Trotting on your high horse?

Headed to Buckingham Palace? Chances are you’re more than likely not going anywhere near there. Then why this compulsion to speak the Queen’s English, eh?  Here’s what I think the issue is…

It’s an instant giveaway that although you’re a product of independent India, you haven’t quite broken away those shackles of your colonial past – even if you were born two generations later. See this invisible long chain… your parents’ thinking influenced your childhood. They in turn were a product of parents amid an entire generation who believed that speaking English with the appropriate vocabulary, specific diction, pronunciation – ‘a command of the language’ would get them in high places. What does ‘high places’ really translate into? It meant a better paid job, access to an ‘elite’ inner circle, a membership into a club reserved for those not just with the means, i.e. wealthy, but also with a certain ‘polished’ look and feel about them. In other words, knowing which spoon to ‘not slurp’ that mulligatawny soup with, which fork to jab the paper thin phulka roti, or dosa with… and which knife to stab the steak with. No… you can’t pretend to be shocked! This was hurtful… because it’s true…

Well, in a desperate effort to give their kids a head-start parents work even harder in urban metros, I hear, paying an arm and a leg to see their kids sail through an International Baccalaureate program offered by a school that may even be tens of kilometers away from their residence — which is hard on young kids. Ostensibly, there’s the  ultimate payoff i.e. easier access to an Ivy League School, or at least better chances of admission to a good university in the US; or even to Cambridge, Manchester, Stirling, Oxford in the UK; or even down under in Australia! Isn’t that true? On the other hand millions of kids and youth strive, struggle and must elbow their way to come out ahead through education at poorly-funded municipal schools (not ‘Public Schools’ since those in India are the elite schools), or ordinary primary, middle school and high schools that are  close to home. In rural areas, they have to walk miles and overcome challenges to get anywhere near a school.  And that’s another story. I’ve digressed.

What crossed my mind is the following. Remember Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam? 11th President of India? Ever listened to him speak, whether he addressed the nation, or in an interview on Knowledge at Wharton? He spoke in English, but with an accent that is construed as ‘thick’, not just in the western world, but among his own people – the ones from elite schools. Listen to him, and say you don’t think so… but wait, pay attention to the content and his line of thinking? Amazing…

The point is, with the spread of languages we are exposed to routinely, we are at such a huge advantage (as compared to those who speak only one language — English)! Even the Eastern Bloc folks learn English, but foremost each one speaks their own language, may be even a different dialect. We know that the Japanese, Chinese, in the Philippines, natives of numerous African nations, the French, Spanish, Greeks, Hungarians, Scandinavians, Portuguese… they all are proud of their respective languages. As Indians, to express ourself, if we don’t find an appropriate word in English, there’s always another language we can borrow from… I often do. Just dip into your ‘mother tongue’ – no, chances are English is not your mother tongue, even if your entire family speaks in English! The joy of sprinkling your everyday parlance with your native lingo is immense… it’s so satisfying. It’s like having a complete meal – tangy, salty, spicy, sweet, and oh, with even with some bitterness in the mix! It’s all made so very flavorful…

When I hear Indians say with a hint of pride, “Oh, I only speak English, and am unable to read or write in any other language”, it makes me sad. What if one day, our human race turns into a homogeneous society where everyone speaks and thinks in just one language… how boring will it get! Science, math, technology is all boiling down to zero and one (0,1, 0, 1, 0, 1…) If all the languages of this world are reduced to just one, society, I’m afraid may be reduced to zero. They world may feel, “Know thy English“, but all I would like to say is, “No, to thy English.” “Ride, no?” 😉
QE On Horse_archive_hourseandhound_CO_UK

On 11th June 2016, Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II… Her Majesty turns 90! 🙂
Photo Courtesy: Horse and Hound

Who are you? A Sobbing Sucker, or a Stoic Writer?

