Why not Bangalore?

A question I encounter very frequently but I don’t know how to answer is “Why do you stay in Pune rather than Bangalore?”  At times I just say I got a job here. At times I say my hometown is equi-distant from here so it doesn’t make a difference. On some other days, I ask people if they can get me a job in Bangalore so I can move 😛  But mostly I am confused why is it that people ask the question. I am away from home in either case. In fact it is the same national highway that I’d take from both destinations to go “home”, just in opposite directions. The only difference is when I go home from Pune my phone is in “roaming”.  Oh ya that is there. Bangalore is in the same political boundary as my hometown! But I don’t feel the same kinship with Bangalore that others want me to feel. Reason? Because although it is in the same state the language (actually dialect) and the culture is quite different. I don’t feel at home!

Well that was a pretty long segue to what I wanted to speak about today. Language, the culture and interconnection! Since I am a recently converted insomniac I don’t know what to do in those wee hours. And I end up binge watching YouTube videos. In one of those videos, Sudhir Mishra, the film-maker of “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” fame, says Women and Dalits take to English much more easily than others because English words or language is not as exploitative to them as their native tongue. That explains why I can’t bring myself to read a lot of Kannada literature inspite of being quite proficient in the language.  That extends to Kannada movies and newspapers even. And consequently I can’t feel the connect to Bangalore that others feel or atleast expect me to feel. He says “Bhasha is attitude”. On the same lines, another script-writer Jaideep Sahni (Chak De India) says “Bhasha is behaviour”. They couldn’t have been more correct. Thanks to them now I feel validated. All these days I felt like I was cheating on my mother tongue! Hail YouTube and the hail the Internet! I have been on the receiving end of quite a few jokes and taunts because of my love for English language. I still love Kannada but I just can’t enjoy the literature as much.

The dystopian novel, 1984, explores this brilliantly where the Oceania government has introduced this new language Newspeak. Newspeak has a very limited vocabulary and no negative terms. It is a language designed to remove even the possibility of independent thinking or a rebellion. Orwell said ‘If thoughts can corrupt language, language can also corrupt thoughts.’ Very interesting theory indeed.

There is a reason the current Government of our country wants to impose Hindi on us. Because without imposing the language there is no way they can impose the morality that comes along with it. And that precisely is also the reason why some others are opposing the move. Anybody familiar with the South-East Asia can attest, here  English isn’t just a language but a class. If you can speak English well, it immediately puts you in a different league. French is a language synonymous with class, luxury, sophistication and fancy.

However, there is one thing. Because of colonization and subsequently the emergence of the Internet now we have a large population of the World that speaks English but thinks in a different language. The other language can be any Kannada, Chinese, Spanish and the list goes on. English can be called the lingua franca of the World. Well almost. Culturally also due to capitalization we are becoming pretty similar. You can find a McDonalds and a Starbucks be it Denver, Dubai, Delhi, or Denpasar! Is it a good thing? I don’t know and anyway that is a topic for another day. This cultural melting pot has created another language for us which could very well become the lingua franca of the World: Memes. Have you been following them?

And while I am thinking all this on a Saturday afternoon, here’s my brain to myself.


So I’ll go eat something while you ponder on what language you think in and and tell me how can I ask for biryani in that language  😀


Crazy English

English is a Phunny(funny) language said the Big B in one of his iconic movies. It is funny indeed. How else will you explain the madness of the language. u in cut/but is pronounced as ə/ಅ/अ whereas u in put is pronounced ʊ/ಉ/उ. But u is pronounced u/ಯೂ/यू in other places like confuse and refuse. H is silent in honest and hour but not silent in height and hall.

French isn’t so irregular proudly declared my French teacher in the introductory class. But since English has now become the de-facto International language, knowing the language well has become an essential skill for success, no matter how irregular/funny it is. Club that with the fact that good English is associated with elitism in most parts of the World.

I have had the fortune of learning the language from a very early age, courtesy my “convent” school education. Especially when you have people around you who speak the language well, it comes naturally and I learnt the language from usage rather than learning grammar rules. So I never realised how difficult it must be for an adult to learn it as a foreign language.

Every grammatical concept has more exceptions than rules. Not only is the same alphabet pronounced differently, same set of sounds may be spelt differently(fair,fare). Same spelling may mean different things(fair as in skin complexion, fair as in just, gathering/mela as in village fair). Sometimes same word may mean opposite things( “Oversight” means “supervision”, “an oversight” means “not noticing something”). Although it is Anglo-saxon in origin, it has words derived from latin, greek, french and some even from Sanskrit. Add to it, the British conquered half the World and borrowed words from almost every language in the World. I am not even talking about making plurals, past tense, nouns being verbed and I can go on and on.

Only much later I realised that If I had to learn this language using language rules, I would have gone nuts.

You are what you eat

You are what you eat

But it is exactly this quality of the language that gives us the opportunity to play around with it. Who doesn’t love those puns,fun and silliness of the it. Here is some more interesting things about the language I had found on the net sometime.

  • There is no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
  • Ship by truck, and send cargo by ship?
  • Have noses that run and feet that smell?
  • Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
  • When a house burns up, it burns down.
  • You fill in a form by filling it out, and an alarm clock goes off by going on.
  • When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
  • And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?
  • Is cheese the plural of choose?
  • In what language do people recite at a play, and play at a recital?
  • Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

Enjoy the silliness of the language and hope you have more such strangeness/awesomeness to share. This post comes as I am waiting for the book ‘English Bites’ by Manish Gupta to arrive at my doorstep.


