Sunday, October 31, 2010

The English Prude-nt

My sister and I had an interesting argument last night. As most discussions that take place at 3 am in the night go, this one didn't particularly distinguish itself as far as the subtlety of arguments, the inanity of the topic or the intensity of a verbal offensive is concerned. In fact, it occasionally veered dangerously close to the sort of points Demosthenes might make during his speech-making in one of his decadent orgies or towards questionable logical connectives, the sort that sound perfectly sensible provided you have had gaseous extracts from Cannabis sativa or a pint or two of Scotland's best, swirling around your insides for the better part of the last hour. Of course , it all ended like the best arguments do, with a pixel-lated, PG rated display (though completely amiable) of the middle finger from one party to another and there the matter rested.
Until now, that is.
The million bushels-of-Farmville-wheat question that reared its ugly head, after a long time if I might add, was whether, I, Divyanshu Jha, am an English snob. At this point, and at the risk of validating the utterly unsubstantiated allegation, but merely to set the record straight for the benefit of the jury that shall be sitting in judgment and make sure that a spade is referred to as nothing else but with its rightful name, I will now add some authoritative definitions , relevant to the case at hand.
a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.
a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.

There are a few things I will admit to, right away.
English is a wonderful language. And before the VHP and Bajrang Dal and Bal Tuckerey and his ilk of nephews, sons, grandsons, second cousin twice removed , those fascinating guardians of the glorious Indian culture get their adorably airy knickers into an ununravellable knot or burn my effigy down (with a smattering of rubber tyres, a whiff of hay and that ubiquitous scrawl on the scrawny neck of the scarecrow), citing "causing affront to delicate sensibilities of x crores of Hindus" - to them I say, "Don't you have another Rath yatra to mount to IIT Roorkee, bring down a disputed youth fest?"

With that truck of rabble rousers taken care of, let me explain what I mean.

For Macaulay or for worse, my first hand experience with works of English Literature has been far more diverse than with works in my mother tongues of Hindi or Maithili. And , that , sadly is more a reflection of the sparseness of experience of the latter rather than any erudition in the former. Outside of the awesome hasyaras (the names of its major exponents kind of set the stage for what comes next -------------) and veerras traditions(damn, there is so much 'kranti' bubbling inside after a well recited Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' , I feel like Sunny Deol kicking Pakistani asses on the sarhad) in hindi poetry, which I believe, yield to none in their awesomeness and deft little short stories I was lucky enough to be compelled to read at the risk of running afoul of my ghastly Hindi teacher, I have been remarkably untouched by pieces of hindi literature. If you discount(not that there's any reason you should) the sterling collection of comics (SCD, Nagraj, Doga, Bhokaal, Bankelaal, Gamraj, Parmanu... )compiled meticulously over the years on avidly awaited monthly trips to what we had christened the Super Commando Gali, there was little to speak of by way of refined highbrow stuff that delves into the intricacies of the human psyche.

And once the initial conditions are set, it takes quite a bit of effort to diversify. So, while I still enjoy the occasional short story in Hindi, any leisure time would find me comfortably ensconced with P G Wodehouse rather than Phanishwar Nath Renu , despite the close parochial ties. If however, somebody has a good suggestion in the department and is willing to gift me one.... then thats another matter. And I do have plans. Not just yet, but I do have them.

As to what I like about Queen's English , would take space and time that neither the readers nor I have, so let me rant for a bit on which of its myriad forms incurs my displeasure and if not outright scorn, then at least biases me pre-emptively against the perpetrator of the ghastliness.

- meh, mah, moh, frnzz and other such similar silliness. Contracting a word for convenience into an understandable entity(even if it is missing its vowels) makes sense and allowances can be made. But, misspellings that factor in a couple of additional alphabets that clearly would be better off , finding a dignified place in an appropriate word. I sense an underlying need to be 'kewl' and that does jar my senses a bit. I mean, its not like we are playing scrabble and you have zz's and mm's to spare, so hey! why not hike up the scores a bit with some self assembled words. If I needed that, I would read Finnegan's Wake, not be party to a correspondence with you
An associated malady that is oft seen, more often where females are concerned than with the other half of the demography, is the extended word endings. Maybe, it signifies your exuberance but it sure does screech like a nice sharp set of talons recreating the Ninth symphony on a blackboard. So, please, before you end it like thissssss(see how bad this sounds, And on top of it,it reminds you of Mallika Sherawat. Eurrgh!) take a step back, ponder, sense the word's elongated tale form on your lips and realise how very silly it sounds, looks and feels.

