There ends another great episode of Top Gear, a show us auto-freaks swear by. This time round, it left me rekindling thoughts about something non-metal. Something I’ve had the hots for almost since the onset of my sense of hearing - British English: not only what’s spoken, but how it’s spoken, and how it sounds – the accent. It may also be due to something that Russell Peters describes as the “constipated” variant, but its still miles inspiring than what is paradoxically known as “Indian English”.
“Indian English” is usually used to describe the plethora of colloquial grammatical alterations made to the traditional English language. And then there is the “Indian Accent”, in which English is desecrated to synonymize with the tunes and expressions of the local masses. However, for ease of description I’ll be using “Indian English” to mean a hybrid of both types, because they often go in tandem.
Choose “Substance over style” – so sayeth the intellectuals. However, judgment ultimately trickles down to a bias of how people are charmed by style. Have you ever imagined Emma Watson delivering her lines in an Indian accent? Rihanna’s unforgettable vocals with a Tamil touch? Or even worse, “The Name is James Bond” in an accent that supposedly sounds like how “The Name is Rajashekara Reddy” is said down south? You may find versions of these on YouTube, but that’s strictly for sadistic humour. In reality, it’s jerky. Indian English can at best, be categorized into two - northern and southern. Being a southie, it’s easiest for me to classify every state other than the four obvious ones, as part of northern India, so that is how it will be. Of course, classification never stops there. The two can still make way for a countless number of derivations and iterations, just like our religions, beliefs, and everything else Indian. There is then the actual neutral accent.
The northern werjan
Musically speaking, people from the north think that music is life’s ultimate expression. I’d generally agree, but not to the extent that it should be carried forth to speech. Each sentence has its highs and lows, and the tune is often set to loop, formulating a blatantly predictable singsong. There are then, the usual zed-jed and flat-plat piascos, the kind that, even some Englis teasers in iskool can’t dodge. Turning a little to the west, we’ve got people who – apparently – still find it difficult to conclude whether Meestar Obama really ij impotent men. Well, farther west, God darn Obama’s impotence, they still get jitters of euphodia (tongue-click) when they get an Amreekan vija in hend.
Meanwhile, in the sowdh…
Each state makes for its distinct English identity, and probably an entire independent article. Oil suddenly decides to become aayil. In one southern state, yinglissu floats in the yair. They’ve got a general assumption that it was invented to comply seamlessly with the local slang, so much that it makes up for at least half of the vocabulary used in modern daily life, be it to impress a figyer, or to eat tea, and that’s completely wokay. Moving leftward, Amreekan dreams simbly get replaced by Gelf ones. It’s also in this part of the south Indian veld that the language gets a tad musical again. I think, of them all, only Bangalore-an English has a slight pan-Indian touch, thanks to the on-going cosmopolitan revolution there. But dare I say its still anywhere close to charming.
The V-W Fiasco
You could attribute all the various dialects to diversity, but one thing that still seems impossible to decipher is the V-W fiasco. No, its not got anything to do with Volkswagen, nor with the dialects. All over India, water becomes vater, and visitors become wisitors. And a certain strong emphasis on the ‘w’ ensures that the blunder stands out. India is proudly the second largest English-speaking nation in the world, and despite the various dialects that could be tossed off in favour of natural regional differences, the grammar and technical aspects are still somewhat acceptable. But, that’s got to do with boning up from the books anyway.
We’ve then got what’s dubbed the neutral accent. Not quite the NDTV-type yet. I’ve come across a number of celebs, execs, reporters and aam admis using it, and it sure does sound classy yet distinctive, making it a personal favorite. The Simi Garewal’s and Ratan Tata’s make up the list. Most importantly, this neutral accent screams no reflections of cultural blunder.
To sum it up, while it may be totally sane to have a potpourri of these dialects and accents, just like hundreds of other English speaking countries have theirs, it’s also disturbingly so that the collective Indian accented English singsong is amongst the least charming of the lot. Don’t expect to get turned on by it. You may be inspired by smart Indian lads (spare the oiled-combed hair and geeky faces for now), the undeniably gorgeous ladies, their intellectual capabilities, and that million dollar techno-business deal, but that will only be, till their mouths open. It’s also why an interview of, or product launch by Rajiv Bajaj will never seem exciting. Maybe, it’s even responsible for why the news ends up sounding too sensational after all. While you think over this, I’ll keep looking around to find at least one Indian-accented presentation that will charm.