Don’t mind your language
Indians are so comfortable with English that it is neither alien nor a tool of domination any longer, writes Shakuntala Rao
THE moderator of a panel scowled at me at a presentation I gave on Bollywood films at Delhi’s India Habitat Center and exclaimed, "English is an Indian language!" I was attempting to point to the rampant on and off-screen use of pidgin English among the Bollywood elite. We don’t want to sound like the Hindu Right, the moderator barked, to reject English. If one critiques the use of English by Bollywood stars, one is ghettoised to the ranks of RSS (or worse, the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav who has emerged as the new English hatao politician).
One only has to watch a few hours of cable channels such as Zoom or V to realise that every Bollywood star whether it be a newbie Mallika Sherawat or a more established Hritik Roshan, trying best to explain themselves in English. Films today don’t have predictable names such as Anand or Sholay. The names are followed by English transliterations: Swades - We the People, Waqt - The Race Against Time or Lucky - No Time for Love. On-screen love is exclusively expressed in "I-love-yous" and songs are punctuated with lyrics like It is time to Disco or You light my fire.
This is a different trend from the Hindi movies of earlier era. Westernised characters in Indian films, wearing Western clothes, smoking, drinking and their speech peppered with English phrases—"Correct!" or "My dear Fellow" or "Don’t mention it" were usually foolish, villainous and ridiculous. Today the trend has reversed. The more fluent you are in English, the more cosmopolitan you are on screen.
Critics, like Daya Thussu, argue that the globalisation of English is unavoidable. English has emerged as the "international language of commerce and culture," writes Thussu, and one cannot avoid its penetration in our daily lives. On the other hand, Gauri Vishwanathan in her book, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, argues that the discipline of English came into its own as an "imperial mission" of educating and civilising colonial subjects in the literature and thought of England.
After colonialism, the post-colonial and newly gentrified urban classes took up the charge of practising British supremacy and the language of English became their weapon of choice. In India, English has come to represent something much larger than a language. English has class and caste implications which are highly political and contentious. For the vast majority of Indians who have never studied English, and indeed, who may be barely literate, English is not only a foreign language but also the language of the indigenous elites. It is an instrument for social exclusion where, as Pavan Verma, author of the best-seller The Great Indian Middle Class writes, "the upper crust of the middle classes preside over a linguistic apartheid."
The point is not to banish English from our tongues as people like Yadav suggest. The point is to speak in a language the context requires and not be ashamed, as the famous French-Algerian writer Frantz Fanon said, "to live in your own skin" or, as in this case, live in our own languages.
What tickles their funny bone
Do men and women have a different sense of humour? Yes, says a report by global advertising agency
WHILE men prefer gags with a punch line, women laugh at stories that relate to their everyday lives, according to the report.
Male humour is based on competition and impressing those around them, whereas women use jokes to achieve intimacy and to make people feel at ease, the report adds.
Diana Coulson, director of strategic planning at JWT Paris, said: "The key thing that emerged was that women’s main source of humour is from the everyday, the little issues, stuff they observe and that happens to them.
"They can find humour in a household chore, or something silly that somebody says to them at work. Men use humour in a much more competitive way.
"Men want to be funny to show off and to get people to admire them. It’s all about scoring points, whereas with women humour is much more a way of creating an attachment, bonding and getting intimate with people.
"They are instinctively
enhancing their relationships," Coulson said.
Other locations for the
research were Britain, the US, France, China, Thailand, Brazil and
Argentina. The study included discussions with anthropologists, sociologists
Coulson said: "The level
of equality women have in a society has a direct influence in how outrageous
they are prepared to be in their humour.
"In the UK, women are
much more on an equal footing and there is a unique ‘ladette’ humour.
Girls won’t have any issue with talking about sex and being quite vulgar
if they think it’s going to get a good laugh, and they don’t expect to
be judged harshly." However, there are other specialists and experts
who would differ with the JWT findings.
"We all like humour that’s based on real experiences. My own research showed there were no significant gender differences. Being married and having to put up with one another’s foibles, going to the dentist, the doctor or the hospital, men and women tend to find humour in those experiences." Lynne Parker, the producer of Funny Women, a platform for female comics, who took part in the research, agreed the findings were too black and white.
She said: "In terms of what women find funny and what men find funny, I think the lines are probably a little more blurred than the report suggests." — IANS
Love remained afloat
Singh Trewn recalls the sinking
of the Kursk, the pride of the Russian Navy and the tragic romance of Dmitri
Koloshkova and his young wife
IN the Barents sea, on Sunday, August 13, 2000, there was a sudden loud explosion in Russia’s mighty submarine Kursk. The explosion, triggered of in the forward torpedo turret section, ripped open the front lower half. Water rushed inside and stopped power generation by atomic furnaces. The giant submarine went down on the seabed with a thud in complete darkness. For a while, emergency batteries provided temporary lighting and ventilation. There was a sudden shock and gloom in the entire vessel, due to failure of communication.
Soon, the realisation dawned on the crew that disaster had struck them with no means of escape. The crew of a sunken submarine requires a rescue bell, which is lowered on the escape hatch of the submarine to enable it to surface. The news of this disaster was not yet known to the outside world.
An American radio station ship near Edge Islands heard loud frantic hammering sounds at a distance. For about 24 hours, when no message was received by the Russian naval Arctic command, truth dawned on them and offers of help started pouring in from Norway and America. Finally, a Norwegian rescue team with deep-sea divers arrived on site. After three days of frantic efforts, none of the 118-member crew was found alive.
Inside the submarine, the crew rapidly moved into rear compartments while emergency lighting and ventilation were fading away. In compartment number nine, where 22 crew members were trapped, one of them was a young lieutenant Dimitri Kloshkov. He had bid goodbye to his newly wed wife, an exceedingly charming young lady, only a few months ago.
Barely two months ago, Koloshkova had handed over a tiny photo of hers to him, saying, "Darling, if at any time you lose me, please submerge my photo into deep sea as a token of my endearment for the sea you love so much". This photo was in his purse in the left hip pocket of his trousers. Within half an hour of the explosion, the temporary light and ventilation stopped and it was pitch dark. Dimitri thought of his young charming wife. With the help of a pencil, on a piece of toilet paper, he started writing in broken words in the dark. He wrote unsteadily, "My dearest, our final moment of departure has come, the supply of fresh air has now run out completely. In a few moments, I shall be breathless and join the rest in the watery grave, lifeless. As wished by you, I am carrying your photo in the deep dark sea. In this life I could not keep you company. Hope in our next life we shall live longer together and complete the remaining unfulfilled promises. Yours, for ever, Dimitri".
The rescue team entered the main escape hatch and removed all the dead bodies. Kloshkova received the toilet paper containing the last words of Dimitri. This historic letter stating their immortal love is now housed in a naval museum where people look at it with moist eyes. After a few weeks, the submarine was raised from the seabed and towed to a nearby dry dock. The shipyard safely removed the atomic reactors.
The 18000-tonne modern atomic submarine was fitted with the latest weaponry, swimming pool, video theatre, bar and library. Dimitri Kloshkova and his wife will always occupy a golden chapter in history.
It is said that whenever Kloshkova sits on
the stairs of her seaside bungalow facing the Bentic Sea in Murmansk, waves
coming from the point of the fatal accident touch her feet. It is a token of
their immortal love. In the study of this spacious bungalow can be seen a
beautiful replica of the Kursk.