If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, 12 December 2013

If you are gay, you are a criminal!


Should untrained people like me question what the Supreme Court decrees in its infinite wisdom? The answer should normally be “no”, but what if the judges plainly ignore the reality around them or if they say something that flies in the face of the collective scientific wisdom on the subject?

A relic of the British Raj, the Indian Criminal Procedure Code was born in 1861. Section 377 of the Code provides that sexual acts “against the order of nature” are punishable with jail terms ranging from 10 years to life. If this section is enforced seriously, two and a half million gays (the number is given by the Union Health Ministry) in India should be in jail. Even if it is not, the provision would be a goldmine for rogue policemen to harass and detain homosexuals and extort money, and god-knows-what-else from them.

In a landmark judgment in 2009, Delhi High Court struck down this Section partially because it went against the fundamental rights of individuals. The High Court said that a consensual sexual act between homosexual adults in private was no longer an offence. The judgment “de-criminalised” homosexuals in India.

That order was overturned by the Supreme Court yesterday. In what appears to be an illustration of laughable double-speak the court conveyed: “The section does not automatically make a homosexual a criminal but sexual relations between homosexuals – and “unnatural” intercourse between persons of all orientations – do.” [The Telegraph, 12 December]. It would be worthwhile to check on what basis this stupendous decision was arrived at. 
 
The Supreme Court felt that since “only a minuscule 200-odd persons have been booked for the offence under Section 377 in the last 150 years”, by no means could it be construed as misuse of the provision by law-enforcing authorities. The counter-argument is: police themselves are the offenders in these cases and they are hardly expected to record such crimes. So this statistic is meaningless. The honourable Supreme Court chose to ignore this crucial aspect.

Secondly, that homosexuality is as “natural” as heterosexuality is firmly established today; there is absolutely no disagreement about it among the scientific community. But sadly, there is no indication that the Court considered modern scientific opinion on sexual predilections. They did not go into the moral issues; they did not go for a modern, enlightened interpretation of homosexuality, which was once upon a time considered “against the order of nature”. That part they have left to the legislature. The Court suggested that law makers could amend the relevant provision of the law if they felt. But the trillion dollar question is: will our MPs feel the necessity?

The worthies who appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the Delhi High Court verdict included the late lamented BP Singhal of BJP, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Apostolic Churches Alliance, etc. Now, these self-appointed guardians of religious communities are extremely strong and no political party displeases them for the fear of losing votes. Political parties will rather consign gays to a life of perpetual fear and intimidation. The casual approach of the political class was clearly betrayed by the Union Law minister when he said, “Well, if Parliament runs, we will take it up.” [The Statesman, 11-12-13] How sensible of him!

To sum up, the gay people of this country have been literally thrown to the wolves. And this is not the only issue where we have been walking backward. The Women’s Reservation Bill has been hanging fire for decades. In the recent past, our MPs successfully scuttled the Lokpal Bill. The people who control the destiny of over one billion Indians seem to be bent upon destroying the country. We don’t know how things will turn for the better, but one thing is certain. If we don’t protest, nothing will ever change.


 
Kolkata, 12 December 2013 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

We won’t let you go


Bengaluru has changed inexorably since I first went there in the 1970s. From a sleepy quiet town with empty wide roads canopied by arrays of evergreen trees, it has become a metropolis with monstrously huge buildings, fly-overs, under-passes, and perpetually choked roads on which flashy cars crawl like caterpillars. And of course, eateries and shopping malls. Bengaluru is also the public persona of modern India, it’s main IT hub, a city where millions of young Indians make a living. But for my wife and me, the chief attractions of the city are our two grandkids: five-year old Haroun, and Toto, who packs quite a punch in his two-foot frame. 
 
We were about to leave Bengaluru for Kolkata after two weeks of holiday. The children and their parents had come down to say goodbye. By the time we put the bags in the boot, the brothers had been right in the middle of the rear seat of the cab. They had decided to accompany us to Kolkata! We tried to reason, ‘You are going to visit us in just two months’ time. You ARE coming to Kolkata with your parents.’
 
‘We’ll come back with then. Till then, we’ll be with you.’
 
More reasoning: ‘But we don’t have tickets for you.’
 
Very graciously, Haroun said, ‘We’ll wait; you go upstairs and get the tickets.’ For him, tickets are always bought from a laptop. 
 
No amount of cajoling would make them change their mind. We were getting late for the flight, but the boys refused to budge. Ultimately, their parents had to resort to what newspapers would describe as a “mild lathi charge” to clear the way. 
 
