Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Friendly only if you know English

Yesterday's DNA reports
Although peons are an integral part of a school, often they are unable to strike camaraderie with the students or parents as they are unable to speak in English.

Now, to set things right, many schools are sending their peons to night schools for English lessons.
(emphasis mine)
This is revolting but there's more:
“A school peon is the first person parents turn to for help. He knows the school inside out. But many a times, peons do not know any other language besides Hindi and their native tongue. Parents also tend to disregard them. English lessons will help them in communicating with students and parents alike,” said Sister Rani Anthony, principal, Villa Theresa School, Peddar Road.
i wonder if the good Sister even knows how decidedly ridiculous "does not know any other language besides Hindi and their native tongue" means. Native tongue indeed.

The problem is not with the poor peons. It is with the nouveau crowd who is ignorant about any Indian language. In fact, it is a fashionable statement to say so.  These are the same set of people brought up on Baa Baa Black Sheep and who then go on to consume large amounts of English media, prefer to speak to each other only in English all the while completely ignorant about their own fantastic linguistic heritage lying in their backyard.

In fact, the above quote should be "it is a real pity that parents do not know any Indian language well. They only know (imperfect) English of the type spoken in American serials and reality shows and just about a smattering of their native tongue. We have now decided to burden the poor peons due to the ignorant parents." 
Another mistake here is to confuse good communication skills with communication in English. If anything, the peons will be left worse-off by forcing them to communicate their thoughts  in an alien language. Why not a course on good communication skills per se?

This story is a great example that demonstrates symptoms of a country in a state of rot. Why else would a country with 100s of languages each with incredible depth of expression look to "set right things" since a poor peon cannot speak in communicate in an alien language? Beats me.

P.S: Thanks to Sandeep who in his comment below reminds me of Becoming Indian by Pavan K. Varma. Highly Recommended.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Woh to Dilliwaala hai

Post prelude: All Delhi lovers: Please forgive me for not liking your beloved city and it's denizens. But these are my genuine feelings.
Really enjoyed reading this piece by Sandeep.

To be very honest, i get a bad feeling every single time i land in Delhi. The vibe is that of everyone wanting to cheat you -and have no qualms about it. In fact, the bad feeling starts when i am in the airport among a group of seeming Dilliwaalas waiting to get into the shuttle bus. I've often asked myself why? Some example hypotheses i had were:
1) That i am from the South and find myself in a culture i am not familiar with
2) That I associate hold Delhi, being the premier centre of the government of India, responsible for the sorry state of our nation
3) The language issue; while i speak fairly fluent Hindi i don't have the Panju twang so maybe that makes me uncomfortable

Over the years i've come to realize that my discomfort is certainly a cultural one. Sandeep points those out in his post. I think he is in a great position to write about this issue - he's a Panju born and brought up in aamchi-Mumbai and has been living in Delhi for the last three years.

My observations about dilliwaalas:
1) It's all about power, money and who you 'know'.
2) For the upper class, please add faux-intellectualism to the above. As in winter evening India center talks where a firang will come and lecture to a group of bandh-gallas and worn-to-attract sarees about the renaissance that the Buddha created 2000 years ago and the ill effects of the Vedic religion.
3) For the non-upper class, add faux-spirituality to 1). As in attend सतसंग and then illegally extend your apartment for the puja room
4) Brash masculinity. Refined behavior is seen as a sign of weakness.
5) Generally disrespectful towards women
6) Dilli is my world - unless we're talking Southhall or Toronto.
7) Corrolory to 6): All people below MP are मदरासीs and what a bloody funny lot they are.
8) I can do no wrong
9) Corruption is completely okay. After all it's कलियग.
10) Bending and breaking the rules - from traffic lights to more serious ones - are a sign of your power. Getting caught is even better - it's more fun to use bribe or connections to free yourself and tell everyone how you made one call to Girhotra-ji and the hawaldar was quaking.

Top lines from a dilliwalla...and experiences usually are in this sequence:
1) करवा देँगे
2) समझलो आपका काम हो गया। घर जा करके भाभ्जी को कह देना...
3) वो अब तक आया नही? उसे तो मैँने चार घंटे पहले ही भेज दिया
4) Boss,वो एक problem आगई है...खन्ना ओर पैसे माँग रहा है...
5) काम तो आपका हो जायेगा...बस थोडा wait करना पडेगा...
6) अरे! मैं आपको help कर रहा हूँ और आप...मैँ कहाँ कोई भागके जा रहा हूँ क्या?
7) वो deposit तो मिलना मुशकिल है पर...

For long i felt i alone had this impression about Delhi. Until in a sales meeting many years ago, when an executive claimed that there were going to a lot of orders next month from client X, a manager said "कोई भरोसो नही...वो दिल्लीवाला है"

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