Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Language Barrier

It was an ordinary February evening and I had just got home after another non-constructive day at work. I greeted my roommates and headed towards my room to get rid of the formal clothes and get into something more sensible for the Chennai weather. As I was stripping down, something caught my eye, a certain article that was stuck on my door.

The article I found stuck to my door.

It was a newspaper article titled, “Tongue Tied” and I was quite surprised to find it on my door. As I read through the first paragraph, it started making sense. The newspaper article was “targeted” on me. Yet another of my roommates attempts at proving I wasn't “Indian” enough, well at least not enough to their liking.

The article was about how the younger generation of Indians, especially in the urban centres, do not know their mother tongues and “are taking recourse to English as a means of communication between themselves and their children”. As a result of this a lot of languages in our country (196 is the number mentioned) are on the verge of  extinction.

Culture and traditions are two words that are extensively used when you talk about India. India has such a rich and diverse cultural history, one which draws tourists from all across the world and language is an essential part of this culture. Then why are languages losing its importance? The answer to some of the most complicated questions is actually quite simple. Like human beings, cultures evolve and this automatically impacts languages also and evolution occurs to adapt better to conditions and improve quality of life.

Why is it that  language plays such a crucial role today, than what it did a century ago or even 30 years back?

Hundred years ago or even 30 years ago, the world was a gargantuan spherical object but today it isn't. It's not that earth has gotten any smaller, but it is a flat world as put beautifully by 3 time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas L Friedman in his book - “The world is flat”, the title to which was derived from a statement made by Nandan Nilekani, former Chairman of Infosys. Wiki calls the title a metaphor and says, It alludes to the perceptual shift required for countries, companies and individuals to remain competitive in a global market where historical and geographical divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant”. In a nut shell, this means the world is soon becoming a level playing field and factors such as languages are going to lose relevance and could actually be a deterrent.

We are all truly global citizens today and we need to be global citizens if we want to stay competitive and on par with the rest of the world. Had India been averse to using any other “foreign” language like China, the IT boom would have never happened in India. With so many countries having cheap labour to offer, India got the edge because of the large English speaking population. If ability to speak English coupled with a high school degree (fake or original, doesn’t matter) can get you a job paying 10-15,000 Rs to start off, then why not? This in no way means English is superior (or lesser) to other languages; it is about a standard form of communication the world over. Had Hindi or Arabic or anything else been the most spoken language the world across, who knows, we would all be talking one of those languages. Just a few days back I read an article in the newspaper which said CBSE was planning to introduce Japanese for class 10 and 12 students as it would help in employment opportunities considering that a lot of Japanese companies are entering the Indian market. The rules of the game are changing.

It's a multi-dimensional issue which isn't just about money or better career prospects. 

I am a Punjabi, born to Punjabi parents in Hyderabad , brought up in the same city and have been in Chennai for the last 5 years. As a child and even today, I have been in a highly cosmopolitan environment, like it is in most urban centres. Most of my friends have different mother tongues so to keep it neutral and uncomplicated we stuck to English and Hindi. Staying in Hyderabad I picked up Telugu too and my Telugu is a lot better than my Punjabi. As a matter of fact, I hardly know any Punjabi and it has never affected me in any way. Emotionally you can accuse me of “tearing away from my roots”, as the writer dramatically puts it but pragmatically, I can’t think of any way it could have helped me considering the fact that I have no one to speak Punjabi with.

Right through the article the writer has spoken to people from various organizations who all say, “Oh it's bad! Very bad! Terrible! Catastrophe! Anarth! Dushta Dushta!” On being asked why, they all seem to have the same response, “Losing touch with their culture”, but not one of them has given a sensible reason as to why we should stick on with a predefined culture in which they were brought up in and counteract the natural evolution. The writer also mentions that this is not only a trend in India but something seen the world over.

The Indian culture is beautiful and it does not pertain to languages only, it is a way of life. Respect for elders, family, honesty, etc are virtues that can be incorporated even without knowing our mother tongue. We need to find a balance and take the parts of our culture which finds relevance in the current world and with the future in mind. Remember Sati, child marriage and Dowry? They were a part of our culture too. We need to let go of certain things while incorporating newer ideas and beliefs which are in accord with the times.

By no way am I advocating that we must forego our mother tongues and that it is absolutely irrelevant in the modern world. My opinion is based on my life and what I see around me. There might be factors that I may have overlooked or not considered and it is quite natural for you to agree or disagree with some or all of my points.

