Thursday December 14, 2017
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Why English is not English?

His Holiness the Karmapa at TEDIndia, Session 9, "Within You, Without You," November 7, 2009, in Mysore, India. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

By S. Geetha

Now that the royal loot of the British Raj has been well established with facts and figures by none other than Congress leader Mr. Shashi Tharoor, in his speech in the Oxford Union, the time is ripe to say English is not English but Indian.

english-alphabet-made-coffee-beans-21324052English is the term used to refer to anything that is British. But it actually became American a century ago when H. L. Menken (the author of The American Language, 1919) paved the way for the rest of the colonized countries to attach their nationality before the word English.

During my brief stint in England I had the opportunity to tell a British “Your ancestors stole the Kohinoor diamond.” I used the word “stole” precisely because he was proudly proclaiming that there has not been a single incident of theft for more than two decades in his Roman town—Colchester. No wonder. Already their ancestors had looted from all corners of the world and left their tiny little land in the British Isles—as one of the  First World or G8 countries and therefore the ‘Olivers’ of England do not have to say “I want more.”

But my comment made him flush and he rushed in to the computer room to check the Encarta which declared—Kohinoor diamond -“found in India”. What was found in India is theirs now and try as you might the British are not willing to part with it. The Kohinoor was cut into two pieces in Amsterdam and they are adorning their tiara and sceptre.

And applying the same analogy or logic, the English language which is found in India and very much in use, is undoubtedly ours and it is time we removed labels like “second language” and “foreign language.”  Many of the words like time, bus, train, hotel, bread, ice cream and so many of them have become naturalized Indian words.  It is time we patented our variety of English which like “Basmati” has a desi flavour.

English is not English because not only were the British looters but also borrowers. Tracing the English literary tradition one finds that the English literary artists from the 14th century up to the 16th, have been “imitating” or “borrowing” from the famous Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristotle, Petrarch and I wonder if they left any writer of the continent without imitating.

And the English vocabulary contains 60 percent of naturalized French words and that is why such disparity between spelling and pronunciation. The height of irony is that we in India are proud of such a difficult language where nothing is regular, neither the sounds nor the grammar. “Gh” is “g” in ghost but “f” in enough. I secretly enjoy the Tamil tilt given to their “œ” which is a common diphthong in English as in—that, tap, pat, mat and the Tamilians invariably pronounce it as “ei” and make the ‘tap’ sound like “tape” and my query is why shouldn’t the Tamilians do so? When we have forgiven all the mistakes made by the colonial masters, who tend to make our Indian languages accented, why make much ado about native language interference among our learners especially the first generation learners?

Moreover, any word from any language could get the status of being English like karma which is happily used by everyone as an English word and recently tsunami the Japanese term got absorbed into English.

Not only are continents like America and Australia a part of the British Commonwealth, everything under the sun would happily be absorbed under that phrase. The WASPS believe that God created His Commonwealth only to be enjoyed by them just as they justified till the end of the 19th century that God created the Africans only to be enslaved by them. Even the God whom they worship is a West African but they have made Him their own and are using all the marketing strategies to make Him global like their language which has gone global.

English is not English for the maximum users of the language next to the Americans are Indians.  According to a survey published by Google (the modern Bible) Britain ranks fifth with its 97 percent population speaking English with just 63,962,000 speakers. The US ranks first with 94 percent users of English numbering 298,444,149 and India ranks second with just 10 percent speaking it but because of its sheer size of our population the total speakers and users amount to 125,226,449, surpassing the British.

English is not English in India because we write the so called “standard” English, but when we speak we make it syllabic and “unaccented” like any of our mother tongues. The Indian varieties of English are indeed a treat to our ears. Though we teach accent neutrality and make our English sound GIE (General Indian English), invariably majority betray the mother tongue influence, and some Indians sound highly affected when they imitate either the British or the American accent. When a British or an American make the Indian tongues accented we immediately pardon him and we know it is his first language interference. But we are heartless and ruthless when our first generation learners make a simple mistake.

