Write only English
Amarinder Sandhu

Indlish: The Book for Every English Speaking Indian
by Jyoti Sanyal. Viva Books, New Delhi. Pages 394. Rs 295.

The Indlish spoken and written in India is different from what is used in the West. Indians are yet to shed the shackles of years of the Company rule. The British came to India as merchants and the English adopted by the Indians is the ‘baniya’ English or expressions used by Company clerks. Victorian English with its flowery words is redundant. In this age of e-mail and fax, writing demands for simplicity and clarity. Sanyal’s book is a godsend and is an attempt to ‘save’ English from becoming distasteful.

The book is replete with examples of editorials and reports, where the sub-editors have done a shoddy job. These give the readers ample mental exercise as they try to understand the jounalistic jargon. English should be written the way it is spoken. The thoughts expressed should be clear and sentences should be brief.

The free expression of children is killed when they are forced to mug up model essays and letters in school. Children should be encouraged to write their original thoughts. In the writing of narratives, the preaching mode where everything ends in a moral should be avoided. The writer also favours single words in place of long phrases.

Sanyal attacks the way letters are written today. Many letters begin with “I beg to state that”. Why should the writer beg? This again is the legacy of the Raj. Replies should begin with the information the writer seeks, followed by a reminder of the date on which he wrote the letter.

I would specially recommend this book to sub-editors and reporters as they play a major role in setting the standard of English. The writer has done a superb job in highlighting the archaic euphemisms found in dailies. Newspapers should refrain from making frequent use of “he noted, stating, he said, he further said”, etc. The book shows that Indian languages have a flexible syntax. While writing Indians apply this to English. English has a rigid syntax where the verb is the most important. All English nouns change into a verb and often nouns serve as verbs, e.g., a fly can fly or mother can mother her child.

All the English language teachers must read this book, as it clarifies many doubts which no other grammar book will be able to clear. It provides ample guidance in the correct usage of different parts of speech. It explains in detail the rules regarding the use of articles. This is an excellent book for teachers to explain to their pupils why it is an NCC cadet (not a NCC cadet). The dual nature of the word has been dealt with finesse. The writer explains in detail that have denotes possession and also implies receive/ suffer/ indulge, etc. The English a person speaks is influenced by his mother tongue. There is literal translation of the vernacular. Indians often make use of the question tag no, e.g., “You like him very much, no” instead of “You like him very much, don’t you?” Other props commonly used in Indlish are “this thing, that thing and like that only—He is very this thing and they are like that only”.

Sanyal shows the way to write good English. Effective writing involves writing in the active. Attention should be paid to description so that the reader can easily visualise through the writer’s eyes. Events should not be overwritten. Writings should show, not tell and always revise what you have written.

The writer has an excellent sense of humour. The model letter with Indlish expressions can have one in fits of laughter. The writer of the letter, Mohan Kumar, would like to marry a modern type of girl. He is looking for a suitable house and has seen a flat whose backside verandah does not have sufficient space. There are more anecdotes, go ahead and read them. The cartoons by Sarabjit Sen make the book more enjoyable. Sanyal has made a great attempt to save us from bad English. It is indeed a book for every English speaking Indian.