Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Angrezi & I

U wants me to blog about it.

He feels I’ll be more honest then.

You see I’m making a short film about my relationship with English. It’s like a tragi-comedy. This relationship that English and I share. English has flooded my brain. It’s the language I speak, think and dream in. It takes me time to construct complete thoughts and sentences in Hindi. I can do it. It’s not that I can’t. I’ve been ashamed about losing my conversance with Hindi for very long. So now, deliberately, I can.

But all it takes is a short circuit in the emotion department and Boom; I’m off blathering a completely nonsensical English-Kashmiri-Bengali-trying-to-be-Hindi mix of incoherent nonsense.

And yet somehow, I never seem to be able to speak it [English] quite as well and fluently as I’d like to. My sense of grammar and pronunciation are purely instinctual… and often completely off the mark. There are times when I go so horribly wrong that I feel close to tears over my ineptitude. Like right now… I wasn’t sure if it should be ‘about’ or ‘over’ or ‘at’ my ineptitude.

Ha.

The thing is, I had set out to find evidence of how I learnt to speak English – the structured formalness of it that we inherited as part of our education, from the British; and juxtapose it what it’s evolved to today. I was hoping to find a certain sense of exuberance and vitality in the way that I use it today, that I hoped would be a departure from the fossilised package that I received it as.

However, I find that while things around me have changed… and the language ‘on the street’ is adapting very quickly to this fluid, non-structured, organic, grammatically irreverent, linguistically multi-tonal [and now often Americanised] expression, I too have somehow been marginalised in my quest to keep the sanctity of English as I received it. I am as much an oddity as the people I thought I’d hold up under the microscope.

So where does this take my film? What am I achieving through it?

Have I just signed a contract to create a charming little self-lampooning portrait of myself for an audience that really doesn’t figure in my life except perhaps for its intrepid ancestors who put me in this bloody spot to begin with?

Suddenly I feel like I’m back in nursery learning ‘London Bridge’, so I can sing it back in my flat Indian accent for amusement.

Gosh. I’m…

Pissed off.

14 comments:

houseband00 said...

Kids pick up English from home, from TV, basically. I should know, my kid learned it that way. Yes, he even went through mimicking good ol Homer S.("Why you little...").Well, we spoke to him in English, too, but we had to balance it with Tagalog, too, because it's part of the curriculum and it is our language. Obviously.

Man, you should hear some of my countrymen try to talk with an American accent. Good ol' colonial mentality just can'yt be shaken off, it seems.

I remember Nan's post on the universality of English as a language and how it serves to bridge us. It's somehow comforting that we have a common language that helps us understand each other a lot more

Lizza said...

You actually think you're inept in this department? Good heavens. If you're inept, then I don't speak/write English at all. Good luck on the film, but somehow I think it'll all come together for you.

HB, we're good at accents. That's all. :-)

B Ditty said...

hope it's playin' at a theater near me :)

NanNan said...

Wow--- it was your farking larking use of language--that instantly caught my attention then grabbed my heart--- in awe and envy of your command of the English language--- somehow I don't think that's grammatically correct,, but who cares-- whatever language you choose- your creative and unique style comes through, and that is mission accomplished! your command of words is like that of a master symphony conductor--- if you're in nursery school,,, then we're still in utero!!! and I agree with B ditty--- I'll be first in line at the premiere!!

Prometheus said...

Instinctual? Prometheus thinks that's a new term H has coined. Evolution of English, wot?

Prometheus spells it color and organize but not sulfur. He's a quaint mix of Brit prude and American Yank with a jhakaas tadka of Mumbai-ish.

Ee 'opes to get premier passes to ze movie, eh?

PS: Scratch London Bridge, Pigggy on the raaailwaaay rocks anyday.

nunu's mum said...

Hi H, I must admit, I've been a bit slow on the uptake. Just stumbled upon your blog and I've gotta say, you're writing blows me away. You are hysterical!!!

And as far as your 'ineptitude' in the English language, I'm with Lizza on this one. I've lived in England for 6 years now, and believe you me, I have yet to meet one person within a 10 mile radius of where I live whose grasp of the language comes anywhere near yours. They all speak klingon to me. =I

Will definitely be back for more!!!

H said...

Boys and girls. can I just say I love you all? Like really seriously truly.

The film is looking rather... nice. grin.

