Friday, September 30, 2005

Swinglish Only, Yaar

Author's Note:
This post was rejected by some because of its content that hurts the sentiments of the global audience, due to its negetive references to Indian/Brit and American language, however unintentional.


Remember the time when Wren and Martin was the bible that got you through those middle school English exams? Remember committing the entire list from Barron's GRE to memory, in college?
When the British bequeathed to us a tottering, depleted economy and a penchant for corruption and red tape, they also left behind the legacy of British Educational system, which has English as its axis. Which is why, in spite of having so many of our own languages, Indians communicate largely via English.

"Zimblee", "vaat" are all you need to hear to know that you're south of the vindhyas where children spell earth's natural satellite as "Yem-Woh-Woh-Yenn"; and its easy to conclude you're at the north when "Bheri Bheri Bhaadd" and "Ispeeking" worm their way into your brain. That is us speaking English not is not yet ours.

The case of USA and their language, serves as a good study for us to create our own friendly version.
Americans flaunt their take on the Ol' English with fierce abandon. They prefer 'gas' to 'petrol', 'cop' to 'police' and that is not akin to the difference between 'Po-tae-tow' and 'Poh-tah-tow'. As a test, try typing the word - 'colour' in any word processor (set to English-American) and you cannot go on without receiving a helpful hint that asks you to use 'color' instead. Now you know just how distinct American (as in "Yo Dude, speak American") is from English. No one gasps in horror or raises their haughty eyebrows (or stiff upper lips) at a busy New Yorker saying "Where-dya-wanna-go?" as if uttering a single word instead of a sentence where one would expect some clipped words with pauses in between. That is because the Americans consider their language as their birthright and the disapproval of the teachers of English mean nothing to them.

Looks like we've followed by example but with our indigenous approach.
As Indians, we have this gift for customization. Since time immemorial, people have been coming in from various parts of the world with their distinct culture, language and customs only it have it homogenized in the great Indian Pot-Pourri.
When we can assimilate rigid components with such ease then the flexible and ever growing language like English is not even a worthy challenge...
I am not talking about the inclusion and worldwide usage of Indian words like Jungle, Fakir, Mulligatawny and Pariah. Those words went into the dictionary when there were Gora Sahibs strutting around in our country calling it their own.

Move over archaic English, for there is stiff competition from Hinglish (Hindi + English) spoken throughout the country seamlessly, Tanglish (Tamil + English) which is the local favorite or to simply give a generic term to all these formats- Swinglish (Software Engineer's English).

The HR of the various companies (mostly IT industry based) in their eminent wisdom make sure that any project would contain members of starkly different demographical profiles, who can represent the diversity in our great country. So having grown up speaking Hinglish, Tanglish, Telinglish, Malunglish or any other member of this family, people come into a team and slowly but surely create this version that contains 60% English, 25% Hindi and 15% local language.

At first the team, has a merry time digesting a 'Arre yaar' (Hindi for 'C'mon Man') prefix to any sentence in shudh angrezi or 'Yenna' (What), ‘Romba’ (Very) or 'Ooru' (City/Place) sprinkled generously and unexpectedly in between the other words and phrases in English. In time the differences melt away- the transported learn the local language by way of the regionalized English spoken by others and the locals learn smatterings of the language of the transported people. The result, ladies and gentlemen is the language that you hear in any corridor or cubicle of any Indian software company- SWINGLISH.

Look no further than all your magazines, books and newspapers where certain italicized words are making more frequent appearances among the chaste English, lending their own spice to the meaning - Junta, Desi, Masala, Hazaar...the list goes on.
We don't bat an eyelid when we receive mail messages like:
"Kya Yaar? Romba busyaa? I was thinking ki when you are free, we could go over the reports, together", in spite of the red squiggly lines (from the spell checker) that mark them; which belies our covert approval and ravenous appetite for Swinglish.

Why does it happen? Research shows that while our western cousins are insularly monolingual predominantly, we Indians are by and large at least tri-lingual. We are English educated, are taught our mother tongue and learn Hindi at some point or the other.
While increased use of various languages, more or less in parallel, is shown to be a marker of a sharper brain, it can also lead the speaker, who is not very centered on the linguistics but rather on the content, to very easily switch across the languages. If the audience is also trained in the same languages, then processing the juxtaposed information from the speaker comes naturally but there is definite realization on the part of the speaker and the listener of the mix.

Regardless of how it came to be or why at all it exists, Swinglish is the version built and promoted by the software based junta of India, that has found acceptance in lyrics of pop and film music; the whole length of Indie movies themselves feature dialogues in a familiar mix of Indian languages and English, NRIs all over earth identify it as their own and everyone you know uses it.

So next time anyone says "But…aanaa" (Tanglish for "But...But") or "Dekho, the point is..." ("Look, the point is..." in Hinglish) and when you see hoardings promoting cellular services that state "Talk pannungaa" (which when translated from Tamil would be "do the Talk" or "make the talk"!!) You can feel certain pride in witnessing the boom of this "Made in India" phenomenon.

