of 1857 is essentially framed as a conflict between an expansionist, mercenary East India Company and its Indian subjects, as filtered through the experiences of a British officer and an Indian sepoy. While weaving the story around what little is known of the contours of Mangal Pandey's life (such as his firing at his superior officer, trial, and hanging), what the scriptwriter has done is essentially use whatever is known about the Mutiny and the events leading up to it to flesh out the skeleton provided by Mangal's life. In fact, the extent to which the scenes and pivotal moments in the film correspond to known details as reported in official accounts of the Mutiny surprised me. Even the scene where the sweeper accosts Mangal and tells him that he, too, will lose his caste because he's going to be biting cow-fat-laden cartridges is reported in official military accounts of the events leading up to 1857. Of course, the real Mangal Pandey had no part in this particular episode, so what the script does is essentially portray Mangal Pandey as an 'every-sepoy', a sort of archetype of the low-ranking native infantryman in the Bengal Army. This is what I mean when I say that what the film, like all films of this genre, does is to mythologise a historical figure. In the film, Mangal Pandey represents all soldiers of his kind, and eventually a sort of Indian 'everyman'. This is exactly in the tradition of films of this sort, and there is therefore little to be gained from arguing about the exact correspondence of details of Mangal Pandey's life as shown in the film and his real life. It doesn't matter. What matters is whether the character of Mangal Pandey is sufficiently successfully mythified so that he does in fact come to represent the situation and aspirations of the 'little people' of the period. I think that it does, and that in doing so it succeeds in getting the audience to empathise with this mythic forbear of their own modern selves.

What the film also does, fairly successfully, is to segue into a delineation of the birth of nationalistic feeling. This is a difficult task to accomplish without become unduly preachy while at the same time remaining gripping. Here, perhaps, is where the ambitions of the filmmaker and the supposed historical basis of the plot diverge most radically. It would be hard to argue convincingly that the real Mangal Pandey was a 'nationalist' in the sense that we now understand the term. Certiainly, he could not have had the understanding of the flaws of autocratic rule and the idea that a post-colonial India was going to be a democracy, as is suggested in the film. Yet the point of making a film such as this is to be able to address these loftier, broader themes in a way that is still comprehensible to its audience. Just as Pandey becomes an Indian 'everyman', he also becomes a vehicle for exploring the birth of a national identity - realistically, an identity that was both mediated by religion (hence the emphasis on the cow/pig-fat), essentially inclusive, and most importantly, defined by what it was in opposition to - the British, or at least the rule of John Company.

This transition, mediated through the growing self- and political awareness of Mangal Pandey's character, from someone who is aware of racism and the injustice of colonial rule on a personal level, to someone who sees its wider ramifications for his entire society, is the crux of the film, and apart from some of the delination of the Company's excesses being a little too simplistic, I think the film handles it well. It does well, also, to avoid overt jingoism by emphasising the injustice of the institution of colonial rule by retaining to the end its sympathetic portrayal of the Gordon character. The personal is political, of course, but it's important always to avoid reducing the political to the personal, and here, for all its many flaws (misplaced, intrusive songs, some historical bloopers, some amount of preachiness, too many underdeveloped sub-plots), Mangal Pandey: The Rising succeeds fairly well, as it does in taking its target audience(s?) on quite an enjoyable ride through India in the mid-nineteenth century in the process. Seen as essentially a non-denominational mythological and not as either a strict historical (what Hindi film, with its carefully-staged dance sequences, or indeed what Hollywood fgilm, with its swelling background score and strategically-chosen set-pieces, can claim to be realist?), the film is pretty successful in doing what it sets out to do. Still, it must be admitted that those looking for a straightrforward history lesson would be well advised to take it with a pinch of salt.

Monday, August 15, 2005

On cue, a 'leading' British historian and a Tory shadow minister have, according to the TOI, pounced on 'The Rising'. The makers must love this free publicity. I wonder if there were similar outbursts accompanying the release of 'Braveheart'. Pity the likes of John Mason (author of 'The Men Who Ruled India' and other such tributes to the glories of the Raj) aren't around, because I'm sure they'd have weighed in on this and that would have been amusing.