And my editor [we'll leave him unnamed - happens to be another 'G' - haaah... how's that for irony] is a complete absolute and top-class darling. He held my hand and gently led me to the structure of this film despite a bad-arsed hangover [his] with all the beers. [gosh brits really do like beer and cheer(s)... ok ignore... that was really lame]. Well I almost, kind of crushed on him. And that's why all this gushing nonsense really. grin. [and blush... whatever].

He's really brilliant with getting the best out of people.

anyhooo. he's off to London tomo.. so that's as far as it goes. a mild little quasi-crush.

Ok. shut up H, already.

HB: i know what you're saying. And I really appreciated Nan's post and perspective on this. But really it's a wonderful thing that you and M balanced out D's exposure to English and Tagalog.

Lizza; can I please hand you a doll of the year plaque? like really truly? But I think we're all in the same boat really. i think it's bound to happen when you're multi-lingual. And I really do believe that I'm richer for the layers... like you.

Ben: sweetie... it's a really short docu format film. i doubt that it's go to theatres anytime soon, or ever for that matter. it's a 3-minute film. But someday when I'm feeling bold enough I'll probably upload it.. but then again, by then i'll probably think it's shit anyway.

Nan; and you have to get darling of the year. really. You are just so wonderfully encouraging. Just like mum. really. sometimes i'm convinced I've known you.
but like I've said to ben, i hope to someday show you the film. I really would like for all you guys to see it.. because in some sense you guys have been my sounding board, my support system in these parts. so THANK YOU.

Prometheus; Mr. fire god... first of all, why on earth aren't you writing? really, this isn't fair. Git back in 'ere bwoy. And umm... oddly enough 'instinctual' is listed in the dictionary. even I was surprised. As is 'conversance' [which my ed thought was a hinglish-ism... ha. it really threw him off a bit. Ha. I kinda liked the effect I must admit.]About london bridge... i've always disliked that nursery rhyme... so I thought it perfect in this context. Piggy... rocks. I propose a motion to make it our anthem.

Nunu's Mum; Welcome! and thank you for the thumbs up. grin. but i must admit... after three days in certain company... I've decided that nobody uses 'oh's and 'ah's as effectively as the Brits. really. I'm in awe. grin.

Okay. i do realise that I'm a bit sickeningly gushy right now. so i'll shut up for tonight. But you guys do know that i love you, right?

Julia Scissor ;-) said...

Hmm..The hero of R.K Narayan's masterpiece The English Teacher asks a character called Gajapathy to ask Mr. Brown, the professor of English, "if he can say in any of the 200 Indian languages, 'the cat chases the rat'." It is sensible to learn one language, English, than learn 200 Indian languages ;-)
Wot say?

After all English is the lingua franca or whatever. I have to undergo the torture of being accused bu my friends of "eating ice-cream alone-alone?" if I dare enjoy a waffle cone all by myself.

Julia Scissor ;-) said...

Hmm..The hero of R.K Narayan's masterpiece The English Teacher asks a character called Gajapathy to ask Mr. Brown, the professor of English, "if he can say in any of the 200 Indian languages, 'the cat chases the rat'." It is sensible to learn one language, English, than learn 200 Indian languages ;-)
Wot say?

After all English is the lingua franca or whatever. I have to undergo the torture of being accused bu my friends of "eating ice-cream alone-alone?" if I dare enjoy a waffle cone all by myself.

H said...

Julia... hello. :-) 200 language plus english is good too. I think. what's the point in being a billi that chases only one chooha? All the merrier and all the richer for the many langauges we straddle.

We shall be multi-lingual Eliots with our own wasteland of many many dictionaries. [yikes... that was truly lamentably lame :-(] but you do get, na?

And what's wrong with a eating ice-cream alone-alone? I've done it hazaar times!

The One and Possibly Only said...

As long as you're not in the song "London Bridge," everything will be okay.

H said...

Robert! I should've known. only you could put in perspective like this [you and your brilliant bro].

rajiv said...

I did a blog search and found this post.
I have included a link at the bottom. 'http://rajivmudgal.com/?p=78'(if its ok with you)
You have a interesting and engaging style. Nice to have found your blog.
regards
-rajiv

H said...

Thanks Rajiv. Of course I don't mind. 'Tis in fact nice to be linked.

Shall be visiting your blog. Good to have found it too.