Haroun loves to be with lots of people. And his younger brother loves whatever he loves. Once earlier, when we were leaving them with their parents, Haroun asked, ‘How can I live with so few people?’ 
 
He finds it strange that all the people he loves do not live together. He doesn’t believe any offspring should be separated from their parents, like his parents are now. On another occasion, he asked me seriously, ‘Tell me why it is like this? Why do children live in Bangalore but their parents in Kolkata?’
 
I didn’t have an answer to his question. But I certainly know this: He has just started going to school and in a few years, he will have been trained not to ask such questions.
 
Why do we grow up?


Kolkata / November 27, 2013

Saturday, 16 November 2013

An unsung hero


There are three stages in a man’s life. As a young boy, he believes, ‘My dad knows everything.’ Then a time comes when he says, ‘My dad? He knows nothing!’ But inevitably, at some point, he starts telling you, ‘My father used to say ….’

Old proverbs are tiny urns carrying gigantic truths. Had my old man been alive, he would have been hundred this year, and yesterday was his thirty-third death anniversary. I still think of him. In fact, these days, I think of him more often and reflect on the bitter-sweet relationship we shared. Everyone is like Salvador Dali, no one dies entirely when they die. My father is alive in my mind, and in the minds of a few others.

My dad, who always wore khadi and smoked with a religious fervour, didn’t do anything extraordinary in life that would justify telling his story to you. Yet, I write this with a touch of pride because given the odds, the mere fact that he survived was extraordinary.

He had a tough childhood after losing his father at the age of twelve. Moving to Kolkata, he had to pay for college and university education himself. While still a student, he did everything from managing boarding houses to making rubber-stamps to drafting legal documents for businessmen to eke out a living. His boat continued to sail on choppy waters after the Second World War and Partition, which made things even worse. And as he fought a grim battle all his life, he had his moments of joy, but suffered terrible failures and indignities too. For as long as he lived, he lived with financial uncertainties.

But every evening, yes, every evening after supper, he would put his problems aside, retire to his study, and read until two in the morning. He used to read everything that came between two covers, except, fiction. For example, for a brief period, he got seriously interested in paleobotany. And he was always interested in the English language. Long ago when I didn’t know it, somehow, he managed to kindle an interest in English in my mind. If I am making a living by teaching English now, it is because of him. But sometimes I wish that instead, he had kindled in me an interest in making money!

Many a time I heard my baba quote these lines from Thomas Gray:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
 Did he know that he too was an unsung hero?

Friday, 4 October 2013

A note to my students / 04 October 2013

Galileo Galilei, the father of observational astronomy

Every one of my students says “sorry” if they make a mistake while speaking English. Every one of us Indians are embarrassed if we speak incorrect English. But has anyone come across an American, Englishman, or Australian who is ashamed because he/she can’t speak perfect Hindi or Tamil?

It is time we threw this colonial baggage into a dustbin and accepted English for what it was. For historical reasons, English has become the link language of the world. Chinese aircraft pilots overflying Siberia communicate with Russian air-traffic controllers in English. To make a living in the twenty-first century, you must learn some English. But all that most people need is to follow written and spoken English and express themselves clearly in the language.

Therefore, there is nothing wrong if we commit mistakes in English, but we must try to write and speak as accurately and beautifully as we can. There are several compelling reasons why we must.

Firstly, if you are doing higher studies, it is imperative that you shape out your thoughts in clear and compact language.

Secondly, if you transact business with overseas clients, you should be polite and impressive. And unless you have a good command of English, you are unlikely to impress anyone.

Thirdly, anything worth doing is worth doing well.

I always ask my students to do two things to improve their language skills: regularly listen to and read good English, preferably a newspaper. But English papers published from India often contain incorrect English. It’s quite possible that you’ll pick up wrong language from newspapers. Here are a few tips on reading newspapers.

Firstly, choose the newspaper carefully. The Hindu and the Indian Express are two papers that I recommend without reservations. And I am sure there are others. For example, my friend Randeep Wadhera, who writes brilliant English, contributes to the Tribune.

Secondly, in all newspapers, the language is usually good on the front page and the editorial pages. But on other pages and particularly in the supplements, the language is often terrible.

An example 

Here is something I picked up from the Education Supplement of the Deccan Herald yesterday. A reader wrote: “I am studying in Class XII and am aspiring to become an astrophysicist. I would like to know which are the government institutes offering this course and how to apply. … How many percent of marks should I have to get a seat in government institutions?”

