Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Language rant

A long time ago, language meant English or Hindi or French or whatever and had absolutely nothing to do with C, Java or ML. Children spoke their mother tongue at home and English was drilled into their head at school. Although they finally managed to get a grasp on English, their thinking was still in their mother tongue.

But nowadays, I am witnessing a strange phenomena. Possibly such things were happening earlier too, but I am sure I was not exposed to it. On the streets, in the airport, in the malls and parks, you can see young parents with little kids. And invariably, they are conversing in English with their kids. For some reason, I am repulsed by the sight of a small Indian child talking to his parents in English. Mind you, this is Bangalore I am talking about, not some US city with NRIs. The parents converse freely in their mother tongue, but for the child, English is the only language.

I am unable to understand why parents would deliberately alienate the child from his own culture and country. Has the craze for English reached such heights that we are willing to make Englishmen out of our children, who look down upon their vernacular brethen and be unable to communicate with them ? I, like most of the people from the plains speak, understand and write only Hindi and English. Many of my friends from other states are able to speak their non-Hindi mother tongue fluently. The same might not be true a few years hence.

Here in Karnataka, people are protesting and fighting to preserve the Kannada language. It is compulsory for all shops to display the signboard in Kannada too. But these protesters must realise that their fight is not against migrants from other states. The real threat is from those upwardly mobile parents who consider it too "common-place" to talk to their children in Kannada. The Hindi or Tamil speaking people will not lead to the marginalization of Kannada, the obsession with English would. And what goes for Kannada would probably hold true for any other Indian language.

When people make a noise about such issues, it is very easy to dismiss them as chauvinistic and give examples from the past to show that it is a natural process, but one must not forget that language defines the people and their culture. There are many things which are a part of our lives, but we would be hard pressed to explain them in an alien language. When you are in an extremely stressful situation, do you think and speak in English or some other language ? How does on translate a muhavara ? Dhobi ka kutta .... will English ever express what a dhobi is and what a ghat is ?

There are many arguements put forth that knowledge of English is a passport to success in today's world, but shine of gold should not make one forget his identity. People adopt various extreme emotive positions on the issue of language. May it be Hindi vs others or English vs Hindi or Tamil vs Kannada, a balanced approach is needed. Junking English in favour of the mother tongue, as was the case recently in Bengal is short sighted, but the reverse too is not the solution.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Trip Update

I started off on last Friday, to a trip back home to Delhi. Little did I know that how eventful this trip would be. It started off with a on Friday evening itself, when my low-cost flight was delayed for 1.30 hours from Bangalore airport. With no on board food, I was clutching my tummy pretty soon, as pangs of hunger grew. There was a lot of turbulence on the way and pretty cloudy down below. Along the way, there was a long stretch in which flashes of lightning could be seen from the clouds. It was a wonderful sight to behold, given that we are pretty much used to seeing lightning above us and not below.

As we neared Delhi, the pilot announced that there was a 1.30 waiting time to land at the airport. After some aimless circling, he updated the time to 45min, mentioning that many aircrafts have been diverted to Bombay. After a some more mindless circling, I had a sneaking suspicion that those flashes of lightning were from fellow hapless aircrafts, caught in a vicious circle. Anyway, soon afterwards, we were told that we 16th in line to land and will land shortly.
After some time, when we were actually about to land, the pilot dropped a bombshell. He said that when we had come to Delhi, we were told that the holding time was 2.30 hours. Since we lacked fuel to hang on for so long, we had pretty much decide to head off to Bombay!! But we persevered and will be landing shortly. So to cut a long story short, I managed to reach Delhi, although more that 2 hours late.

The weather in Delhi was fantastic, being a bit more colder than normal, thanks to the Western disturbances. It rained the whole of Saturday, bring the mercury further down. I was really pissed off at Bangalore's lack of a proper winter season and celebrated this cold weather with pakoras. Next day, I headed off to the market on a rickshaw, with a drizzle and cold wind chilling me to the bone. It felt nice to be all wrapped, perched defiantly on the edge of a wet seat, daring the elements to give their best shot.

An uncle was in town for a meeting, someone I hadnt met for quite a few months now. This meeting can, in some ways, be regarded as the trigger for the meetings which I had with many more long lost relatives and acquaintances in the following days.

The next day I went to the airport to receive relatives coming from US. It was quite a coincidence that I was around in Delhi to meet them. Another relative from Bombay came yesterday, someone who I hadnt met in years. And today, I went to the reception of former neighbours-emigrated to London-returned for wedding. Again met loads of people.

The way this trip is going, looks like I will meet more people in this month that I normally do in the entire year!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dukh darshan

Back in the days when I was a kid, TV consisted of 1 or 2 channels broadcast by an entity that is (affectionately ?) now called Dukhdarshan. TV was something that was not meant for kids and considered (quite rightly) a waste of time. Colour television had come to India before I was born in 1982, but it took a bit more for a colour TV to arrive in my home. I have pretty hazy memories of our old TV set.