The main motive of a language is to communicate and today we need to be able to communicate with a lot more people than our neighbours, doodhwala (milkman) Ramu kaka, servant Nagarani and the rest of the village or town. With the advent of technology and internet we need to be able to communicate with everybody around the world, be it New York or Nambaiyufa. The world today is a global village and we need to be able to talk the language the rest of the villagers speak or be left out.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Dumka, Joy, chotu haathi and I were walking back home after meeting up some friends for lunch. It was Friday, sometime in October 2009; I remember this for a fact because we had our exams in a week. We took a shortcut to get home which involved crossing a railway track (which I strongly disapprove of) and at that point we decided to take a leak. As the 4 of us peed away to glory, one of us, I’m not sure who, said, “Yaar, feel like eating some good biryani”.

I just laughed and exclaimed casually, “Let’s go to Hyderabad. My parents are out on some desert safari. We could go home”.

I was admiring the trajectory I was making and as I looked up and turned to the side, I had 3 faces looking at me, well, at my face.

It was a very casual statement and I didn’t have the slightest inkling that these crazy friends of mine would take it seriously.

I looked at them in astonishment. “Are you freaking kidding me”, I exclaimed. It was 6:30 in the evening, we had no tickets and it being the start of the weekend, didn’t help either as getting tickets was next to impossible.

We went to our adda (hangout spot), a few minutes from where we stayed and had a serious discussion.

“The exams are in a week man”.

“So? We never study a day before the exams anyway”.

“But what about the tickets”?

The discussion went on for about 10 minutes.

“Screw it man! Let’s go to Hyderabad” was the final verdict.

We rushed to the apartment to tell the others.

First, went to chotu haathi’s apartment to tell his girlfriend. Ritu opened the door and we all screamed at once making no sense. Ritu was shocked to see us all shouting, smiling and excited like monkeys. She exclaimed, “WHAT”?

Chotu told her, “We are leaving to Hyderabad in 15 minutes. Get ready”

A shocked Ritu asks, “Are you serious?”

Chotu says, “Yes absolutely.”

A super excited Ritu dashed into her room to start packing. She comes back and asks, “You guys aren’t kidding right. Because if you are, I swear I am going to kill you all”.

We all laughed and assured her that we were dead serious. Now that we had convinced Ritu, it was time for the next hurdle, our flat mates. We get into our flat to see Bholu completing his record and Killa was in his own world, probably listening to the same song over and over again or just dreaming about money.

We told them the plan and unlike Ritu, convincing wasn’t going to be easy here. It took a while for them to believe we were serious. Bholu, sceptical as always said, “Bhai I have a pre-final practical exam on Tuesday. I don’t think I can make it” and Killa apparently was busy with the college fest.

Convincing didn't seem to work so we got down to packing as fast as we could. Bholu just kept staring at us. At one point Bholu said, “Chuck the exam man. I’m coming too”. Bear hugs and hi5s followed and by 7:35 PM we were all set to leave. Poor Killa was the only one left behind.

We kept exchanging smiles on the way to the bus stop and could feel the adrenaline pumping. We couldn’t believe that we were actually doing this and it all seemed unreal.

The bus journey.
On reaching, we were informed that because of heavy rains in Andhra Pradesh the usual route to Hyderabad was flooded. Nevertheless, we found a way out. There was an operator who was taking a longer route and was charging exorbitantly for a regular bus but despite all the odds, we just had to go. And we were going. This was the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime.

We had a great time in the bus, much to the dismay of the fellow passengers, with the exception of Joy, who was way too busy looking out of the window like a little kid.

Nagarjunsagar Dam

Nagarjunsagar dam with all the gates open.

We woke up to a beautiful morning and were lucky to see the Nagarjun Sagar dam in all its glory. A sight that draws visitors from all around the region.

A journey that shouldn’t have taken us more than 12-13 hours dragged on for 16 hours. We got off, tired and hungry. We reached home, ate and relaxed for a while. In the evening, the great Hyderabad adventure began.

I took over the mantle of the guide and got down to planning the places we should visit. Since none of my friends had seen Hyderabad, I decided to stick to some of the standard places of visit just to give them a feel of the city. In the process I ended up visiting new places and doing things I never did staying in Hyderabad for all these years. We roamed around the city, visited various places, got lost and returned only in the wee hours of the day. 