Let’s look at the sentences individually.

1. “I AM STUDYING IN CLASS XII AND I AM ASPIRING TO BECOME AN ASTROPHYSICIST.”

“I am studying in Class XII” is fine, but in the second part of the sentence, where the verb is “aspire”, we have a problem.

Verbs like aspire, know, believe, prefer, like, etc. are called state verbs or stative verbs. They do not talk about an activity, but about a state of your mind.

The verbs that talk about the existence or state of something too are state verbs. For example the verbs in the following sentences: “There ARE many excellent universities in India.” And: “Astrophysics IS a difficult subject.”

Another group of state verbs are the sensory verbs like feel, touch, etc.

In English, we do not normally use state verbs in continuous or progressive tenses. For example you do not say: “I am believing god is existing. X” You say: “I believe god exists.”

Therefore, you can say: “I am studying in Class XII and I aspire to become an astrophysicist.”

But remember, there are always excptions to rules. For example: McDonald’s slogan “I'm loving it!”

***

2. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHICH ARE THE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTES OFFERING THIS COURSE AND HOW TO APPLY.

From the point of view of grammar, this is not a question, but a statement. The correct sentence can be – “I would like to know which government institutes are offering this course and how to apply.”

Better: “I would like to know which government institutes offer this course and how to apply.”

***

3. “HOW MANY PERCENT OF MARKS SHOULD I HAVE TO GET A SEAT IN GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS?”

This sentence can be rewritten in many ways. Here is one. “What percentage of marks will I need to get a seat in government institutions?”

Cheers.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Can India be redeemed?


If the ordinance to protect convicted legislators becomes law, the men who raped and killed Nirbhaya in Delhi can theoretically become your MP or MLA one day. It’s a shame that a government can even contemplate such a law. 

I think the thieves in the UPA in general, and the Congress Party in particular, realised soon after 2008 that they would lose the elections in 2014, and decided to make hay while the sun shines. Development and governance were thrown into trash cans and ministers and their cronies joined a gold rush. A series of mega-scams followed. Two-G, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing, Robert Wadhera, Bellary, Coal, Sharda Chit Fund, … we Indians can suffix any goddamned noun with “scam”. There have certainly been many more, the august names I have mentioned are just the peaks. India is blessed with two great mountain ranges of the world, the Himalayas in the north and Corruption throughout its length and breath. Can we ever move the second mountain?

It was a welcome relief to read in today’s papers that Rahul Gandhi, the crown prince of the Gandhi Dynasty, says this ordinance should be torn up. Given the power structure in Congress, it will be. But it raises a question: is this a stage-managed show to propel the young scion into the election battles? Or is this a genuine conflict between the old and the new, the relatively uncorrupted and veteran criminals seeped in sleaze?

We don’t know the answer, at least as yet. But I have always thought that Mr Rahul Gandhi is a well-meaning idiot. I apologise for using the epithet in the public domain, but at times, you cannot make a point if you are politically correct. The point I am trying to make is, in general, I would rather vote for an honest fool than a brilliant crook. But isn’t “honest politician” an oxymoron, like India-made-foreign-liquor?

I do believe everything isn’t lost. For every thief, most political parties also have some honest leaders. Some of them are capable persons too. One of them happened to be my neighbour once. Let me say a few words about him.

In the early 1990s, a multiple-time chief minister of Kerala, Mr AK Antony lived in a tiny two-storey house which his wife, a bank employee, had built in Thiruvananthapuram. I used to cross his house every day. There were a few sleepy policemen, but no picket, no crowd of favour seekers or hangers-on in front of his house. Once, when Antony was the CM, the state government employees went on a continuous strike. The babus frothed in the mouth shouting slogans in front of the state secretariat, but the no-nonsense CM remained cool. His only point, you-don’t-work-so-it-doesn’t-matter-whether-you-are-in-office-or-outside, turned out to be correct. After 40 days or so, the employees returned to office, tail sadly limping between legs.

Is it too late to redeem the situation in our country? Let’s hope not. In 2014, we can and we must vote for the most honest or the least corrupt politician on the rogues’ list, irrespective of their political affiliation. But what if every one of the vote seekers is a big crook?

Well, the Supreme Court’s verdict yesterday, in which the Election Commission was instructed to add a “None of the above (NOTA)” option on voting machines / ballot papers, shows the way. The people of India must prevent the present rogue government bringing in another law to overturn this ruling! However, even if we presume this ruling will not be challenged by politicians, there is still a glitch.