From what I can recollect, it was probably made by some sarkari PSU like UPTron (for the lesser informed ... UPTron was something like UP Electronics. There was a Keltron too; from Kerala). It had a two wooden panes in front of the screen, which had to be opened in order to view the TV. Dont have much idea about the controls, wasnt allowed to fiddle too much with it.

Sometime in the mid 80s, the old made way for the new and a colour Beltek television was bought. It had a control panel which had switches for 9 channels, which was a bit of an overkill for those times. It wasnt till the advent of cable TV did 9 channels feel woefully inadequate. This Beltek TV was the one on which I watched most of the TV in my life. So just for the sake of nostalgia, here are some of the popular things on TV of those times:

Buniyad: This was a serial watched mainly by the adults of the family. I have no idea about the story, or even a vague recollection of its content.

Humlog: See Buniyad.

Nukkad: I have a vague recollection about this serial. There was some drunkard called Khopdi in it. Apart from that, no clue.

Ulta pulta: A Jaspal Bhatti offering, I was too small to remember the contents of this show. However, I vividly remember his Flopshow, which will be mentioned later.

Karamchand: The carrot chewing detective, with his bumbling moll called Kitty. Pankaj Kapoor rocked in this serial. As a matter of fact, I saw a hoarding the day before ... Karamchand is going to be back on TV (Sony) after 20 years!! Eagerly waiting for it.

Byomkesh Bakshi: This was a fanstastic serial, with National award winning actor Rajit Kapur playing the lead role. Everyone used to eagerly wait for each episode and it used to be the topic of discussion in school the next day. Last year, I got an urge to to read the stories of this Sherlock-like detective. After many disappointments, Midlands was able to order the book from me. I was realy happy to get my grubby hands on it!

Dekh Bhai Dekh: The serial which established Shekhar Suman as the funny man. It was probably the original serial about a rich joint family, before Kekta KKapurr unleashed her creative (?) instincts. The episodes shot in London were probably a first for Indian television. It was eagerly awaited each week, I even followed re-runs for some time on Sony.

Flopshow: Iss serial ke baare main jitna kaha jaye ... kam hai. Jaspal Bhatti is the king of comedy. The crisp dialogues, the hilarious parodies all woven into situations which the aam-aadmi faced. Should be preserved for posterity, so that future generations can get a glimpse into what life was like. In today's day and age of the mobile one, one would be hard pressed to understand why someone was willing to marry his daughter to a telephone line man!

Ramayan: Ramanand Sagar's best known work, probably best known for its cheap "special effects". It set the guidelines for all mythologicals made henceforth, especially regarding the behaviour of arrows in battle. Kind of arrows shown, with their appearance and "effect", it was truly mind-boggling.

Mahabharat: BR Chopra's Mahabharat was light years ahead of Ramanyan in terms of everything (except the story :P). I have heard that streets used to be deserted and Parliament and Cabinet meetings were re-scheduled around it. The sets and acting were superb. Have watched many re-runs.

Chandrakanta: An extremely confusing serial telecast in the mid 90s. Chandrakata, as the name suggests was named after a character named Chandrakanta, who was a princess. The confusing part is that she probably never made an appearance after the first few episodes. In fact, the kingdoms of Naigarh and Vijaygarh (jinn main thi takrar) were also largely absent. Instead, a parallel story line forked off somewhere in Junagadh, where comic characters like Kruror Singh, Pandit Jaganath etc abounded. As a friend remarked a few days ago, all that Pandit Jaganath did was to throw dice and do some mumbo-jumbo ... do char aath matlab Junagadh par khatra!! The presence of duplicates and duplicates of duplicates made things all the more confusing. Good riddance.

Didi's Comedy Show: A German show; it dubbed into English for telecast. Starring Dieter Hallervorden it was as the English title suggested, Non Stop Nonsense. There were many reruns of it on Doordarshan and I remember watching each one of them. The strange thing is that none of my college friends seem to have watched it. Any reader who had watched this serial is urged to comment in support!

Telematch: Another German show dubbed in English, it showed teams from different German cities competing against each other in funny competitions. Kind of the stuff seen on Pogo these days, with a voice-over by Javed Jaffery; only Telematch was infinitely better, given that it did not have Javed Jaffery.

Polti Baba: Nice children's serial with puppets telling a story.

This is of course not an exhaustive list about the nice things on TV in those days. Havent purposefully mentioned Tu Tu Main Main and Shriman Shrimati. Zabaan Sambhalke was also nice. Might write about the nice things on Sony sometime in the future. I Dream of Jeanie, Dennis the Menace, Different Strokes, Bewitched and Who's the Boss were really great. Too bad they stopped telecasting them. Chamatkar starring Farukh Sheikh was awesome too.

It is a pity that now television consists only of rich families consisties of weepy bahus and scheming vamps. The only watchable Hindi serial, The Comedy Show on Star One appears to have been cancelled. Looks like everyone wants to cater to the lowest common denominator. Thats why Kekta Kapur and Karan Johar are laughing all the way to the bank :(.