In either case, you’re the one losing out. If you’re crying out aloud because you’re being exploited, thereby letting the world hear about those who exploit you, you’re soon out of work. If you silently suffer the hurt, but keep writing for those who’ll suck you dry for pennies, you’re helping them make money with your talents, while you get squeezed out of your apartment! Yeah, when will you ever make enough moolah – yeah, yeah that’s $$$$ (not the ‘mullah’ you reach out to when ‘Allah’ refuses to listen to your woes). Now, in case you’re wondering, and just to get the record straight –  I’m neither an Allah worshipper, nor am I a fanatic mullah-follower… even when I’m in dire straits. For that matter, I don’t lean towards any priests, pundits nor power-healers for health or holistic support. This is just a statement of fact – neither right, nor wrong.

So… why this rant? Well, here’s why… because all is not well. Here I am, away from WordPress, Facebook, Twitter or any social networking site, but busy seeking positions (a.k.a. job search) in Social Media Marketing, Content Writing, Web Content Writer, Marketing Coordinator, so on, so forth… yes, from entry level positions to mid-level to senior; from on-site real jobs, to remotely-employed sort of positions.

For every job, the requirements are getting not just stringent, but downright ridiculous, and for obscenely low $. Here’s an example of one that takes the cake… and I’m not sure if this is the last one I’ve seen on this elusive job market scene. Those with jobs are unlikely to read this post; those seeking jobs may — every now and again — peek to read this post that speaks about the plight of those in a similar situation as theirs. Terrible sentence construct… yes, I’m aware. Do I care?

Here’s what I received in my mailbox yesterday in response to an application for ‘freelance copywriter’. I received  a PDF file that is nine-pages long. It details the company background referring to its partnership with the Who’s Who in residential and commercial real estate, nationwide (and even internationally). It also raves about its business association with premier luxury car brands. Furthermore, there’s an element of latent pride in that their articles have featured on trade publications, or leading vertical search engines. A list of types of work one can expect to write about is also enumerated. All good thus far. In fact, even the list of expectations (from potential copywriters) seems reasonable on the face of it… well-researched, grammatically accurate, error-free writing… fair enough.

But now, when it comes to money, or the credit for your writing, expect to be paid peanuts — around $15 for a 500 words article, and this includes one round of revisions at least! As for the credit, you aren’t allowed to even feature an article written by you in your personal portfolio — sorry, the nature of ghostwriting. Then again, zero credit for your article when it is published. Somebody else takes credit for your hard work. Oh yeah, the company will be kind enough to put in a good word for you, should you ever make a request for a reference.

I’m very curious – are all these A-rated auto makers, and A-rated realtors so cheap, that they will even suck the copywriters dry? Or are creative service providers headed by greedy (and lazy) chieftains, who, under the guise of creative genius just out to scam both, their clients, as well as those who write for them? Which of these is true?  In case you thought, my post ends here, I’m sorry.

There’s another attachment – a three-page document a.k.a. a sample of writing. Based on the style of this article, the potential copywriter/ghostwriter is required to write and submit a new article (500 words) for a given topic. This will demonstrate writing style, command over language, research skills, timely delivery etc. Of course, plagiarism is disallowed (No self-respecting writer would stoop low in any case).

If this was not enough, another article is required. In 500 words again, write from a selection of topic options. One glance will indicate that it is research intensive. No, for neither of these articles will the applicant be paid.

In my mind, these are like shell companies reeking of scams. I searched for a legit website for the company. There was none to be found across the web. It is important to remember… we are writers, not suckers. I believe in my ability. I won’t succumb to crappy scams like these. I’d rather spend time writing this post for myself. Cheers.

P.S.: To write a decent, well-researched article (500 words)… to proof-read, revise, submit and provide at least one revision to the client will take at least 3-5 solid hours of work. That’s more than half a day’s work. If you write even 10 articles over a 5-day week, that’s plenty. People claim that writers submit 100 articles… can anyone believe this?