Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chetan Bhagat being Captain Obvious

Poor Chetan Bhagat, the guy can’t get a break.  He writes a  “special” in the Times of India today. Later he tweets again (the one on top) about how all his valiant efforts to help people get shot down and ridiculed. But fret not! His indomitable spirit will not yield to such negative feedback.

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So go ahead and read his article here. Some quotes from the special and my thoughts.

Many Indians associate good English with a good vocabulary or eloquent language. This might be a result of our colonial roots, where the higher you were in societal stature, the more formal your language

Sure, you don’t need a mental repository of a hundred thousand words to impress that cute girl you’ve had your eye on. But possessing a good vocabulary helps you to communicate your thoughts and actions better. It may not be necessary to toss in a few “GRE words” (that vulgar phrase adopted to describe advanced vocabulary) to make an impression, but having a good vocabulary (and more importantly being able to use it correctly) shows your command over the language.  Whether or not Indians think this, is irrelevant. Most people would agree that a good vocabulary is key to mastering a language. Yeah and one more thing. Blaming colonialism for envying a powerful vocabulary is silly. And just to prove my point I’ll toss in a quote from V for Vendetta just for the heck of it. To show how verbose V can be.

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villian by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.  The only verdict is vengence; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”

Tip 1

“Read something in English you enjoy.”

Tip 2

“Watch English movies with English subtitles.”

Tip 3

“Spend time with friends, relatives or colleagues who often speak in English.”

Tip 4

“Create a group of people whose English is at your level.”

Tip 5

Work on your inner confidence. There is a stupid arrogance in people who know English well and they often make fun of people who don't know it. Let that not deter you. Every mistake is a lesson learnt.”

I’m guessing Chetan meant to say that people who are well versed in the English language are arrogant.  Stupid arrogance? Is that correct usage I wonder? In any event, as far as I go, I have never made fun of someone who can’t speak a language. I have personally experienced the brunt of jeers from my North Indian compatriots when I mixed up the genders while trying to learn Hindi.So I fully well understand the humiliation of having your mistakes pointed out and being shame faced in front of your Hindi speaking friends. Likewise, I have many, many friends who are very fluent in English, but have never made fun of people who are learning the language. It is quite wrong of you to lump us in your claim that all good speakers of English are vain and arrogant.

Remember, English is not a monster. It is a silly little language that is easier to learn than making good paranthas or driving a car in rushhour Indian traffic. And once learnt, all the benefits of the globalized world it offers are yours — for life!”

Silly little language? That is the most ridiculous and misleading statement I have read in this article. Do you know how much of effort goes into mastering this language? Allow me to share a private moment with you all. In the first grade, I was sent home with a letter from my teacher and the note told my parents that I was speaking Tamil in the classroom, when I should be speaking English; it being an English medium school and all… I felt crushed. I decided that I would conquer English one day and write so well, that people would not believe that I even received such a letter of admonishment in the past. I woke up early in the morning and watched a program on TV called “Magic Box”. As I grew up I started watching a lot of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon (no subtitles, mind you). I became a voracious reader; swallowing everything from Animorphs, to classics like Dracula and abridged Shakespeare. I listened to English radio, music and sat in front of the BBC soaking in the English accent. I put in an unholy amount of effort to get where I am today and I’ll be damned, if you say it’s easier to learn and master it than making Indian bread.

All in all he  just tells you to read, watch TV and chat with friends in English. And voila, you’re done? How is this even a special in the TOI? It’s just Chetan pointing out the obvious.




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