Personally, I'm always amused by people trying to read too much into commercial films, whether from Hollywood or Bombay, whichever side of the political spectrum they happen to come from. I'm not making some kind of general argument for taking films, even popular films, seriously as social commentary, just against judging a commercial historical film (whether Braveheart, Lagaan, Mangal Pandey, or Gladiator) by the parameters of academic history. I'll get around to making a case for taking films like this as exercises in mythologisation, if I may be permitted to invent a word, in a separate post. In the meantime, I am as ever amused that 'leading British historians' think that the East India Company and the British Empire were essentially benign exercises in bringing the light of modernity to the benighted Orient. Actually, I doubt that the historian quoted had as simplistic a take on all this as is being made out by the TOI, which couldn't decode a subtle argument if hit in the face with it (but let's face it, no pun intended, that subtle arguments rarely, er, hit one in the face to begin with). If for nothing else, though, we need to thank the Empire for providing us with the opportunity to relish the spectacle of people frothing at the mouth at the thought that perhaps the Colonies were not quite as happy to have the British ruling them as the British were to be ruling them.

Friday, August 12, 2005

'Rising' excitement

OK, lame attempt at pun. Going to see 'The Rising' (or, it seems, technically, 'Mangal Pandey - The Rising', since we're watching the Hindi version rather than the English version, which is called 'The Rising: the Ballad of Mangal Pandey') tonight. Very excited because I love Aamir Khan and anything he does, I really enjoyed Mirch Masala, which was directed by Ketan Mehta, who's also directing this, and because I think the Revolt of 1857 makes for a great topic for a film. I've already been reading the few reviews that have been published (the film was seen by some reviewers at Locarno, hence the advance reviews). So far they seem in general to be favourable, using adjectives such as 'robust', 'stirring', etc.

I'm particularly curious (though unconcerned, as in this is something I'm curious about but which I don't really care about, something i thought i should clarify given the Indian media circus' generally asinine preoccupation about 'the reception in the foreign media' , 'crossover potential' and the like) about the reception this receives in Britain. It never deases to amaze me that even supposedly informed British critics (and academics) seem taken aback at any criticism, implied or overt, of the Raj and of the conduct of British people during the colonial era. From another angle, this has been in the news recently for Manmohan Singh's controversial remarks at Oxford where he had the courage to suggest what every thinking person with some knowledge of history understands, which is that for all its flaws, colonialism ended up having some consequences, usually unintended, which impacted the receiving societies positively. Whereas I think that what Singh said was perfectly reasonable - in other words, India is better off today than it had it never had to encounter a post-Enlightenment Britain and its ideas, what he also said was eqwually important, which was that that encounter was inherently unequal and imbalanced (implicit in this critique, I think, being the idea that it is quite likely that a voluntary exchange would have had many of the same benefits without some of the adverse consequences). Yet, in many encounters with British people who should know better, what has always sturck me as profoundly strange (not to mention irritating and infuriating) is their complete inability to acknowledge or even counteance the idea that colonialism was both a profoundly humiliating and in many ways negative experience for the colonised people, and that many of its adverse consequences are being felt even today.

Instead, it often seems to me that even British people who have studied the history of the period see the Raj as one long succession of tea-parties and hunts, punctuated with bouts of energetic and uplifting railway-building and with the most important thing being that in the end Indians were very pleased to be left with the English language and cricket, and that by and large we're 'grateful' to the Raj for something, the something usually being an implied package of English, cricket, tea, and .. civilization, I guess. So it's all very well for Indians to be mature enough to engage seriously with the idea that there were intended and unintended 'good' consequences of the Raj, but equally, it's important for the British to realise that it's ridiculous to expect Indians to look on the Raj as some sort of golden age, and that to do so is, frankly, stupid and wrong: it was not, it had pretty damaging economic consequences which generally outweighed the positives, and the positives thewlselves were less positive than they would have been if the civilizational encounter had been one among rough equals (as indeed it was in the time of Akbar and Jahangir, when the first European traders arrived in India). So I'm curious to see the reaction to the Rising, which is likely to have some amount of Brit-bashing in the form of nasty colonial officer stereotypes.

Aamir Khan is so hot. As is Rani Mukherjee, who I love in all her gravel-voicedness, at least post-Saathiya. She just seems unable to do wrong these days - loved her in Paheli, Bunty Aur Babli, and can't wait for tonight...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Adhchini and Andha Mughal

Have been reminded, thanks to a comment by thalassa_mikra on another post, of places in Delhi that have interesting names. (S)he mentioned Ahchini, which is of course one of the coolest. I wish I had some sort of idea about its provenance, but I don't. I'm curious whether the 'chini' could possibly have anything to do with China, rather than sugar, which is what I've always assumed is the case. Why sugar came to be called Chini in most Indian languiages is actually something else that bears thinking about. I'm always fascinated by the etymology of words, particularly where the etymology tells us something about a the quirks of history.

