Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The asexual tongue fight

As melancholic as this seems, I can’t help revisiting it ever so often. Maybe it is because I keep encountering that O so blessed crowd who keep lashing out their strained idioms peppered with the twists and twangs of words they learnt either sitting behind a desk somewhere or from another tongue that ethnically owns it. I am not quite certain. But nevertheless, its consistent recurrence in my multi layered life, which in the past has had me wondering in awe, now makes me guffaw in disbelief. Tch tch!

So here it is then without further ado: All those who think they can use a forged intonation and get away with it – you are miserably misguided. And the worst of them are that pristine clan I belong to – desis. But before I begin pointing out why this ill mannered barrage of attempts vexes my thinking muscles, let me identify the symptoms. So you have this O so à la mode desi gent or lady: Hip in the purest form of its usage implying a well honed sense of dressing and a very well trained eye to catch the faintest glimpse of anything alien. The moment you attempt to strike a conversation with them (and trust me, dear muse, it isn’t easy to get them started but O then it is impossible to get them to stop...) you usually get the cold shoulder. Reason? Your angrezi is still laced with the strong curry-like essence of your desi roots. Instance: Punjabis speak English like Punjabi. Bengalis speak English like Bengali…you get the drift. Given the brazen abundance of dialects our country has, it is little wonder then that mastering the language of our previous masters (yeah yeah, I had planned that one) comes with its authentic shade of home-grown exuberance too. These are the folks I admire the most. The yeest aar wayst butt maai Emgleesh eez daa besst! kind. People who are unafraid to belt out their well timed wunderrfull or staap or draamaa or whaat yaar and of course, the more popular camaan mann. No Sir. We are the kind who doesn’t care where your tongue is from but your ear has to record and decipher whatever sounds our tongues are spewing forth. Get busy! These are the people who have my eternal respect for their timeless adherence to their ancestry regardless of how many eons they might have spent away from it. Salaam!

But then there are the rebels. The laat sahibs without the necessary training. Their aggresive need to blend into the new culture is so fierce that they stick out like a sore thumb the moment they open their mouths. The ones I could call the so-glad-to-be-the-NRI-that-I-still-think-having-an-accent-makes-sense kind. The ones who will ensure that irrespective of their current destination, their English is always either A for American or B for British. Either they are mauling their tongues with their O my! That’s not so great now is it! Or ensuring that their r’s always have the prototypical rrrr drag that American English is unique for. This is not a problem. So far nothing here coaxes me to roll my eyes and say 'Give it up guys. I know you were not born here. Quit the act. It is just pathetic.'

What does get to me though is how they, accidentally or instinctively of course, stuff in classic desi sounding words into their sentences while speaking fast enough to avoid their audience from picking it up! Clever, eh! Like for instance: You know! It was the best cay-bin we could have wanted inside that cruise boat! Aha! Cay-bin? Not only is the sentence arguably askew in its grammar but what is with the random annunciation of the word cabin! Initially I used to always wonder about these bizarre seeming instances during my spring days overseas and during my colorful conversations with these since-I-have-been-overseas-for-two-years-hence-my-accent types. But with time I realized just how hopelessly clueless and eternally shallow these people really were. The façade of trying to tell me with their tongue that they ‘no longer could speak Indian English’ was over. Too old.

It was after such horrifying revelations, that I slowly walked away from such phony stereotypes who not only would make a mockery of their own good self but also of the clan they represented. I could almost hear the Caucasian natives giggling in solitude about the miscued attempt at the ‘accent exchange program’ these guys had going on. Recently I have, unfortunately, resumed my run-ins with this blessed crowd and so I had to find a way to tell them ‘Fine! I get it. You are still one of those moronic NRIs who will never master the local tongue that feeds you but will always Americanize your English punctuating it with cay-bins and marrrketts and that one word I loathe the most – my darling hubbeee. Yuck. Stop it please. I beg of you.

The only moment in memory I have of this rant of mine backfiring was when a Middle Eastern-American woman (meaning an immigrant who, wanting to get the hell out of her awful nation, somehow got hitched with a Yank and fled it years ago only to go back there from time to time to show off her borrowed accents and furrowed accessories) complimented me on my English with her own eerie version of the language. She thought I was educated in Britain thanks to my pronunciation while I, admittedly a tad flattered, confessed that India had indeed been the source of my wunderfull English.

Sigh. So much for the asexuality factor of this tongue fight. What say man? Sad no yaa?

2 reflections:

Anonymous said...

A very good are a sharp observer :)

- Krishna

ShaK said...


Thank you for the response! :) I am glad you liked the piece. Do keep visiting!