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

Simon and the Oaks (2011)

Blame it on our staggered viewing of the film, or to the small viewing screen of the laptop — with the 46″ TV screen shattered and now beyond repair — or attribute our discordance with this film to its confused theme, I’m not quite sure.


On the film critics’ list of The New York Times, Simon & the Oaks (2012) took off with a splendid, larger than life but almost magical beginning. The film is about this young boy raised in occupied Sweden, during World War II. Well, the story also draws in another young boy – affluent, but of Jewish background. The two boys are buddies at school and soon, in a strange twist and turn of events, each of the boys gets drawn to the other boy’s father. Simon, who used to spend his leisure time in solitude, conjuring images in his mind sitting on the branches of the oak is suddenly disgusted with this intimidating tree. Instead, he begins to enjoy the company of his friend Isak’s father. Introduced to concerts and culture, Simon easily gets used to the fine living. On the other hand, Isak, bored with history lessons at their elite school tries his hand at carpentry. He spends long hours building hundreds of chairs in the shed, under the tutelage of Simon’s father. Simon and Isak grow into young teenage men, while war wages in Europe under dark clouds of the Holocaust.

All along, the smothering from mother Karin, and well-meant sermonizing from his hardworking father Erik, irk Simon. The audience sees that they seem to be hiding from him a deep secret which they share with Inga – Erik’s sister. Simon thinks Inga is weird and stays away from her when she visits. On the other hand, Isak’s father Ruben has some dark secrets hiding behind blazing curtains.

Set against a backdrop of a serene Scandinavian seaside town in Sweden, during the period of much historical drama, surprisingly the film depicts almost none of the carnage. It departs from films set in this period, sparing the audiences from the visual horrors of say, The Pianist, or Schindler’s List and many others.

The story has the main plot and layered sub-plots with the families intertwining, the characters emoting superbly, and yet… towards the end of the film you’re left with a feeling of incompleteness. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was not quite in the mood – yeah, with Diwali celebrations ongoing, perhaps this was a wrong choice of films we’d picked to watch through NetFlix. But if you’ve seen the film, or will watch it some point then do share your views here. I’d love to read and perhaps watch the film again with a fresh mind or in a different mood. 🙂

For a peek, or a preview, watch the trailer.