- That you like Chetan Bhagat, is none of my concern. So do millions of other people and I wish them all well and will continue to follow their exploits with some interest. I only ask you not to bandy his name like he is the Charles Dickens of our times. Maybe in the future, in more enlightened times, when we have IITs in every town ,zillions of IIT JEE training institutes that pepper the serene landscapes that recruit fresh out of college IITians to train wannabe IITians to get into the aforementioned IITs, in a land where IITians are dime a dozen, still topping India Today Surveys and maintaining their rockstar image, where top rankers are like rajnikanths and chuck norris combined into one, where FIITJEE has started IITJEE training programs from Kindergarten(hey, that day isn't too far. I give it a decade, 2 at maximum), maybe in such a world , you might be forgiven to adore Chetan bhagat and discuss its deeper meanings , revel in its beautiful imagery, the portrayal of the complex interplay of human emotions, the delicate art of his storytelling , its poignant use of vocalbulary that never fails to please, but please, I beg you, do not be so presumptuous as to presume that he is the best writer ever to write on topics that resonate with the innermost emotions of the common denominator of the human race. Liking him only makes me hopeful that you will graduate to better things, that you are primed for reading something else. Worshiping him does not lower you in my eyes, it merely implies there wont be any common ground for us to talk about.

- I DO NOT like people who hate P G Wodehouse. You haven't read him , fine. Not your fault. You found him bleh. Alright. Maybe you like Dostoevsky. Takes all sorts. But you go to the extent of maligning his style and ask for a bloody plot... Go to hell! Snob? Sure. Now shoo.

There are going to be a lot of irate people sriting a strongly worded letter to the Times or in this case, to the blog administrator, which sadly for their pro-free-speech bleedin hearts , is me. But this is restricted almost completely to people whom I haven't had the honor to have an extended conversation with. So, take a chill pill and do not drag me to court on this, dawg!

P.S. It needs a few more points to make the disclaimer iron clad but since I need to sleep now, I will let the glaring inconsistencies to be to allow people of all shapes and sizes take potshots at me and my snobbishness. And snobs of course, will malign me for not liking Joyce and Woolfe and other some such atrocity. I guess I had it coming. Ah well. Happy Diwali to everyone.


Piyush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piyush said...

Talking of Hindi poets, how did you manage to miss this? If you are unfortunate enough that you haven't been to The Tavern yet, here are two of my favourite offerings from there, just to get you started:

उस प्याले से प्यार मुझे जो दूर हथेली से प्याला,
उस हाला से चाव मुझे जो दूर अधर से है हाला,
प्यार नहीं पा जाने में है, पाने के अरमानों में!
पा जाता तब, हाय, न इतनी प्यारी लगती मधुशाला॥

मदिरा पीने की अभिलाषा ही बन जाए जब हाला,
अधरों की आतुरता में ही जब आभासित हो प्याला,
बने ध्यान ही करते-करते जब साकी साकार, सखे,
रहे न हाला, प्याला, साकी, तुझे मिलेगी मधुशाला॥

And lest you start getting ideas, there is also the diclaimer:

स्वयं नहीं पीता, औरों को, किन्तु पिला देता हाला,
स्वयं नहीं छूता, औरों को, पर पकड़ा देता प्याला,
पर उपदेश कुशल बहुतेरों से मैंने यह सीखा है,
स्वयं नहीं जाता, औरों को पहुंचा देता मधुशाला॥

PS: You would notice I have roughly the same attitude towards this that you have towards PGW:-)

Aditi Yadav said...

o mah gawwdd!!thisss 'snob snub stub' has me in splitsssss. Hellya,now go Eugrrrh,Divyanshooo:P (ho! ho! hoo! hooo!!) :D:D

jhinujha said...

@piyush :) of course. read it. loved it. and dearly wish i could quote it as and when required.
Just to be safe, the post wasn't meant to be a list(neither exhaustive nor ranked)

jhinujha said...

@aditi why,thank you. screwed up my morning , it has.

Amritha R said...

What in the world is es-coned you miserable illiterate Bal Tuckerey's cousin thrice removed's father in law's aunt would have been's only son? Ensconced is the word you are looking for and if you become so snobbish as to suggest you can write meaningless gibberish and call it a word, I would remind you that it is the Queen's language. So I suggest you leave the creation of new words to her. Thank you very much

jhinujha said...

@amritha you should find a copy of "finnegan's wake" in the library in the 823 series, top floor. J was kind enough to suggest that book to me. I am merely passing on the suggestion. You will find it quite to your tastes

or take a look at page 1 on's%20wake%20first%20page&pg=PA4#v=onepage&q&f=false

Bhaskar said...

What kind of person doesn't end a sentence with a period, Amritha? We, who are in the Queen's land shall demand the strict enforcement of Her rules.

(MuPHry's law strikes again!)

P.S., How are you all?

My-st(o)ry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
My-st(o)ry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.