From Left to Right: Me, Joy, Bholu, Ritu, Chotu haathi, Dumka

Yeh duniya badi gol hai.

At the iconic Lumbini Park.

Watching on as the others tested their cricketing skills.

The Laser Show.
With Mr Buddha for company.

Joy explores his adventurous side.
At Hyderabad's first multiplex. Almost a tourist sight today.

Joy getting romantic

However, the best was left for the last, the inspiration of the trip, the biryani from Paradise (a highly appropriate name for the restaurant) made by the Gods itself, perhaps the best Biryani in the world. On reaching Paradise we were greeted by big burly bouncers. Hard to believe? When you are visiting a restaurant with an iconic status like the “Paradise”, there are bound to be threats, both by Biryani eaters and terrorists.
The wait for the Biryani. 

I have no idea what these guys are trying to do.

We got our table and waited in eager anticipation. Our conversation stopped as the most heavenly aroma drifted towards us and we looked at the magical bowl of biryani approaching. It came closer and closer and we felt our hearts beat faster and faster. We didn't realize that we were all smiling, which didn't last too long though, when we realized it wasn’t for us. However, it wasn’t long before a similar heavenly aroma came our way but this time we were sure, as we saw the largest bowl of Biryani come our way and land onto our table. Every trip has a purpose and the purpose of this trip was met. The quest for Biryani was a success.

This post is a part of the contest by "Cleartrip - Every trip has a purpose" in association with Indiblogger. Have you had an trip that you would like to share with the world then log onto and share your story with the world and win assured prizes from cleartrip.
HEAVEN! The best biryani in the world.

Damn I’m hungry now. 

In hindsight, I wonder if this trip would have ever transpired had we not stopped to pee on that October evening. 

*ing (In order of appearance)
Dumka: Mohit Singh
Joy: Joy Deep Ghosh
I/Gogo: Ashish Kalsi
Chotu Haathi: Kautubh Chatterjee
Ritu: Rituparna Dasgupta
Bholu: Mohit Mathur
Killa: Mukund Killa

A special thanks to Bholu for being a pain in the ass and ensuring that I write a post on our trip without further procrastination. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The tortuous journey called life

6 AM (Alarm goes off): < Tsamina mina eh eh, Waka Waka eh eh....>

6: 30 AM (Snooze): < Tsamina mina eh eh, Waka Waka eh eh....>

7: 00 AM (Snooze again): < Tsamina mina eh eh, Waka Waka eh eh....>

Even Shakira gives up.

9: 47 AM: Rajeev jumped up, eyes wide open, jolted towards the bed side clock, knocked it over , rolled off the bed and finally grabbed it on the floor. With half body on the bed and other half off it, he screams “Oh <censored  beep beep beep> I am going to destroy this <beeeeeep> clock with the <beeeeep> alarm. I’m screwed”.

72 hours ago

Sam, Rajeev’s colleague and friend, comes to Rajeev with news.

Sam (mocking) : Saar, come, big saar is calling.

Rajeev: Why? What happened? I didn’t screw up again, did I?

Sam: Ha ha ha no idea bro. May the almighty be on your side.

Rajeev: Screw you man. I’m not afraid of him.

Sam: Oh you are a Spartan, we all know that.

Sam walks off with a wide grin.

In reality, Rajeev was terrified of his boss. He nervously walked towards the big man’s cabin.

Rajeev: S s sir!

Boss: Come in Rajeev.

Rajeev walks in nervously, like a guilty student walking into the principal’s office.

Boss: Sit down Rajeev and please give me a couple of minutes.

Rajeev: Of course sir, take your watch.

Boss: What?

Rajeev: <cursing himself> Oh oh I mean take your time.

The boss looked at him like he was some repulsive little insect. Rajeev could just muster a sheepish smile. 

With every minute seeming like an hour, Rajeev just sat there, fidgeting around, wondering what he had done this time around to find an audience with his boss.

Boss: Yes, Rajeev.

Rajeev jumps up and almost falls off the chair, rudely thrown back into reality by the booming voice of the boss.

Boss: Are you okay?

Rajeev: Yes yes, ab ab –solutely.

Boss: So how is everything going on Rajeev?

The boss was smiling.

Rajeev couldn't help but think, "Wait a second! Is he smiling? Have I ever seen him smiling? Am I getting kicked out? Aaah look at the psycho enjoying every moment of the torture".

Boss: Rajeev?