Having said hajaar serious stuff, here is a kutti joke:
This Englishman brags (in very bad taste) to our desi guy, "We ruled your country for 200 years".
Unfazed, our aadmi replies, "Arre Bhai, toh what? We will ruin your language forever!”

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Analyse This

Just a week ago, one of my newer acquaintances, was trying to re-assure me that I was Scorpio and not the poster child for “Linda Goodman Screwed up!!” rallies. “What distinguishes us our astute analysis of human nature”, she told me, ”try and observe, you have that potential to study, observe and draw very accurate conclusions about people.”

I repeatedly stated that I definitely do not fit the mould drawn up for the Scorpio (human x-ray machine, Linda called us).

If I did possess those tele-whatumaycallit powers, then why would I be Miss. Congeniality/Popularity wherever I go? (Please note the rather heavy undertone of sarcasm and the explicit proclamation of the same). Wouldn’t I coolly be able to manipulate the evil-doers away from my path and not have to rant and rave in my blog?

She dismissed all my points very casually (she’s scorpio too) and maintained her litany of “try it and you’ll see”.

I was inspired to reclaim my latent powers; today, I found a perfect opportunity to flex my heretofore-unexplored analysis muscles. What an excellent bunch to people to analyse – the junta that turned up for mock cats J

Start of Report

We’ll start by breaking down the data into categories and levels.

The first split will be based on gender: - the Girls and the Guys; or the minority and the majority, respectively.

The Girls can be divided as

Behenjis and

Boho Tomboys.

Behenjis’ come in immaculate bhartiya nari wear right down to the ornate embroidered handicraft handbags. They are 90% of the time only in the company of atleast one male escort who’s not a blood relation. There is a great deal of walking around and laughing in muted tones. Behenjis avoid contact will all other sections of people that co-habit the mock cat arena except the chosen ones who (if they are wise) will also maintain the mind set that they both are the only people there.

Boho Tomboys’ are the deliberately unfeminine girls who land in the center in the crinkliest of the unwashed T-shirts and worn out baggies. They belong to Neo’s mindset after he discovers he is the one-namely, they see everything in zeroes and ones. To know the strictest fashion No-nos one only needs to observe their apparel. Some of these sit with the preparatory material and actually work towards goals.

Among Boys, the variety is more due to their sheer large numbers:

You have the basic split-up as :

‘The Munnas’

‘The Bhais’

‘The Munnas who pretend to be Bhais’

‘And the Bhais who pretend to be Munna’s

The Munnas’ are mostly final year college students. Although they are the big brothers in the campus, in the mock cat arena they are the bottom feeders in the food chain. They are fresh faced, well dressed lot, they actually care and prepare. These guys accompany ‘Behenjis’. They come in kurtas or Alligator monochrome upper wear with a matching toned set of trousers. They are the future yuppie tax-payers, the young India. They still write essays on Secularism, Gandhian Ideals and Global Warming.

‘The Bhais’ are the employed lot. They work 6 days a week and want to advertise their need to atleast be able to sleep more on Sundays by coming in a barely sanitary “I haven’t taken a bath yet” look. They wear very strong colors – mostly black and red. Some have “funny” worded T-shirts (why beer is better than women, 10 reasons why Bikes are better than girlfriends – I’d to see these specimens marry their Pulsars and have little pulsar-human children). They are easily identifiable due to their characteristic to roam in packs and not come inside the class unless personally ushered in by the invigilator, also they tend to be on their mobiles quite a lot.

‘The Munnas who pretend to be Bhais’ are the young Alpha males who think they can carry off the tough guy act. They are surrounded by the adoring fan pack (mostly class mates and friends). Can be easily spotted by their desparate attempts to appear more macho – ‘Grateful Dead’ T-shirts, a cultivated unshaven chin, deeply gelled hair, tendency to wear pants in a Hip-Hop fashion (way way below the hip). These people strut with such practice that one starts to hear the strains of “Stayin Alive” in the background. ‘Boho Chicks’ (the term used by them to describe the ‘Boho Tomboys’) are their favorite targets. Their accents reek of faux Americana, the whole range of it – from the mobster NY (generous sprinkling of “F&*^ “everywhere) to Cowboy drawl (talking via nose and clenched teeth).

‘The Bhais who pretend to be Munnas’ are the oldest of the lot. Probably with 2-4 years of Work-ex (and majority of that experience spent dealing firmly with the junta of the other 3 categories), high designation, high pay. They are at the top of the chain, but try to not show it. They come in unglamorous business casuals, sit in the classes as soon as they spot their place and continue in that state of doing nothing until they are handed the question papers. Their mobiles are state of art, their wheels are the swankiest –yet they walk (opposed to strutting) and try to blend. The only reason I can think of their passive act despite the highly aggressive natures is the fear of their subordinates (‘the bhais’) in office catching them in a mock cat center.

Coming to those who actually get through the hallowed IIM screening process:

‘Behenjis’ and ‘the Chicks’ get through in equal number, but their numbers are small enough to begin with.