The honourable Supreme Court hasn’t said what will happen if Mr NOTA wins an election!

Kolkata, 28 September 2013

Friday, 19 July 2013

Goddess of Letters

Michael Madhusudan Dutta

What treasures abound
In your boundless universe,
Know only those,
Who have embraced the feet
Of the Goddess of Letters.

The original verse in Bangla by is:

Kato je aishwarya tabo e bhabo mandole
Sei jane, banee pado dhare je mastake


Translated on 19 July 2013 at Kolkata

Monday, 8 July 2013

An environmentalist or an enemy of the people?


Santanu Dasgupta


One evening while taking a stroll, I came upon a daab or tender-coconut seller. He was winding up his business for the day. Seeing so many tender coconuts, I felt thirsty and he agreed to cut open the last one for the day. I sipped it with the straw he gave me and continued on my stroll.

About ten minutes later I walked back the same way and saw the daab seller picking up straws that lay strewn all over the place.

‘Now, that’s a man who loves his environment’, I murmured to myself. I felt guilty too, because just a few minutes ago, I had carelessly thrown away my used straw.  ‘He deserves my compliments’, I thought, and walked towards him.

But as I came closer I saw him packing all the used straws that he had picked up from the street back into the packet that contained the unused (?) ones. The street was clean of all plastic straws.

Now what do I take from this incident? Is the daab-seller guilty of endangering public health? Yes.

Is he to be admired for his love for Nature? Yes.

I can see a few eyebrows being raised at this point. So, for the sake of argument, look at what he is doing for our ecosystem: he clears up the plastic waste, recycles it so that more plastic need not be produced. Of course, he does all this at the cost of public health. But if we look at thinks from his perspective, he does not think maintaining hygiene as his priority or responsibility.

I walked back home confused.

Monday, 22 April 2013

You can’t get raped in West Bengal



On 10 April 2013, a bunch of angry young men carrying Trinamool Congress (TMC) flags entered the Presidency University, Kolkata after breaking a lock at its main entrance. They had good reasons to be angry. A few days before, their party chief and the chief minister of Bengal was heckled at Delhi by goons belonging to the CPIM, their rivals. We also saw on TV a minister, perhaps the finest and the most competent of the present lot, being manhandled. And how did TMC register their protest against the reprehensible act?

They attacked CPIM party offices across the state, beat up rival activists, and burned houses. The “protest” at Presidency was a part of this big picture. The protesters vandalised the oldest physics lab in the country, thrashed male students, abused girl students in filthy language and threatened to rape them. The authorities repeatedly called the police. Kolkata Police did nothing.

The ruling party of Bengal, including its senior ministers, brazenly claim that vandals don’t become party members just by carrying party flags. The argument is incontrovertible, but so are these facts: (a) the police, whose minister-in-charge is the chief minister herself, did nothing to stop the so-called fake TMC members, and there is no explanation why they didn't respond to the frantic calls from the Univ., (b) some ruling party leaders were caught on camera pushing the main gate when the lock was still intact, and (c) the few men later arrested by the police (after a storm of protests) have all been identified as ruling party activists.

We in Bengal have seen so much violence and heard so much of obnoxious self-serving arguments from both sides of the political divide that we hardly lose our sleep over incidents like this. We accept them as fait accompli and move on. Mere mal-governance does not rile us: college principals are beaten up, a police officer is shot dead by ruling party goons in full view of TV cameras, a young student protester is killed in police custody, physical violence against women is rampant … the list is endless. And after almost every incident the CM and her cohorts either say the incident was “minor” or it was “concocted”. In West Bengal today, you just can’t get raped. You can only pretend to have been raped, and make up a case to malign the government.

Incidents of violence, which keep happening at metronomic regularity, engage our attention so completely that we hardly remember that there hasn’t been one new industry in the state in years; that hardly any new jobs are created. On the other hand, we tend to ignore the few good things the present government has been doing. You don’t worry about your long-term health when your house is on fire. Perhaps you only hope that the political opposition will articulate the public’s views and take the government to task.

But presently in Bengal, the political opposition is a joke. Except for a few pockets of influence, no one takes the bickering, self-seeking Congressmen seriously. And the Left Front, despite the drubbing they got in the last general election, has changed neither their ways nor their discredited leaders. We continue to see the same old (and elderly) faces parroting their hackneyed lines, without ever expressing remorse over the havoc the wreaked on Bengal over 34 years.

