Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Here’s a humorous take on the non-native style of English usage or the so-called “Indian English”.

Below are two poems by Nissim Ezekiel. Nissim Ezekiel, during his stay in Mumbai, had the occasion to observe the way Indians speak English. What he first thought was incorrect or wrong English turned out to be actually what people would later claim to be “Indian English”. Without any intention or hint of sarcasm, Nissim has beautifully captured the essence of native languages forcing its way into English when spoken by the non-native English speakers and their attempt to dissolve it into the character of their native tongues. Note the frequent usage of the continuous tense, a typical feature of the regional languages, as also the seemingly contradictory phrases or abstract way of speaking that the non-native English speakers unconsciously allow to creep in to their communication in English.

Nissim Ezekiel, who has died aged 79, was the father of post-independence Indian verse in English. A prolific dramatist, critic, broadcaster and social commentator, he was professor of English and reader in American literature at Mumbai (formerly Bombay) University during the 1990s, and secretary of the Indian branch of the international writers' organization PEN.

Take it with a grain of salt! (not a ‘pinch’ J ). I found these poems hilarious when I first read them and they did make me reflect on the way I used English way back in those days.

Happy Reading!


The Patriot

I am standing for peace and non-violence.

Why world is fighting fighting

Why all people of world

Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,

I am simply not understanding.

Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,

I should say even 200% correct,

But modern generation is neglecting-

Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.

Other day I'm reading newspaper

(Every day I'm reading Times of India

To improve my English Language)

How one goonda fellow

Threw stone at Indirabehn.

Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)

Lend me the ears.

Everything is coming -

Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.

Be patiently, brothers and sisters.

You want one glass lassi?

Very good for digestion.

With little salt, lovely drink,

Better than wine;

Not that I am ever tasting the wine.

I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,

But I say

Wine is for the drunkards only.

What you think of prospects of world peace?

Pakistan behaving like this,

China behaving like that,

It is making me really sad, I am telling you.

Really, most harassing me.

All men are brothers, no?

In India also

Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs

All brothers -

Though some are having funny habits.

Still, you tolerate me,

I tolerate you,

One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.

You are going?

But you will visit again

Any time, any day,

I am not believing in ceremony

Always I am enjoying your company.

-- Nissim Ezekiel


The Professor

Remember me? I am Professor Sheth.

Once I taught you geography. Now

I am retired, though my health is good.

My wife died some years back.

By God's grace, all my children

Are well settled in life.

One is Sales Manager,

One is Bank Manager,

Both have cars.

Other also doing well, though not so well.

Every family must have black sheep.

Sarala and Tarala are married,

Their husbands are very nice boys.

You won't believe but I have eleven grandchildren.

How many issues you have? Three?

That is good. These are days of family planning.

I am not against. We have to change with times.

Whole world is changing. In India also

We are keeping up. Our progress is progressing.

Old values are going, new values are coming.

Everything is happening with leaps and bounds.

I am going out rarely, now and then

Only, this is price of old age

But my health is O.K. Usual aches and pains.

No diabetes, no blood pressure, no heart attack.

This is because of sound habits in youth.

How is your health keeping?

Nicely? I am happy for that.

This year I am sixty-nine

and hope to score a century.

You were so thin, like stick,

Now you are man of weight and consequence.

That is good joke.

If you are coming again this side by chance,

Visit please my humble residence also.

I am living just on opposite house's backside.

-- Nissim Ezekiel

No comments:

Post a Comment