‘The Munnas’ and ‘the Bhais who pretend to be Munnas’ occupy the top 2 positions among the shoo-in category. ‘The Bhais’ are the largest in the numbers of those who try, but their success percentages are not so good. ‘The Munnas who try to be Bhais’ are the least among those who try, they might get through in a decent number but not to the cream institutions.

End of Report

So by now I was sporting a superior smirk of one who was above the teeming crowd and had clinically studied humanity. Jauntily and with a condescending smile I went in for the actual mock cat. The next thing I remember is standing outside the class 2 hours later-my mind wiped clean. Before I could consider the possibility of Alien Abduction, I was aware that I had in my hand the question paper I had supposedly attempted, with my verifiable doodles in it.

Next time, I will bring prep material and spend time with it like the smart sisters of my Boho fraternity. This analyzing thingy is best suspended till I can afford to spend time in it.

I am just a poor girl, nobody loves me -Bohemian girl rhapsody
(due apologies to the mortal remains of Freddie Mercury that turns in its resting place)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Office Romances

“The only thing more dull than waste management practices are your office anecdotes”, says my long-suffering sister. I couldn’t agree more; although I have had the privilege of not having to study a fine topic as the disposal of waste, I think I get the general idea behind her statement.

But Office anecdotes are all I have by means of a source of interaction with people.
By me, I mean the entire demography of people who are employed in software industry.
Looks like entire lives are shaped around the office. By lives, include personal/social lives in the list too.

Too busy to go out into the real world to find significant others and future spouses, most of them are content in scouring offices to look for potential mates. Anything from a common interest in JSP to having attended the same Personality Development Class can form a fertile ground for two to end up marrying.

Coffee breaks are ways to meet; pantries are the most romantic places in the campus. Any look at a person of the opposite sex for more than 29 seconds is taken as a “Haven’t I met you some place before…?”
If you are caught with a 30sec long look for more than 2 times, it means you are declaring lifelong love.

Needless to say that is why most people not looking for love incessantly end up staring only at the computer monitor enough to get their retinas detached.

I can find mine coming apart any time now.

In what seems like a very weird coincidence is that this past week, I have made eye contact with the same person in a frequency of about twice a day. In software terms its like I proposed. In the real world it would be something contrastingly innocent like that person walks in and out of the wing a lot and my cubicle is next to the wing’s only door, and I have this instinct of looking up when there is any sound.

When there is a group of people who can have inter-personal relations among themselves, there are bound to be some unwritten yet mandatory rules. Also a caste system. If you fall for someone who’s extremely far better qualified and in a high designation, your chances are very very abysmally low. There are cliques of the snobbish who in general don’t rub shoulders with your ordinary Joe or Jane Btech or BE. If Jane, looked like million bucks, then the rule is relaxed. But Joes are subject to rejections from the Clique women even if he bore a marked resemblance to Brad Pitt.

Romance within the upper caste cliques and the lower caste majority are of course welcome and in fact encouraged by the company management. One company gives a car as a gift when 2 employees sign a lifelong partner ship contract. Another gives one 3k when he/she gets married, thus getting 6K is a great inducer for office romances.
Coming back to my tale, X (the person I supposedly ‘stare’ at) is a Prince among the elite clique. He thinks he is doing his bit for the downtrodden women (like me) by smiling at us and trying to provoke us when he is in a slumming mood. X’s deeply touched by my feelings (unspoken) for him to the extent that he has taken to shaking his head sadly in slow motion whenever we see each other. Also he has taken into dealing with me via middle men or women. He’s trying in his way to gently discourage me in my doomed pursuit of him- Something entirely non-existent.

I am tired of this game playing. I would like to go up to him and say, “Buddy, I don’t find you irresistible in the very least. You are entirely safe with me.” But that would mean that I have to accept that I have given him cause to make him think that I am besotted with him. The very concept is calling upon my up-chuck reflex; I am down with fever and I do not want to part with the apple I consumed this morning.

If I ever do settledown (which everyone assures me will happen sooner to people who cry hoarse against marriage) I would definitely make sure that guy is so far away from software that he should think it had something to do with cuddy teddy bears. No wait, that would make him retarded/stuck in a time warp/clueless, or all three together.

So I’ll just settledown for someone who does something else for a living. But people like me are a minority. There is so much smoldering going on and intense chemistry that one would think they wrongly came between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Some Karan Johar victim would probably say, love can happen anywhere, so why not the office?
Hmmm…think about this. You live with this guy, go to office with him, consume food and beverages with him, work with him, come back with him and the next day it’s the same thing all over again.

There is such a thing as too much time spent together or too much in common with one another. Needless to say (although I will say it) all this is my take on this thing.

There have been great successes and many failures.
No clear statistics to support either result as a norm.

So whoever finds love in the neighbouring cubicles, good for you.
And those that don’t, good for you too.

Hope this post wasn’t too Bridget Jonesy

PS: some bits of this post are exaggerations and put only to emphasize the appropriate point and any resemblance to anything actual in real life will only make it credible :p