There is no political party to look up to. The ancient empty street is too dead for dreaming … people have nowhere to go, except Bengaluru for the privileged few and construction sites in Kerala or Maharashtra for the underprivileged. There are no protests, except on rare occasions when a few people stand up. Two of them are the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar of Presidency. Displaying enormous courage, they came out to openly join the students' protests. However, these are only exceptions, West Bengal today is a good place to rule. The ruling party should be happy.

Yet, our rulers have become so complacent that they often cross the limits and make people seethe in silent anger. For example, some time ago a lady minister said about a rape victim, who is still trying to get justice, that it was not a case of rape, it was a dispute between her and her clients.

Another minister did something very similar a day after the Presidency incident. He said this about the Vice Chancellor of the university: “The manner in which she participated in the students’ protest is unacceptable. Everyone knows her history, geography, and science.” [Ei Samay, 12 April]

If such language is used by a minister against a lady vice chancellor, or any woman for that matter, should we be surprised that his lumpen foot soldiers would fancy raping girls? And this gives rise to another, more serious question.

How much deeper can we sink?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

An email from Joe



I have written a couple of memoirs on my friend Joy Joseph Manimury, who was known and loved as Joe. This morning, as I was cleaning my mailbox, this missive from Joe (dated 10 August 2005) narrowly missed being exiled to oblivion. I think it's worth sharing with my readers. But first, let me give you the background.

Joe wrote this after reading an article of mine in the Statesman. I had written the piece after reading some tall claims in an advert by a mutual fund, an advert in which the copywriters conveniently forgot to mention that lakhs of investors had lost money by investing in their funds earlier.  

I haven’t changed anything much in the mail except deleting some personal details and masking the names of Joe’s wife (C), and two daughters, (A) and (N). 

As I read this again, I laughed out silently several times. And along with silent laughter were invisible tears. Joe needn’t have left us so early. 

Happy reading! 

***

Dear Santanu,

What a pleasant surprise! I read the mail more than a week back but I was in Ernakulam that time and couldn’t reply. But I had half cmpleted a rebuttal to the Statesman but left the draft in N’s computer. Incidentally, the article was really good and C and N enjoyed it very much.

To bring you up to date, A passed her BA History with a creditable 70% … So [she] is in Hyderabad since July 12th. N is in class X now.

C and N are at Ernakulam since 2002. C is in the College of … and drives a fantastic 11 kms to work every day. She is happy, since she is the Head (& tail) of the Dept of English. No office politics like in [her earlier college], no great fear of somebody with influence ‘ousting’ her as the term is, and the students really need her – these talented kids are mostly from rural and rather poor families and can hardly spell their names in English.

Centurion Bank has a new management and a lot f new top executives have joined – deadly combination f Citibank and others. So we all became pariahs and I decided to quit. It took some time to get a job but finally something in Nairobi, Kenya has come up. It is a small bank but I will practically be No.2 and the money is decent considering the country and the distance. What the hell, I ran thru SBT, IndusInd and Centurion salaries regularly and I expect to do the same here too, so it doesn’t make much of a difference. C was quite realistic about it. As she says, I am never there when she has a problem so it doesn’t matter whether I am in Mumbai or Timbuktu. Realism is alright but I wish she hadn’t put so much enthusiasm into it. Anyway she has no plans of joining me immediately. With us, Love at A Distance works better.

Why I wanted to write a rebuttal was this – some time back C had dusted up some share certificates, mutual funds, etc. and given them to me. I took them to Mumbai and promptly forgot about them. Once I decided to go to Kenya, I had a look at them – lng disappeared companies and even funds like Apple Starshare, IDBI Bonds, the famus Mastergain 92, mutual funds bught mainly as tax shelter, but they turned out to be sheltering at my expense. I also had things like Indusind shares ‘allotted’ in staff quota at Rs.45 which promptly stabilized at Rs.11. Anyway when I looked up the prices I had a very pleasant surprise. Mastergain 92 was 19.60! Indusind 77!! Some company called Hexaware which apparently had bought some forgotten company I had invested in, also doing extremely well!!! Mastergain in C’s name came back because the signature differed. By the time we got the bank to attest her signature and re-lodged it, the price was 24. All in all, about 60,000 invested between 92 and 98 is worth 150,000 now. I am cashing them as fast as I can sign. So my advice to all is to invest in stocks more and more and stay invested till I get out.

You will find a lot of missing o’s in this mail. Like all Malayalees and their relations, my computer keyboard also has a problem with O.