L for Leave letters

“English is Phunny language” said Amitabh Bachchan in an epic Bollywood movie and I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know of any other language where you could create so much confusion by just interchanging the order of words or misplacing a comma. Here are a few funny leave letters written by people whose impeccable English skills have made people’s day by giving them a good laugh.

1.Since I have to go to my village to sell my land along with my wife, please sanction me one-week leave. – I am sure the wifey doesn’t know of his plans 😛

2. From an employee who was performing the “mundan” ceremony of his 10-year-old son: “as I want to shave my son’s head, please leave me for two days..”
( For those who don’t know about mundan “In Hindu tradition, the hair from birth is associated with undesirable traits from past lives. Thus at the time of the mundan, the child is freshly shaven to signify freedom from the past and moving into the future. It is also said that the shaving of the hair stimulates proper growth of the brain and nerves”

3. Leave-letter from an employee who was getting his daughter married
“as I am marrying my daughter, please grant a week’s leave..” 😯

4. “As my mother-in-law has expired and I am only one responsible for it, please grant me 10 days leave.” – oh God! MILs please beware of such son-in-laws

5.Another employee applied for half day leave as follows:
“Since I’ve to go to the cremation ground at 10 o-clock and I may not return, please grant me half day casual leave”. – If you ever come back, if you ever come back,….

6. “I am suffering from fever, please declare one day holiday.” – Must be a very important person 😛

7. A leave letter to the headmaster:
“As I am studying in this school I am suffering from headache. I request you to leave me today” – Honesty is the best policy 😀

8. “As my headache is paining, please grant me leave for the day.” – No comments 😀

9. Covering note: “I am enclosed herewith…” – home delivery available.

10. “Dear Sir: with reference to the above, please refer to my below…” – As above, so below

11. “My wife is suffering from sickness and as I am her only husband at home I may be granted leave”. – Must have been so difficult only one husband managing everything

12. Letter writing: –
“I am in well here and hope you are also in the same well.” – So much for wellness

13. “This has reference to your advertisement calling for a ‘ Typist and an Accountant – Male or Female’…As I am both(!! )for the past several years and I can handle both with good experience, I am applying for the post. – I’d have hired him/her for the candidness 😀

14. A student’s leave letter:
“As I am suffering from my uncle’s marriage I cannot attend the class….” – your suffering has just begun 😛

On a related note, people are very creative when making lame excuses for taking leaves. But one person didn’t bother to think too much. Just clubbed the two most effective reasons
– Half the family dying, other half pregnant. – Brilliant, I say!

What is the lamest excuse you have given or heard someone give for taking a leave?

Join the ABC Challenge here

English Memsaab

Language map of India

Major languages of India. Image courtesy: mapsofIndia.com

Staying away from your home and hometown teaches you a lot! One such important lesson is communicating in sign language or broken sentences in an unknown language to get your point across to the other person. Esp. in a country like India where language changes every few hundred kilometres. If I take just one example of Karnataka state, the languages spoken are mainly Kannada, Tulu and Konkani ( later two by minority population mostly in coastal Karnataka).  Even the Kannada spoken is not similar throughout the state and dialects are so different that people find it difficult to understand each other at times. Again the Konkani and Tulu are spoken differently by different sects who speak the language. As a country we have so many languages and dialects that WordPress dictionary shows them as spelling errors as I type most of the names here. 😛

I remember, having to ask directions in Trivandrum, where people understood English but the problem was they couldn’t get the way we pronounced the names of the places and ended up giving wrong directions and sending us, at times, in the exact opposite direction of where we intended to go. We would finally manage to get hold of one person who spoke and understood ‘our English’.  It is one of those unfortunate moments when you thank the British for having ruled us (at least they have given us a common language:English) 😐

Now I stay in Bangalore, which is the capital city of Karnataka. My mother tongue being Kannada, I thought, now I am done with broken communication but life has other plans. My PG owner is a Tamil native and hence most of the cooks who come to our PG to cook are from small distant villages in Tamil Nadu and know only Tamil. If you happen to drop by on one of the weekday mornings into our PG, you will notice an earthling v/s alien like situation. Two people blabbering away at each other and looking at each other in wonder. And they part ways again talking, this time to themselves. One of these people is our cook and other could be any of the other inmates. 😕

Fortunately we have a couple of girls who speak Tamil, who come to our rescue once in a while. On one such occasions our cook exclaimed to my other PG-mate(in Tamil of course) while pointing at me, “How is this girl going to manage after marriage, She doesn’t know Tamil, does she intend to speak in English with her husband and in-laws?” 😯 I have faced “What is this girl going to do after marriage?!” many a times before but this time it was for an entirely different new reason. The innocent gal doesn’t even know other languages are spoken in India or that B’lore is in Karnataka whose official language is Kannada or that so many non-kannadigas also stay here and it is ok to be so.  She has also taken upon herself the responsibility of teaching the poor me some Tamil and kindly extended the invitation to attend her brother’s marriage in her home town. 😉

Yesterday, was the icing on the cake. She told me another assumption she had made about me and another friend of mine. That initially she thought we were ‘foreigners’ 😀 I couldn’t respond coz I was busy laughing.

Of all the confused identities this one takes the crown!  😀