Indian English

I visited an IELTS Training centre in Hyderabad today – Institute of Articulate Communication! Or, was it “Articulative (!) Communication”? Don’t remember, but this proves a point.

The point is – something new is happening to Indian English. Consider this: “The fast-growing, developing world uses the home as a sleeping bag and the office cubicle as a garden of courtship. Skin to skin is no sin, it helps to relax and truly pluralistic relationships are polygamous. Fidelity has many definitions and it is an insult to human heart when it is divided into categories in a reductionist manner.” I quoted that paragraph from India Today magazine’s round-table discussion on marriage and infidelity, and this is Dr. Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist.

Or, this – the anti-nuclear deal parties are ‘stone age obscurantist’ and pro ones are ‘stooges’ and ‘sell-out-ists’! Recently, in a business presentation, a very senior doctor was trying to impress my British associates by telling them that they can successfully recruit nurses from India by working with his hospital. He said: “Listen closely to what we are saying – by working with us, you will have millions [!] of trained nurses knocking at your door very soon.” My associates were probably frightened, but they did well to hide what they felt.

Jug Suraiya makes this point in today’s Times of India, in his essay ‘Let’s Stop Talking Like Brats’. ‘We won’t grow up unless our language does first’ – he says – and points out India’s ‘adolescent personality’. He points out that ‘bubblespeak’ – a take from Orwellian doublespeak and a spoken equivalent of speech bubbles of comic books – is an essential element of our language in use, and won’t go away despite our increasing hobnobbing with the emotionally matured world.

In the end, much of this is ascribed to the Indian character, brash, adolescent and uneasy. However, this is not happening to the native languages, I must point out. They are becoming funny, cosmopolitan, light and increasingly adopting bollywoody-ism, most famously the use of ‘Mamu’ and ‘Bole To’. The language is changing, undeniably, but these changes in local language project a new confidence to accept and incorporate a ‘national common denominator’, a sign of confidence and maturity. However, the English speaking in India is walking the reverse direction, obscuring itself into indecipherable flourish and ‘babble-speak’ and projecting its emotional insecurity in embracing the world.


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