Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hey, don I speak English?

I had read about England and Englishmen in the works of Wodehouse, Forster and the likes. I knew all about their stiff-upper-lip, their love for the evening tea, their lack of panic (or emotions) in situations of crisis.

But yesterday, when I met a real Englishman and started conversing with him in his mother-tongue, it suddenly struck me how different our styles are. To start with, I greeted him as 'Hi FirstName' instead of the customary, 'Good Morning Mr. Lastname'. I am not sure how it struck him. All through the day, I found myself using short sentences, incomplete ones too (which is grammatically incorrect), dropping syllables like silencing the 't' in 'dont' and the 'f' in 'of course'. I felt I was using a drawl, which stood out against his crystal-cut accent.

And that is when I realized how all those years of interacting with Americans in the IT industry, all those movies, and the attempts to sound cool and trendy have profoundly distorted the so-called Queen's English that we leant in school. It is now flavoured with the American accent, tempered with its grammar, particulary the verbs (Brazil are a great team/Brazil is a great team), and seasoned with a dash of American slangs.

Do I regret it? Not one bit! Because language should always evolve to survive. It is only when new words are added to it and new intonations get associated with its words, that a language stays relevant. And that, I think, is the very reason why English has such a wide acceptance.

N that reminds me, the next book on my wishlist - 'We are like that only'!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An 'Unconquered' Dilemma

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was busy doing what I love the most - reading. And this time, it was Somerset Maugham. The short story was titled 'The Unconquered'.

Maugham narrates the tale of a German soldier, Hans, who is posted to a French village near Soissons, after a hostile takeover by Germany. In a state of drunkenness, he rapes a farmer's daughter. He keeps running into her quite often since then, and tries to strike a rapport, just for fun. The farmer's daughter, Annette, is a school teacher and a true French patriot. She loathes the Germans, and particularly her perpetrator, with a fierce passion. Her hatred causes Hans to become more obsessed with her. Eventually, he realizes that she is carrying his child, and that she could not rid herself of it.

The thought of the child evokes a strange tenderness within Hans, and he offers to marry Annette. By this time, the farmer and his wife are won over, but Annette refuses and remains stubbornly firm. As she gives birth to the child, her mother sends the message to Hans. Hans rushes over to visit his child. When the farmer's wife goes to fetch her grandson, she realizes that mother and child are both missing. As panic strikes the room, Annette walks in through the door and tells Hans that she drowned the child in the river. Hans screams like a wounded animal and rushes out through the door. And Annette feels proud that she has remained the unconquered.

As the narrative closed, I kept asking myself whether it was right for Annette to kill the child. Does a mother have the right to decide whether the child should live or not? What motivated her to take such a drastic step? Was it revenge against her rapist, patriotic feelings, societal norms against a child born out of a wedlock, or pure egoism?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On P.G. Wodehouse

There is a charm to the way PGW writes. He has the most eccentric characters I have ever known. His protagonists range from disillusioned lovers to dog-biscuit salesmen to obsessed earls. His characters have an earthly flavour that makes them all-humourous, all-endearing and all-so-timeless.

What amazes me is the humour that he manages to concoct out of everyday occurences. It is marvellous what a random thought can transform into. Use of irony, toungue-in-cheek humour & good grammar can translate a drab idea into an interesting read. A mundane incident becomes the most loved story and 'Plum' becomes one of the most popular humourists of all times. That is the magic of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse!

On draping a saree

I recently had a conversation with a friend over draping a saree. And as I pondered over the origin of my proficiency in draping a saree, my mind drifted off to those oft-quoted-oft-missed childhood days.

I always used to watch my mother get ready in the mornings. Mom would thrust a glass of milk in my hands as I would dreamily stare into nought, battling the overweight sleep that would swing on my eyelids. What else can you expect a child of four to do when she has been woken up at 6 in the morning to go to school? After raising her voice to get me to drink the milk, Mom would start her daily routine of getting ready for work. She would comb her hair into a neat plait, tuck a flower into it occasionally.

And then she would pick up the saree that she had chosen for the day. This was be the moment that always toppled sleep off my eyes.