Let the world know that when Mr. Bush, Jr., when participating in the Presidential debate (while aspiring for his Presidency) none other than our former Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee visited the US and when asked “who visited from India?”, he just camouflaged his ignorance with the famous excuse of his inability to pronounce a strange Indian name.   Anyway even if he had attempted it would have been another Bushism. This goes to prove that even heads of leading democracies escape unscathed when they give excuse that they cannot pronounce the name of the head of the Indian Government. Why are we so stringent when our children mispronounce any of the English words?

How can one forget the sarcasm yet the truth uttered with vehemence by the Irish dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, who wrote his Pygmalion to prove the English do not know English. They either speak their dialect or use their slang. Very few educated English use the Oxbridge or the Queen’s English which is otherwise called RP (Received Pronouncitation).

Many are under the wrong impression that Macaulay introduced English education system to make every Indian learned.  How ignorant are we all!  All he desired was the creation of a band of local, clerical staff to run their colonial regime, who could be exploited and poorly paid!

O Ye Indians! Stop being Macaulays and be aware that your English is very much Indian and it is your own.  It is now part of the Indian Commonwealth.  If Kohinoor is British,   why can’t English language in use for over 300 years in India be claimed as one of the Indian languages?

Dear Mr. Tharoor you are only partially right when you stated that the English have left us “to wallow in their leavings”.  One of their “leavings” is their English language which has helped our Empire to write back and also lash back just as you have done in your debate in the Oxford Union.

Dr. S. Geetha is an M.A. Ph. D and an associate professor at Fatima College, Madurai.



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Minister to be appointed for issues related to diaspora: Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assured Congress leader Shashi Tharoor that there will be an immediate appointment of Union Minister of state with independent charge and a full time secretary to look into all the matters of the diaspora.

In a press statement issued here on Saturday, Tharoor, the chairman of the External Affairs Committee of parliament and Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram, said the new development took place at a meeting in Delhi.

“Kerala had raised strong objections when it was decided by the Narendra Modi government to merge the ministry of overseas Indian affairs (OIA) with that of the ministry of external affairs (MEA),” Tharoor said.

Sushma Swaraj has assured that very soon, a minister of state with independent charge and a full time secretary would be appointed to look into all issues of the Indian diaspora, especially in the Middle East, he said.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had taken up the merger issue last month with Modi and Sushma Swaraj.

The first Congress-led UPA government under then prime minister Manmohan Singh had formed the overseas Indian affairs ministry headed by Kerala leader Vayalar Ravi.

A recent study on the Kerala diaspora said 90 percent of Kerala’s 23.63 lakh diaspora were in various Middle East countries, of which the UAE accounted for 38.7 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia with 25.2 percent.(IANS)

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Tharoor demands legal framework for Indian immigrants


New Delhi: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday emphasized on addressing the issues related to immigration and refugees and demanded a legal framework for it. The former Minister of State (MoS) for MEA expressed his disappointment over the merger of Ministry of External Affairs with Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA).

“Largest refugee migration was when 10 million Bangladeshis came to India in 1971. We also have a large number of migrants from Nepal and Bangladesh.”

He was speaking at a panel discussion after a launch of book ‘The Politics of Migration: Indian Emigration in a Globalised World’.

“We have been very hospitable and very open, but it’s rather very bizarre that a democracy, which even has a seat on UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Executive Committee, has failed to write itself a refugee law and put a legal framework to it.”

“I have proposed one in private members bill in the last session. I have also been in correspondence with the Minister of External Affairs (Sushma Swaraj) on Foreign Immigration as many of us feel this is massively overdue. An immigration Policy must be codified into a law. At the moment our laws and policies are in grave danger of being out of date,” Tharoor said.

“I have also written very very concretely that the Standing Committee on Parliament on Foreign Affairs should be consulted before the government springs any Bill on the nation,” Tharoor added.

MoS in the MEA, Gen (retd) V K Singh spoke of the contribution of the Indian diaspora in different fields like politics of the nation they are residing in and also of their contribution towards remittance of USD 70 billion in 2014-15 alone.

“Today we have Mr Modi essentially asking the citizens of that country receiving him, to come and listen to him as a voice from their homeland. And he is actually walking a very fine edge there between what is appropriate and what is not so appropriate for a visiting overseas leader,” the Thiruvananthapuram MP said.