Hence Andha Mughal. I am not even sure exactly where this is, except that it's near Old Delhi proper. Old Delhi is of course a treasure-trove of names with interesting associations. Apparently Andha Mughal refers to the blinding in 1788, by invading Rohilla tribesmen, of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam, who if I remember my history correctly, was the one who came after Aurangzeb. The site of the blinding is allegedly the neighbourhood of Andha Mughal today, which quite fittingly is close to Sarai Rohilla, where presumably the Rohillas camped (before blinding the emperor and decamping with a lot of what remained of the jewelled ceiling of the Diwan-i-Khas).

Another place whose association with history I came to know of only several years into travelling past the area itself every day, was 'Camp'. As in 'Mall Road, Camp, Ajadpuuuuur' in the argot of the Blueline conductor working the Mudrika route. Camp, as it turns out, is really Kingsway Camp, which gets its name from where the Durbar of 1911 was held. While on the topic of Raj associations, it's also quite cool that the somewhat downmarket locality named Malkaganj near the University of Delhi is named after the then 'Mal(li)ka' of India, which I presume was Queen Mary. Incidentally, I've heard tell that had it not been for Lutyens' utter distaste for the idea, the brilliant administrators of the Raj considered naming the new capital either 'Georgepore' or 'Maryabad'. I shudder. Apparently Lutyens scoffed and said 'Nonsense, it can't be called anything other than New Delhi', or words to that effect.

Has anyone, I wonder, ever solved the mystery of the names Panchkuian Road and Barakhamba Road? I suppose there were five wells or water tanks or some such at the site of the former, but which twelve pillars does the latter name refer to? it has been suggested that if you stand in the middle of Barakhamba Road (assuming you can do such a thing without being run over, the impossibility of which might explain why nobody has either confirmed or debunked this notion) then you can see exactly twelve of the whitewashed pillars of Connaght Place. This might or might not be true, but I see no reason why it is truer of Barakhamba Road than of any other radial road in CP. Anyway, if you've been to Connaught Place in recent years, you might have noticed a new piece of architecture that plays a self-referential joke on its location: I refer to Gopaldass Bhawan, which is at the intersection of Barakhamba Road and Connaught Circus. It's quite hideous, but I love the little in-joke played by the architect: at street level, all by themselves and serving no purpose whatsoever, are twelve white pillars.

Post-independence planning contributed several other gems, some now (thankfully) lost to the mists of time. My favourite is the four residential government colonies now known, as far as I know, as Rabindra Nagar, Bharti Nagar, Netaji Nagar, and Sarojini Nagar. Those at all familiar with the obsessive hierarchising of the government machinery would know that these were meant for different classes of government employees, sort of in descending order of rank. The original names (in place at least till the late 1960s, as far as I know) were - hold your breath - reflective of this hierarchy. They were Aan Nagar, Maan Nagar, Vinay Nagar, and Seva Nagar. Priceless.

More fascinating Mughal stuff. Any idea why Shahdara is called Shahdara? I'd never thought about it until I learnt that there was a neighbourhood in Lahore also called Shahdara. Turns out it's a corruption of 'Shah Dwar' (or Darwaza, both words have the same root anyway) and refers to a ceremonial gate through which the Emperor and his retinue entered the city. Obvously, they also entered Lahore, and so it has a Shahdara too. Wonder if Lahore's is on the western edge of the city.

One final snippet. There's a place near Jor Bagh/Lodi Colony called, of all things, Karbala. I was always intrigued by this one. Turns out it used to be a major Shia settlement before Partition, and is still the site of Delhi's only (or certainly largest) Imambara, from where the Muharram procession leaves every, well, Muharram.

Names in general are quite fascinating. In a foray through the walled city one Id-time, I found that there is a popular old-city dessert eaten at festival times called 'Hubshi Halwa'. Apparently, this was a recipe brought over by African harem-guards and mercenary soldiers employed by the Mughals. In case the connection is unclear, most of these people were either from, or came through, Ethiopia, which of course used to be called Abyssinia - Hubshi is the Hindi/Urdu for Abyssinian, it seems (apparently even in contemporary Nepali, the word for an African is 'hupshee'). So there you are. Bet you didn't know this one before.