Rajeev: Yes, absolutely sir. I am completing all the work being assigned, I’m working overtime and I’m willing to go that extra mile to serve this organization to the best of my ability.

The last line came directly off the resume.

Boss: Is that so?

Now, that was a confirmation of his fears. The boss did not think so. So the day he had long feared was finally here.

Boss: Rajeev, I know you have been putting in your best but I’m afraid it’s not good enough for this organization. You are being let go.

This is what Rajeev expected the boss to say but instead, this is what he said,

Boss: Rajeev, I am giving you a once in a lifetime opportunity. You are going to present the annual report in front of the board of directors.

Rajeev was left shell shocked.

Boss: Rajeev! Are you okay?

Rajeev: Are you serious?

Boss: If you aren’t comfortable doing it...

Rajeev interrupts, jumps up from his seat and in a rather audaciously loud tone, says

Rajeev: I WILL DO IT.

That was the first time that he actually saw his boss a little shaken up. He was pleasantly surprised and pleased with himself for being able to do that.

Rajeev knew that this was an opportunity of a lifetime and finally he felt his work was recognized. He was over the moon and worked day and night to ensure that the presentation was impeccable.

9:48 AM, Today

After all that preparation and hours of overtime, Rajeev overslept, well not really. Nervous excitement kept him up all night and he could manage to fall asleep only at daybreak.

The presentation was supposed to start at 9:30 and it would take Rajeev at least an hour to get to work.

Rajeev had 2 options now:
     1) Sacrifice job.
     2) Sacrifice personal hygiene.

Personal hygiene, as expected, took the brunt. Wearing half a bottle of cologne on him, Rajeev was all set to go. Late, he still was.

Just as he was about to leave, he gets a phone call from hell – office! He answers it, wondering if it would be his last call.

Turns out devil was on vacation, so it was God instead.

The flight the board members were on had been delayed due to a bomb threat made by some imbecile college students who thought it would be “fun”.  He profusely thanked god and promised he would stop eating non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays and would change his religious views on Facebook from “atheist” to “religious”.

A relieved Rajeev goes back for a much-needed shower, comfortably gets ready, goes through his notes and leaves well before time for his presentation. There wasn’t going to be an anticlimax after all.

He reaches office and goes straight to the conference room. The board meeting was on. What the hell was happening?

Rajeev storms to Sam.

Rajeev: What the hell man! Why didn’t you call me?

Sam: I did!!! Like a gazillion billion times. I couldn’t reach you. The board hired a chartered flight and got here earlier than expected.

Rajeev removes his phone just to see it switched off and almost threw it out the window. Well he would have had the window been open.

A dejected and furious Rajeev walked into the conference room and took his seat in the audience. He felt like the whole world was against him. He was too tired and didn’t care anymore.

Finally, it was time for the annual report, the grand finale. Well, he did care. A LOT! It was too much for Rajeev to take; he just walked out of the hall and out of the office. He went straight home, kept his cell phone switched off and stayed in seclusion the rest of the day.

Unable to keep his mind off the preposterous day that he just had, he decided to have a couple of beers and go to sleep.

Next morning, he wakes up late and decides not to go to office. He orders pizza, watches a couple of movies and stays at home all day. In the evening, he felt like he needed some fresh air, so he heads out for a walk.

He opens the door to find the newspaper still lying there.

Rajeev: Oh damn! I totally forgot about it.

He picks up the newspaper and glances at the headlines.

His eyes go wide, the newspaper falls from his hand and he just stands there motionless. A tear rolls down his eye.
The headlines read, “Sachin Tendulkar injured, out of the world cup”.

Before you delete me off your friends list or report my blog for mental torture, read on.

Life is full of twists and turns, happiness and disappointment, love and hate but it’s these extreme emotions that keep life from becoming banal and keeps it fun. What is happiness if you aren’t ever sad? What is a pen without ink or a burger without cheese? What happened to Rajeev and why no happy ending?

1) Because this isn't the end. Rajeev would also realize this and would laugh about this day with his friends in a couple of months. Plus a happy ending would have made it too cheesy like a Hindi movie.

2) This is the philosophy of Closeup Fire-Freeze tooth paste which promises to give you two sensations in a single tube. If you have a story to tell too, then write it on Close up's facebook page or as a comment on my blog. Your story will also be up for the competition just like mine and you could win prizes worth 75,000 Rs. Contest ends on 9th February. So what are you waiting for?