Tharoor mentioned the Indian diaspora’s influence in helping India, like in the Indo-US nuclear deals, and the imposition of sanctions post-Pokhran nuclear tests and Kargil wars.

“Should Indian foreign policy start leveraging on this. The answer is yes and no. Yes, but not overtly. The more overtly foreign citizens (of Indian origin) are made to look like sort of Indian power, the lesser their clout becomes. It’s better for us to encourage and quietly give them material, but don’t officially, publicly ever declare that.”

Tharoor also spoke to V K Singh for special attention on NRI’s issue.

“You may be aware that the Government of Kerala has officially opposed the merger of MEA and MOIA. I told General V K Singh that there should be full-time attention to the NRIs and migrants because the issue was a stepchild of the ministry. The merger means it will be further neglected. But this is rather a large and important set of issues and he has shown me that he is that MoS,” the Congress leader said.

Nadir Patel, Canadian High Commissioner to India, stated as many as 19 MPs are of Indian origin.  “Of these, 17 are from Punjab origin. Interestingly, Punjab does not have more MPs in Parliament (Punjab has 13 Lok Sabha seats) and we have four Cabinet ministers of Indian origin,” Patel said.

The Director of International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) Sanjay Baru spoke of the importance of the term “brain gain”, coined by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, further exclaiming that Indian immigration should not be regarded as brain drain but as brain gain.

Rebecca Tavares, Country Representative, UN Office for Women in India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives regarded Indian diaspora abroad as a “strategic asset” which India should leverage on. (IANS)

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A timeline of Sunanda Pushkar murder case two years after her death

Sunanda Pushkar

By Harshmeet Singh

Today is the second death anniversary of Sunanda Pushkar. Despite being a high-profile murder case, the investigative agencies have little to show for their efforts 2 years after she was found dead in a hotel in New Delhi. Albeit a new revelation comes up every second month, the case is nowhere near its conclusion.

To refresh your memory and bring you up to date with the murder mystery, NewsGram presents a timeline of events that followed Sunanda Pushkar’s death.

17th January, 2014: Sunanda Pushkar is found dead in her hotel room at the Delhi’s Leela Palace Hotel. The police initially suspect a case of medicine overdose or suicide.

19th January, 2014: After her post-mortem at AIIMS, doctors term her death as ‘sudden, unnatural’. The autopsy report pointed towards a case of poisoning and stayed quiet on the question of suicide. The report also noted over a dozen injury marks on her hands and a ‘deep teeth bite’ of her left palm. It also overruled ‘drug overdose’.

21st January, 2014: A sub-divisional enquiry, which is ordered in case the wife dies before seven years of marriage, concludes that she died of poison and directed the investigative agencies to probe this angle. In the report, the SDM said that there could have been a possibility of three cases, viz. homicidal, suicidal and accidental.

23rd January, 2014: Investigators probe the angle of hidden poisoning. Her autopsy showed the presence of Alprazolam and Excedrin is her body. Her viscera samples are taken and sent to CFSL for more tests.

1st July, 2014: The doctor who carried out her Post-mortem alleges that he has been discriminated against since he refused to bow down to the pressures of “top officials of the institute and then senior Congress ministers” while making the report.

10th October, 2014: Delhi Police asked to re-examine the case after a new report indicated the presence of drug alprax in her body. It also said that she wasn’t a patient of Lupus, as Shashi Tharoor claimed. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease wherein the immune system of the body attacks tissues and organs.

6th January, 2015: Delhi Police says she was murdered after the medical board declared her demise ‘unnatural’. Bassi was quoted as saying, “Medical report says she was poisoned, oral or injected we do not know, it is being investigated”. A case of murder is registered.

13th February, 2015: Shashi Tharoor, her husband and a former Union minister, is questioned by the SIT for the third time in less than 24 hours.

March – June 2015: Delhi Police conducts polygraph tests on six people in relation to the Sunanda Pushkar murder case.

12th November, 2015: FBI report rules out death due to the intake of radioactive material. Her viscera samples were sent to the US after traces of radioactive materials were reported in her body.

16th January, 2016: FBI report says the death may have been caused by an overdose of the anti-anxiety drug Alprax. Delhi Police Commissioner, BS Bassi says that her death was ‘not natural’.