Broken, but our very own

Broken, but our very own
If the murder of a language attracted capital punishment, most of us Indians would be hanged to death for butchering Queen’s English day in and day out. What to do, we are like that only.

After 200 years of rule, the British left us so poor and hungry that we started eating articles, words, apostrophes, tenses, and even heads. “Do not eat my head. I cannot meet you tomorrow. I am suppose(d) to visit my brother(’s) house in (the) city,” is a perfectly acceptable sentence. And when it comes to eating the head, you need not be a non-vegetarian.

Preferences, please
Non-vegetarian is perhaps an Indian addition to the English dictionary. While across the world you are either a vegetarian or a meat eater, in India, one of the first questions in the process of getting acquainted could be, “Are you veg or non-veg?” The first question, of course, has to be — “What is your good name, please?” Once you have broken the ice, you move on to more personal questions like, “Do you have any habits?” which translates to — “Do you smoke, or consume alcohol?”

When we drink excessively, we are never high or drunk, nor do we pass out. Instead, we get ‘tight’. If, over a drink, somebody asks you, “When did you pass out?” do not take offence. He is merely enquiring about your education. In India, we do not graduate, we ‘pass out’ of the university.

Even seemingly innocuous words can have a completely different meaning. For instance, in Tamil Nadu, the word ‘matter’ refers to an adult movie. And if you decide to say ‘thank you’ to your friend for treating you to drinks or a matter movie, banish the thought because he is most likely to respond, ‘Mention not’ or ‘Do not mention’. So, why bother?

There are some precise terms when it comes to relationships too. The wives of two brothers would prefer to call each other ‘co-sister’, rather than sister-in-law, though they would often be pulling the household in two different directions. The plural would usually be ‘sister-in-laws’, not sisters-in-law. Besides, we would like to be specific with our cousins — ‘cousin brother’, ‘cousin sister’.

If marriage is on your mind, you would most likely seal the deal with a ‘ring ceremony’, after which your partner becomes your ‘would-be’, not fiancé. Soon, you will be announcing to your friends, “I am getting married next-to-next week.” Ask about the betrothal, and the response would be, “We got engaged last-to-last week.”

The terms week-after-next, week-before-last, or fortnight rarely find a place in our dictionary. At the wedding, if two friends wearing similar attire bump into each other, their instant reaction would be, “Oh my god, we are wearing same-to-same dress.” Barely three months after the marriage, curious friends and relatives will start popping the all-too-familiar question, “Any good news?” and the only answer they anticipate is — “I’m expecting.” When a girl says ‘expecting’, it can mean only one thing, and it can be a bombshell or a burst of ‘good news’ depending on whether or not you are married.

 Given our poor sense of time, our schedules often go haywire. Thus, it is common for meetings to be postponed, but we never advance our appointments, we only ‘prepone’ them. It is also quite possible that you are late for a meeting because your car had a ‘flat’ and you had to visit a ‘puncher’ shop. If you are having a really bad day, you might find a sign hanging on the shop’s door announcing it is ‘Close’ instead of ‘Closed’. That is when you might feel like committing ‘self-suicide’.

Personal touch
Over the years, India has developed its own brand of ‘Inglish’ by adapting itself to local needs. It has also enriched the English language by adding several words to the dictionary. Some of them being karma, avatar, guru, curry, ginger, bungalow and jungle.

Though Indians speak much better English than most people in other parts of the world, we humour ourselves with sentences like, “I talk, he talk, why you middle-middle talk?”, or “Open the doors of the window, let the atmosphere come in.” A little bit of fun can do us no harm. After all, whose father’s what goes?

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