I would watch with rapt attention as she unfolded the saree. It was an act of magic. Six yards of fabric - silk, chiffon, cotton, just about anything - draped with such elegance! I would watch her turn the saree around, fold it into neat pleats, tuck them without creating a single extra crease. A gentle tug to align it, a pin there to hold it in place, a glance in the mirror to make sure it was perfect, and she would be ready, neat and pretty. A mere five minutes of activity would leave me awe-struck every morning. And I would yearn to hold the surreal six yards in my tiny hands and create my own magic.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

On tweeting

It is amazing how social networking is blurring the boundaries between the common man and the ones in power. If my local MLA is on Twitter, I can reply directly and instantly to his tweets, and he cannot ignore them. Twitter started off as a tool to keep in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances in an easy, hassle-free way. It helped do away with all the book-keeping associated with an email. It was quick and the restriction on the number of characters ensured it was crisp. But the benefits soon started growing as people discovered better uses to this tool.

Today it transcends networking. It helps build brands, voice opinions, start a movement and much more. I was recently tracking the initiatives by Vir Sanghvi and Pritish Nandy around the Padma Awards controversy. It surprised me how convenient it is to garner support through the social networks. And there is a sense of rawness associated with tweets. The recent tweet by Gul Panag about the COAS is an example in point. You end up saying the things you really mean without much fanfare and fancy around it. The shroud of diplomacy is out.

Every person on Twitter is his own brand ambassador. There are articles which tell you how to increase the number of your followers, what kind of users to follow, how to use the bio space to the best and how to choose a theme picture for your profile. Twitter has become one of the best ways of disseminating information quickly. I find following the ET tweets better than reading the newspaper itself.

As one of my friends joined Twitter after a lot of reluctance, I could not help but realize that love it or hate it, no one can afford not to be tweeting. Even as I write this, I see three new tweets on my twitter tab :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

On starting the day early

Waking up early in the morning is an enlightening sensation. Though I have always been a shining beacon of 'late to bed, late to rise', I am discovering a strange feeling of contentment on rising early.

Sunlight does wonders to the mood. A few rays of brilliant gold, defeating the tightly drawn curtains to gleam into the room and create a warm glow, can uplift the bleakest of moods. Scientifically, one may attribute it to the natural rhythm of the body resonating with the frequencies around.

Then, there is the leisure of having a warm bath, soaking up the luxury of being alive and well. It is soothing, relaxing and reassuring to feel a trickle running down ones face. A lazy breakfast braces one for the challenges of the day. The very thought of piping hot dosas and coconut chutney, butter and toast and jam, eggs and fruit, and a cup of milky coffee is delight itself!

Starting the day early also gives one the psychological advantage of being ahead of the snoozing friend. You have finished half your work by the time he rises with a large yawn. There are very few emotions which are comparable.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A wedding to remember

My best friend got married yesterday. 1 down, 6 to go :)

It was the best of times. We had been planning for the wedding since last June. It has been a whirlwind of activities for the SWINS since then, right from planning for the engagement, to the bachelorette party, the pre-nup ceremonies and the D-day. Every dress was carefully selected, every look carefully rehearsed. Suggestions for improvement kept pouring like a deluge. There were gifts to be selected and memories to be captured.

We met for the sangeet at Khyati's place. Though we were all late(that is the usual SWINS stuff), we rocked to the peppy numbers. It was fun to watch the to-be-weds dance, all conscious of the watchful eyes of the elders ;)

The next day was the mehendi party. Four of us, lugging huge handbags, strode bravely with both hands splattered with the henna. For the first time I realized what 'both my hands are tied up' really means. We stayed at Khyati's place till late in the night, helping with the last minute preparations. Wedding jitters, well, I saw what they were like.

Finally the big day arrived. I got up around 8 (which is pretty early by my current standards) and had a leisurely breakfast. I started dressing up around 9. By 10 I was ready, well, almost :) I reached the venue around 11. There was a flurry of activities going on in the dressing room. Girls bond best over dressing up. We share our make-up kits and tips and help each other drape sarees perfectly. There is a great sense of altruism that a wedding inspires. Gorgeous Khyati and debonair Ashish got married. There was food and fun and lots of banter around. The reception in the evening was a grand affair. All friends, with their parents, were present. It was an evening to remember!

And now that it is all over, life for the six of us is slowly edging towards the mundane routine. But for Khyati, it is still the start of a lifetime of happiness.