“I know such English that I will leave the British behind. You see sir, I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English, I can run English. Because English is such a funny language. Bhairo becomes Byron and Bhairon becomes Barrow because their minds are very narrow”
When iconic Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan spoke these lines in the 1982 Bollywood movie ‘Namak Halaal’, he probably predicted the future. Delivered in one breath by the Big B, it portrayed the tribulations of millions struggling with spoken ‘Englis’ in pre-liberalization India. For the common man, English language was a passport to better things in life and many entrepreneurs milked the situation with ‘English Speaking Classes’. Some of these classes were of very dubious origins like an example pictured below.
Life has come a full circle. Even after so many years, ‘Bhairo’ still becomes ‘Byron’, not because our minds are narrow but because of a conspiracy hatched by Dean Hachamovitch (that’s him) who invented a thingy called ‘AutoCorrect’. Actually, this feature should be named ‘damn autocorrect’ because each day millions refer to it that way, besides some other unparliamentary descriptions that cannot be mentioned here. Earlier, good ‘ol Microsoft used to run a wavy red line under the script to point out where your English might have gone wrong. Nowadays, they just go ahead and change it the way they please. Like Brexit. And just like Brexit, you want to keep going back & forth, trying to undo unsavoury outcomes.
It’s all fine in the US of A, but in India this autocorrect thingy poses some peculiar problems. You see, India is a land of great wonders with a population of over 1.3 billion, 29 states, 7 union territories, 22 official languages and more than 1600 adaptations of regional languages called ‘mother tongues’. In such a diversity, it is incredibly challenging to adapt to local languages as you travel for work or leisure across the country. For example, in the southern state of Kerala where I come from, items on a typical menu like pazham pori and kozhi varutha curry overwhelm foreigners and Indians alike with the pronunciation before overcoming their taste buds. Being a malayali myself, I would have taught you how to roll your tongue and say thozhilazhi (worker) but it’s hard work. And now, into this raging sea of languages and identities, IT bhairons from the Bhay Area have launched that damn autocorrect.
So if one of your kitty party associate posts on the ‘What’s Cooking’ group that she had “Also ke parenthesis’ for breakfast, don’t go looking for the latest Sanjeev Kapoor cookbook. She just meant ‘Aloo ke Paranthe’ – that delicious, butter-dripping, stuffed bread from Punjab. Similarly, if one of your malayali friends was “kitty putting” in the morning don’t worry, he has not started golf, neither has he become a ‘kati patang’ (cut kite). He only had ‘kuttu puttu’ – a tasty steamed rice preparation from Kerala. Simple da!
Be aware that when you go tappity-tap with those podgy fingers, jaanam may become jane while Luthra may become Lutheran. Shweta becomes Sharon while my Bihari friend Sharan often becomes Shannon – all thanks to Mr. Dean Hachamovitch. And be warned – sometimes Shweta even melts into the ‘sheets’; so be careful where you put those fat fingers. Once, I earnestly texted a scholarly colleague of mine, complimenting him for teaching ‘Pubic Policy’ at Bangalore’s all-girls Mount Carmel College. I haven’t heard from the public policy researcher ever since.
Strange are the ways of the English. And stranger still are the ways of us Indians who want to use all modern Apps while still retaining a regional twist. Here the Punjabi culture really helps. They have always been thumbing their noses at English spellings and pronunciations. Arrey, simplify yaar! Just take the bloody noun and add that lisp of ‘sh’ to it. And oye! In case the word starts with ‘sh’ as in ‘shaadi’ (marriage), just use the alternate prefix of ‘v’ and be on your way. What bloody English vinglish!
So, when Delhiites meet, they do ‘baatein shaatein’ and discuss ‘politics sholitics’ or ‘’yoga shoga’. Me? When I am not ‘flying shying’, I am ‘blogging shogging’.
Great! But these conversations cannot be continued on your smartphones and laptops unless you turn off that devil called ‘autocorrect’. Too dangerous – Aam Aadmi Party becomes Sam Adams party while Mamata Banerjee becomes Tamara Banerjee, (decidedly far from the truth). ‘Pappu’ becomes ‘happy’ while ‘feku’ becomes ‘demi’ due to some convoluted algorithm on my Chinese budget phone. If it was an IPhone, God knows what feku would have turned into, given the close proximity of ‘f’ and ‘u’ with a ‘k’ thrown in the middle!
And for those who have not yet gained mastery over the language and still choose to keep the damn autocorrect OFF, expect something like this:
“Dear al dis is rahul I hv jzt complete my mba…but nobady say that coz I don’t hav fulluanc in my English and also gramertcelly problem. So motivate me…wat shud I do??”
Bro, I can’t motivate you, but I can advise you. Turn off the damn autocorrect. It will keep your Shwetas and Sheelas from morphing into Sharons and Shaloms. Meanwhile, learn your spellings and grammar. Seek help from an online dictionary or use a thesaurus. On your smartphone or PC, a Google search for any word gives you a small loudspeaker-shaped icon for helping with pronunciations – that’s pro-nun-see-ation and not pro-noun-ciation’. And what’s more – very soon, you won’t have to worry too much about your convent-educated friends and their grammar shammar!
Samantha may also bathe?
Oops, I wanted to say “samajh mein aayi baat?” (do you get it?)
Featured Image Courtesy: www.alchetron.com