Posts Tagged ‘Indian English’

“Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

May read strange matters”

– Lady Macbeth to Macbeth, the thane of Cawdor, in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Act 1, Scene 5.

If books reflect culture, book reading habits too, perhaps, reflect a people’s tribal instinct. And then, do social events like ‘book parties’ reflect something intrinsic about different social groups, different national groups?

Shoba Narayan seems to think so. At least when it comes to Indian versus American ‘book release parties.’ Her vividly observant article at Wall Street Journal, The Indian Book Ceremony.

In the United States, the publisher manages the event to celebrate the author and then sell as many books as possible. By contrast, for “the argumentative Indian” it’s all about a well-spent evening of discussions and disagreements, regardless of how few copies were sold at the end of it

In the U.S., everybody accepts that there’s a mini cult of personality around the writer.

Ms. Narayan doesn’t quite state, but implies that somehow the Indians seem to emphasize the book and the event more than the author.  At least, that is how it is hinted, here:

We Indians are a ceremony-driven people. Book readings are not merely announced in the local paper but through personal invitations sent to friends and relatives. Sometimes the bookstore sends these invitations to everyone on their mailing list; other times the publisher does this. Likewise, politicians are welcomed to conventions not merely with a handshake and introduction but with garlands and bouquets, …

…..  Stores open with a traditional ribbon-cutting, followed by the lamp-lighting.

The same Indian who rudely cuts ahead of a queue of strangers will refuse to help himself to the buffet until his elderly uncle has eaten. All suggestions to “go ahead and eat” will be met with pehle aap. The same applies to authors who are loathe to be the only ones talking about their book. Instead they follow the literary version of “pehle aap,” where they get a panel of guests to go first. To the Indian, talking about one’s own book or accomplishments is intrinsically boastful.

To a Western publicist, panel discussions are a minefield. They can go off-message, ramble all over the place so that the audience gets bored, take the spotlight away from the author, and in the worst case scenario, criticize the author and book. But these are chances that Indian publishers and authors readily take.

But Indian authors want a panel anyway. We are comfortable in crowds; we need people around us, even on a dais. We are used to loud and vocal disagreements, having heard it all the time in family quarrels. Hollywood stars and American politicians revel in the spotlight. In India, it is the opposite: Being surrounded by people is the true show of strength.

On a broader note, if this item were to be believed, the French love reading fiction, even the gloomier variety; Germans love out door stuff; the English lighter fare, and Americans  even lighter fare. Someone recently claimed that Indians read the most, in a general survey of reading. And, that in a few decades majority of English speakers in the world will be Indian! What do these factoids bear on the social organization of book coming out parties?

As side note to the above block quotes, is ribbon cutting really a tradition in the same vein as lighting a lamp? Isn’t it more of a true colonial vestige, albeit a well-integrated vestige? In any case, this sharp observation of Indian character is quite revealing.

Finally, to I.U., this looks like a case of adaptation,  the casting of a native attitude into an alien form of social activity. After all, traditionally the Indian writer looked to a royal or governmental patronage of arts. Only now, being democratic and all, book launches take on this new mongrel form, more out of need than by design.

What do you think?


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The last English Gentleman on earth is likely to be an Indian, goes an old saw. Of all the places the lads and ladies of the isles have inhabited, or merely transited, none has taken to the English language with the readiness and ardor of the sub-continental Indian.

In free India specially, English lives on and thrives, garnering world-class literary awards, and grudging admiration of the Anglo-Saxon communities no less.

We are Indian, and so is our English! is a wonderful, delightful paean to Indian English. A Must Read! Particularly, don’t miss the large, lusty, comment section. Well done, 42

Also fun to peruse, Hinglish, Inglish or Indian English.

Post Script:

Yet another angst-riddled post on Indians and English, at DesiCritics.

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What is India but the sum total of her parts?

Well, some will argue that the totality of India is more than the sum of her parts. It will be argued, there has to be added that little bit extra something to explain the “real” India. I suppose that such may be true of all large entities. One really can’t grasp any entity without first dissecting it, and then put it back. That’s when you have to add that little something.

What is it then that makes India more than the some of her parts?

I susprect that it is the interaction, that dynamic flux and fusion that is continually occurring internally, tectonically, amongst the diverse internal components or identities. A land and a people as ancient and overrun as those of the India subcontinent will invariably offer a great many such subterranean tectonic gratings.

The only way to look at such clashes is via humor. Nothing but a lighter touch will help us look at ourselves, and smirk and giggle. That’s where we come upon this new feature.

A SLICE OF INDIA is a particular attempt to look at such intra-ethotic cross-currents of the India scene. For centuries, people have mingled, clashed, lived cheek to jowl, and bickered. Every Indian is looked down upon by every other Indian. There is no denying it. Some attitudes are more codified and less learned than others. Nonetheless, Indians love to put down each other, across every possible imaginable divide. And in the next very moment, find something in common, to ride over a third some one else!!

A SLICE OF INDIA will offer portraits of India from a peculiarly slanted, perverted, humorous point of view. Of necessity, they will annoy some, insult others, titillate many. So here goes ….

Madras in Mumbai - A wickedly funny look

Madras in Mumbai - A wickedly funny look

I owe this find to another blog, The Butterfly Diaries carried in their sidebar this very funny, Blogger offering: Shtories and Shtuff from Bharat Bhushan.

SHTORIES AND SHTUFF FROM BHARAT BHUSHAN is wicked, wicked stuff. Side-splittingly funny, razor-sharp in observation, and devilishly accurate in reproduction of the dislocation: Madrasi in Mumbai.
It appears as though the author has gotten tired or busy, but he has a keen ear and a good turn of the phrase. I hope he will post more often in future. But for now there is enough there to bring a chuckle, and as they say, there some good local color!!

Your suggestions are needed!

This category should rightfully belong to the readers, Indian or otherwise. So take it away. Send me your suggestions via email box in the sidebar, suggest a site that you would like featured under the category of A Slice of India, be sure to include your info for a hat tip.

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