Monday, August 08, 2005

more indian english....

And damn anyone who claims that this sort of writing is somehow a legitimate exercise in extending the parameters of 'english as she is spoke'.

Just a little while ago, sepiamutiny alerted me to the existence of 'sari strippers'. no, that isn't 'sorry strippers' in a very strong kannadiga/tam accent (saary saar...), but strippers who strip out of saris. It directed me to an article in something called 'India Daily' about said phenomenon and its prevalence in Toronto, which I dutifully went to, but what was truly incredible about this 'India Daily' thingy was the English. If english it can be called...

Consider this:

"The Indian girls in Toronto are busy making big bucks with sari stripping. They wear sari to attract traditional clients from getting rich India and strips in front of them."

Extraordinary. Perhaps one could use this in a course on how not to write? Imagine, maybe somewhere in a country a little to the north of where I am, a young woman (or maybe a not-so-young one) called Tareena Raina is claiming, on the strength of sentences such as the ones quoted above, to be a 'journalist'. The mind boggles. I do have to admit that I love the literal transposition of the word-order from India in 'getting(-)rich India'. Reminds me of a textbook we had in school which had this list of common Indian bloopers, one of which I thought was made up, since I'd never heard anyone saying 'XYZ is a worthseeing movie'. But all these years later, I stand chastened: clearly, the same logic is at work in the construction of 'getting(-)rich India'. Sorry, Mrs Ranjan (my Class V English teacher), if i insisted that nobody ever used phrases like that. I still don't think you should have thrown me out of class for arguing too much though, although now that I think back it might be the case that what you actually (and very good-naturedly) threw me out of class for doing was laughing hysterically for around fifteen minutes. Which is a good chunk of a 35-minute period....

Actually, there is even more food for rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter on the site i found the above on. For example, an article by Lara Laraani (something about both the writing and the somewhat odd names of the authors suggests to me that both Tareena and Lara are actually a lecherous, middle-aged, pan-chewing, pot-bellied Uncleji somewhere in North America, but anyway, to return to the brilliance of said uncleji/Lara's prose...) begins:

"Antara Mali the seduction mistress of Bollywood who control male desires and passions all around made finally a steadfast confession!"

Apart from the fact that this sentence actually makes no sense, it exhibits a similar difficulty with getting the verb to agree with the number of the subject as the extract earlier, hence my suspicion that they emerged from the same gramatically-challenged keyboard. Consider 'they ... strips in front of them', and 'Antara Mali ... who .. control male desire'. OK, no more on this, just go to India Daily if you want more of this drivel. I have to say this is not quite in the class of my good friend Ramkamal Mukherjee, whose elegant commentaries on Bengali cinema I have posted earlier. Those had a certain lyricism to their idiocy, which I'm afraid these lack. Nonetheless, any EDITORIAL headlined "Antara Mali makes a confession – she likes to sexually excite people but cannot say so officially" is worth a read.

By the way, I'm not a linguistic purist at all. As I hinted in my last post, I do get quite a kick out of the felicity with which Indians incorporate Indian words into English. This may be a good point at which to trot out my favourite example of what some would call bastardisation, and what I prefer to call good old cross-fertilisation. And this isn't a story from the recent past (or at least, not entirely), so that the point of my telling it is to say that there's been this sort of cross-fertilisation between English and Indian languages for as long as India and England have had anything to do with each other. But anyway...

I'd noticed a lot of Brits using the phrase 'so-and-so is (or thinks he is) a really big cheese' and was puzzled by the provenance of the phrase. Surely, I thought, it had something to do with 'cheez' in Hindi? However, everyone I asked had no idea wehere the phrase had come from, insisted it was spelt 'cheese' as in the stuff one ate, and that was that. However, looking up the OED led me to conclude that my hunch had been right, after all: it said that this usage of cheese came from the Hindi/Urdu 'chiz', or thing, and listed its first known use in a book published in the late eighteenth century. So there's always been a huge amount of borrowing and lending going on between languages that have come into contact with each other, which is why those self-righteous French linguistic nationalists railing against the infiltration of English words into their lexicon are fighting a losing battle. And which is why, yaar, we should like totally just learn to chill about this stuff, okay? Just as long as the sort of drivel that gets written by the likes of the 'journalists' on India Daily doesn't try to pass itself off as English of any kind whatsoever. Except Bad English.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A letter from Pakistan

