“Aunty, you should write on the Punjab elections this week,” said Bansuri. I rolled my eyes. “The newspaper is so full of election-related stuff these days that even if I murder you for calling me aunty, it won’t get more than three lines on page 15 of the paper,” I growled, cursing myself silently for allowing entry to Chaddha ji’s offspring in my home.
“Then write on the Chinese plane that crashed and whose wing has been found in Mauritius,” she offered. “Malaysian, not Chinese, and we don’t know as yet on what happened to the MH370 flight. Don’t make assumptions,” I replied.
“Kharaab ho gaya hoga. Maharashtra ki number plate jo thi us pey,” she let out an annoying laughter, adding yet another to her repertoire of poor jokes. “Then write on the India-Pakistan war,” she said.
“Which war?” I asked. “The one starring Fawad Khan,” she replied. #facepalm, I began to wonder why Bansuri Chaddha, of all the people, is taking so much interest in my column. And scared as hell that she may end up reading it someday.
“Anyways, I had come to tell you that when Salman Khan comes to your office for Stars in the City event, I’d try to be there. Aapko toh vaise bhi log chahiye hote honge seats bharne ke liye,” she said. “Oh, so kind of you. You can, in fact, easily fill 2-3 seats,” I replied, shaking my head at my own loss of manners.
“How mean! Chalo aap kuchh bhi likh lo. Who reads your column anyways?” she countered. “It’s anyway, not anyways,” I replied, desperately trying to change the topic. “No ways. Papa always says ‘anyways’ and he’s always right,”she retorted.
“Thank you. I got the topic for this week,” I said and got up to show her the door.
Bansuri and her dad are among the one billion out of 1.2 billion people in India who say ‘anyways’, when the correct usage is ‘anyway’. Now I, for one, am least uptight or fussy about grammar, unless it is being used carelessly in the written word. Also, I stopped being judgmental about people on the basis of their knowledge of English language, or the lack of it, when I got severely bullied in school for pronouncing ‘AC 2-tier’ as ‘AC 2-tyre’ in a chapter on Indian railways. But, it bothers me when people get wrongly defensive of a mistake and are not even open to accepting it as one.
Whether it is English or Hindi or any other language, it never hurts to learn a new word or the right usage of something. But we are so not open to rectifying a mistake, just because we see the majority making it. I remember attending a school’s annual function as a guest a couple of years ago. When our national anthem was being sung in chorus, the kids made the very common mistake of singing ‘Gaahe ‘sab’ jaye gaatha’, when it should actually be ‘Gaahe ‘tav’ jaya gaatha’. I pointed it out when the anthem ended, only to hear one of the teachers say, “Really? We’ll have to check it out. “‘Sab’ jaye gaatha makes more sense...it means ‘everyone should sing together.” I was so shocked at this defence that I left that debate to her, and Rabindranath Tagore’s soul that must have been jolted in heaven.
I feel like talking about a few of the other very common but incorrect usage of terms that I see a majority of us indulge in. I do know, however, that some grandson or daughter of Wren & Martin will get down to finding grammar mistakes in this write-up itself. Anyway, hum Indian hain, Humko kis ka darr hai. Yeh lo examples...
1. Off late: There seems to be a mysterious quota of extra letters (not alphabets, please!!) that God of English seems to have reserved for us Indians, and we liberally download from it. So, an extra ‘f’, when the correct usage is ‘Of late’ comes from the same place the extra ‘s’ in anyways comes from. Example: Kejriwal has not been wearing a muffler of late (not off late), because he couldn’t hear whether people of Punjab want him to contest or protest. See, Bansuri, I wrote on elections!
2. Be rest assured: Now, you can’t be rested and assured. Because we are wrongly using two verbs. But, you’ve always heard people say it this way, haven’t you? Example (imaginary, don’t troll me please): Sushma Swaraj told Arun Jaitley, “Whether BJP gets votes or not, rest, assured (not be rest assured) that we’ll get the best chholey-kulchey in Amritsar.”
3. I’m here only: See, if you are here, where else could you be? Unless you have some strange spiritual powers that your limbs could be elsewhere while the rest of you is here, WHY DO YOU SAY ‘ONLY’? But, we do. In a very, ‘hum toh aise hi hain, kar lo jo karna hai’ way, we continue to add words and alphabets (I mean, letters) wherever we wish. Example: Sonia: “Where is Manmohan ji? Haven’t heard his voice in months.” Rahul: “Mom, turn around. He’s here.” (not he’s here only).
4. Taken for granted: ‘Mujhe taken for granted mat liya karo’ – say half of all the wives in India to half of all the husbands in the country. And vice versa. Ab ek baar sun lo, Einsteins of Hinglish. You can’t say ‘taken’ and ‘lena’ both in a phrase because they mean the same thing. So while – don’t take me for granted is fine, ‘taken for granted lena’ is not. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not.
See, how useful has this week’s column been? I even gave examples. Bansuri is still not likely to get it. So, just for her - and thanks to wikihow, I have a 4-step practical guide to stop saying “anyways”
Step 1: Practice saying ‘anyway’ several times a day. Repeat: “I’m an idiot, but I want to meet Salman, anyway”. “I never read a newspaper, but I give suggestions for column topics, anyway.” “I’m 25-years-old, now. I’ll continue to address every woman as aunty, anyway”
Step 2: Practice pronouncing “anyway” carefully, by syllables. First syllable is “en”. Second syllable is “ee”. Third syllable is “way” and close your mouth (no “z” sound at the end).
Step 3: Say it together “en ee way”, and close your mouth immediately, so you cannot make the “z” sound.
Step 4: Look in the mirror as you practice saying “anyway”. Make sure your lips don’t roll to form a “z” sound at the end. If you mess up, don’t lose heart. Just practice some more.
Sonal Kalra is worried that Bansuri will sulk for at least two months after this column. But, isn’t that good news, anyways?
Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonal.kalra.
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