Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Linguistic Patronage - a thin line between over zealousness and ridiculousness

How does a government promote a regional language?

In various states be it Maharashtra or Karnataka or Tamil Nadu (to name a few) we have seen the government using the following means however controversial or not:
  1. Make the language compulsory in school upto x/y/z class as 1st and/or second language
  2. Ensure shop boards in local language and no English or Hindi
  3. Ensure street names in the local language and no English or Hindi
  4. Drive out migrants (blue collar/ while collar ) from other states in the name of promotion of local language and interests
  5. Intimidate other linguistic communities
  6. Reservations in schools and colleges for certain linguistic communities/natives
  7. All communication (official) in the particular language and public criticism of use of any other language
The Municipal corporation of one of the major south Indian states has gone a step ahead. It has apparently budgeted for 6500 gold rings at the cost of appx Rs 2000 each (Rs 1.30 Crore )* to be presented to babies named in classical tamil in the next year! What an innovative method (sarcasm intended)! Who said corporators lack imagination especially when it comes to spending public money? What is a new born baby going to do with a gold ring I wonder? How will they ensure the name is not changed later? Wouldn't it be better to spend this in a more resourceful way on promotion of literature and education in that language? We really need to think about the people we vote into power !!!

(* Refer :

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Auto anna - Spare us please!

Four and a half years in Mumbai means getting used to the good autowalas and the card systems all which are as per the rule book 9 out of 10 times. One can hence imagine the torture is to deal with namba Chennai auto annas to strike a deal that would fetch yours truly to any destination in mind.

I thought I had seen it all I found a stubborn Chennai autowala agree with my exasperated outburst that the Chennai city's autodrivers were incorrigible and took the fun out of the city. Well that wasn't the case as I found out on a sunny Sunday afternoon as I hailed a cab for the nearby Satyam theatre with a plan of picking up a friend on the way. Having heard the outrageous demand for Rs 70, I began walking away when he accepted my only and last bid of Rs 50. However within 2 seconds when I was comfortably in the rickshaw calling my friend to hurry down before we reached her place (a good 5 mins away) the autoanna had a change of heart or mind. He began lecturing me on how I should not bargain for Rs 10 -20 when I was going to a theatre and that I should only do so if I were visiting a temple. I was dumb struck, turned off the phone , and rightfully told him that it was the distance and not the purpose of my trip that he should be bothered about. That didn't stop as he went on rambling, and being short in patience and not wanting a further scene or a headache I told him to stop the vehicle if he wasn't happy and that I could walk it down to my friends place. He immediately did so, and out of sheer habit I said thanks (though in an annoyed tone) to him. That led to the most amusing comment I have ever heard. To quote him "Who needs thanks, keep it in your pocket" (translated into english). On reminding him that he was the one who made me come back after I had walked away initially he continued: " Who needs thanks, thanks is against our culture. Where is it in our culture and tradition to say thanks" My jaw literally dropped, and as I recovered I just pointed out all my five fingers at him and asked him to get lost in the most diplomatic manner ( "seridan poya" - meaning ya ya just go away in tamil) and marched off slowly trying to digest the episode....

A few minutes later I regretted not having given him a much stronger reply. Am now determined to come up with a really really sarcastic, hard hitting, yet diplomatic insult to any autodriver who fleeces money or happiness or both !!! Do let me know if you can think of one..
Till then will make do with Seridan poya...

Also a warning please understand the value system of the chennai autowala - you can go to a temple at Rs 10-20 less even if you go at 2.00 pm in the aftenoon when temples are shut, and that its uncouth and uncultured to say thanks .... So may be you can refer to satyam theatre as satyabhama theraiulaga koil, and use nandri (thanks in tamil), vanakkam(a common tamil respectful greeting) (in true news reader style* with a big false smile) especially in circumstance where you have been left 2 streets away from your destination coz its not where your autowala wants to go even at Rs 20 more than what it should actually cost getting there.

(* watch & hear the tone as well for reciting the same at the ending of any news bulletin on the tamil channels to understand more)