If you are done rolling your eyes…besides your ‘R’s, let’s begin this week’s sermon. After what I wrote last week, sudden seriousness befell my life. I told you I can’t write on serious topics like suicide and all. But I did, and in response, got so many heart-tugging, but serious mails from all of you that I spent the entire last week staring out of the window like the Sholay widow, reflecting on the purpose of our existence in this world.
And got snapped back into reality only when I heard some commotion at Pappu Singh’s dhabha. He was arguing with a customer. Seeing me approach, Pappu made a crying face and said, “Madam ji, English customer.” No, it wasn’t as if a British gentleman had decided to fine-dine at Pappu Singh’s roadside dhabha. It was Subramanium, the Tamilian bank manager who’d recently got transferred from Madurai. He was trying to return Pappu Singh’s butter-laden dal makhani as he had ordered for the yellow dal. Ello daal, shouted Subramanium. Eh lo daal, replied a perplexed Pappu Singh, nudging the plate back towards him. It was a hopelessly hilarious situation and when Pappu eventually understood what he meant, he said, toh Yaallow ko ello kyon bol raha hai. English toh theek se bole.” I wanted to ask him what he thinks of his own English when he calls his car Mruti (maruti) or shouts ‘(s)cheen is the best’ during a match, talking about Tendulkar but sounding like he’s praising our friendly neighbour, China.
Anyhow, his words ‘English toh theek se bole’ stayed in my head. Come to think of it, barring the Queen and her loyal countrymen, no one speaks English like the English. We have different accents depending on which part of India we are from, and that’s supposed to make it interesting. What it sadly does is, give some people a handle to judge others. “I’m very stressed. I recently moved from Patna. And over here, people poke fun at my ‘Bihari’ accent,” wrote a young student, requesting to not be named. How these so-called elites, who spend their life faking an accent to sound polished, make fun of other people is beyond me. But it happens all the time. I’ve seen girls rejecting boys, and the other way round, because their accent is ‘local’.
I’ve seen young students getting bullied at schools and colleges by those who think the way they speak English makes them superior beings. I’ve seen perfectly capable professionals being denied promotions because their accent wasn’t ‘impressive enough’. And then, who hasn’t seen our homegrown film actors, born and brought up in Amchi Mumbai, suddenly take to an incomprehensible Texan drawl when they become stars, as if they had a mini America going inside the four walls of their homes while growing up. Here’s the thing to ponder about and keep in mind.
1Before you giggle at a colleague or a classmate who says ‘attensun’ instead of attention, please pay attention to the fact that English is a foreign language for ALL of us, whether from Bangalore or Bhatinda. And if someone has made an effort to learn and master speaking and writing in a foreign language, they deserve credit, and not taunts for the way they utter some words.
2 Diverse accents are not limited to India. People from different regions in the US, for instance, speak English in their respective thick accents. And that adds to their identity and charm. If for no other reason, take pride in your accent because firangs do it too.
3While it’s interesting to adopt new accents, or even trying to dilute a thick regional accent, none is ever superior over the other. Speaking like an American would not make you an American. And even if it could, why would you want it?
Stop getting impressed with people over shallow things that can be achieved by merely rolling the tongue and blurting out a word differently. Surely your standards for judging a person’s worth should be different, and better. Don’t you think?
Sonal Kalra may preach whatever but she has secretly joined classes to get trained in the North Carolina accent. Needs something to hold on to, for the next time she interviews Salman Khan.
Mail your calmness tricks to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter at @sonalkalra