I mean that literally. A listserv I'm on received this letter, which is reproduced below. Another brilliant example of 'Indian' (I hope Pakistanis will forgive my shameless appropriation of that which is theirs) English gone amok. Enjoy.
Dear all
First of all I like to congratulate for the fellow of this group.
I am Professor of Urdu in Pakistan. I, with my other Professor fellows planed to visit india, Bangladesh, Sri lanka and Bhutan. Where we like to visit Universities and colleges to see the education and like to learn, We like to see these countries and visits shrines also.
Is there anybody who guide me and send me the information about the address and contact, reponsible person name of the universities and colleges who will arrange the visits of their institution???
waiting for your reply
[[Name Here]]

There's actually something strangely affecting about the usage and sentence construction, which I can't quite put a finger on. It reminds me a little of some bits ni A Suitable Boy, as also a poem by Nissim Ezekiel. Let me see if I can locate it (ah, Google).

Found it, I think.

The Professor

Remember me? I am Professor Sheth.
Once I taught you geography. Now
I am retired, though my health is good.
My wife died some years back.
By God's grace, all my children
Are well settled in life.
One is Sales Manager,
One is Bank Manager,
Both have cars.
Other also doing well, though not so well.
Every family must have black sheep.
Sarala and Tarala are married,
Their husbands are very nice boys.
You won't believe but I have eleven grandchildren.
How many issues you have? Three?
That is good. These are days of family planning.
I am not against. We have to change with times.
Whole world is changing. In India also
We are keeping up. Our progress is progressing.
Old values are going, new values are coming.
Everything is happening with leaps and bounds.
I am going out rarely, now and then
Only, this is price of old age
But my health is O.K. Usual aches and pains.
No diabetes, no blood pressure, no heart attack.
This is because of sound habits in youth.
How is your health keeping?
Nicely? I am happy for that.
This year I am sixty-nine
and hope to score a century.
You were so thin, like stick,
Now you are man of weight and consequence.
That is good joke.
If you are coming again this side by chance,
Visit please my humble residence also.
I am living just on opposite house's backside.

-- Nissim Ezekiel

Here's another of his 'Indian English' poems.

The Patriot

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting-
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.

Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.

You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.

What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.

You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.

-- Nissim Ezekiel

I'm a little conflicted about whether I like these or not. A note on the site I found these poems says that Ezekiel was trying to capture the rythms of Indian English as spoken, and not to 'make fun' of it or its speakers (though he is honest enough to admit that before it someone encouraged him to listen carefully to the flow of 'Indian English', he did dismiss it as essentially the spoken English of those who didn't speak the language well or 'correctly'. My issue is that I'm not entirely sure his appreciation, if that is the right word, of the 'dialect' he is writing in comes through entirely, but also whether 'appreciation' is the right response (and thus, whether Ezekiel is not being slightly disingenuous). It could be that my own instinct when hearing the common features of Indian English he emphasizes in his poetry - the overuse of the present continuous, the omission of articles - is indeed to dismiss them as wrong/bad/funny. While I appreciate the diversity of influences that have seeped into the language from other Indian languages and modes of speech, my tendency is to be appreciative and supportive of particular modes of usage, particularly additions to the vocabulary of the English language, but to dismiss grammatical innovations as being, somehow, wrong. So I love how we invent words - arbit, for example, or 'black money' or 'prepone' or 'lathi-charge' - I think these are marvellous additions to English and are wholly legitimate. On the other hand, I don't actually know many people who speak in the present continuous all the time, and when I hear someone who does, I tend to be dismissive of them, because to me that just sounds wrong. So I'm all for innovations in vocabulary, but against too much license with grammar. It may also be that I feel that the people doing the grammatical innovating are doing so without an adequate grasp of the rules, and to me rule-breaking has intrinsic value, but not if you do it unawares. Reminds me a little of the quote, attributed I think to Shaw (who else), that 'A gentleman is rude only on purpose. :-)

Anyway, here's my version of the letter above, a la Ezekiel. And I'm actually taking the piss.... :-)

First of all I like to congratulate
For the fellow of this group.
I am Professor of Urdu in Pakistan. I
with my other Professor fellows planed

To visit india, Bangladesh, Sri lanka and Bhutan. Where we like to visit
Universities and colleges
To see the education and like to learn
We like to see these countries and visits shrines also.

Is there anybody who guide me and send
The information about the address and contact
Reponsible person name
Who will arrange the visits of their institution???

Waiting for your reply