How’s Arundhati? And Doel and Tatai? Write in detail. Do yu publish a lot? C does a fair bit of creative writing in Malayalam & English, mostly short stories but couple of one-act plays too. A story of hers had come in Antara Sen’s ‘The Little Magazine’ also, apart from a translation of a Malayalam story by N.S. Madhavan. A story came in an anthology by OUP. 

I am making a cc to Damu also. Poor fellow had tried a lot to get me into his company. Luckily for his reputation, they finally decided not to fill the post now.

Reply in detail.

Joe

P.S.: In case you need anything from Kenya, let me know. I believe spears, drums and shrunken heads are quite cheap there.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Learn English: A fun book of functional language, grammar, and vocabulary






How will this book help you?

If you are someone who needs to use English at workplace or anywhere else, but if you are not confident about using the language, this book is for you.

It has a broad overview of the language that you need to live happily in today’s world. I’ve written it in an informal style, almost in a lighter vein … Actually, learning a new language shouldn’t be a pain in wrong places. On the contrary, it can be more exciting than falling in love.

While I wrote and revised the book, I kept this in mind and tried to make it completely different from the boring grammar and vocabulary text books available in the market. And it is different in other ways too. 

A problem with even very good language text books published from the UK, the USA, Australia, or say Singapore, is that they deal with topics and contexts which our learners cannot relate to. However, in In Learn English ... all the stories and anecdotes relate to India and I have tried to share bits and pieces of the Indian Cultural Heritage. I therefore believe that if you work through this book, you will not only learn English, but also enjoy the process of learning.

The Amazon on-line book store not only sells this book, but also allows you to have a peep into it. You can have look by clicking here.

If the link doesn't work, you can try Flipcart and read some reviews too at this second link



Revised versions

I am happy to say that the book has been reprinted twice in the last two years. Before the last reprint, I revised the book again. I believe I have been able to eliminate errors and typos completely now.



The journey of the book

It all began on 26 Jan 2012 with a book proposal to Tata McGraw Hill (TMH). The book is lying on my table right now. It looks fantastic!

Those of you who are in the know of the publishing industry would appreciate that thirteen months is an absurdly short time for bringing out a 464-page book with countless tables and pictures. It has been a pleasure to interact with Amit Kumar, who has been the face of TMH for me. I found Amit and his team competent professionals with a warm human touch. For me, it is an honour to be published by such a famous academic publishing house. Their warmth came as a huge bonus. Thank you TMH.



A vote of thanks

I am indebted to my students, who have taught me how to teach language. Moreover, they gave me confidence as a teacher by speaking and writing English confidently. Thank you dear students.

It has been a privilege to work with my colleagues at the British Council Teaching Centre Kolkata. Superb teachers, they have contributed to the book in many ways. Chitra Velayudh, Poushali Dutta Purkayastha, and Smita Saha have also checked some of the chapters.

I had two teachers while writing the book. Firstly, Prof K A Jayaseelan of the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. If you find the book error-free or nearly so – which I believe you will – it is largely because of him. Secondly, Ray Mackay, a renowned Scotland based ELT expert. My senior colleague, Krishnadi (Krishna Koyal) introduced me to Ray. I expected Ray to rubbish my book, but instead, he sent me an exceedingly positive and encouraging email. And he pointed out two areas where I had gone seriously wrong. I cannot thank them enough.

Finally my family and a circle of close friends have stood by me, checked the drafts, and sustained my belief that I could do it. Can’t thank them as I am a part of them.

Here are a few reviews that I found at the Amazon site. Cheers!



Thursday, 14 February 2013

Not an original piece of writing


A few days ago, I read a poem on a friend’s Facebook wall. It was not an original post, my friend had found it somewhere. The poem was brilliant and ordinary at the same time, because it was a fantastic idea expressed in rather commonplace words. I have made an attempt to rewrite the poem. Let me share it with you and bow to its unknown creator.

Woman

I was born because she was there to hold me within herself, my mother. 

When I was an infant, there was another woman to play with me, my sister. 

When I went to school, there was a woman to show the way, my teacher. 

When I needed shelter, there was a woman to make a home for me, my wife. 

When I was down, there was a woman to gently hold my hand, my daughter. 

When I die, she will be there to take me in, Mother Earth. 

… 

If you are a man, value every woman. 

If you are a woman, be proud to be one.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A note to my students #?: English Vinglish


To make your car tyres last longer, you change their positions periodically – front to back, left to right etc. When I got this done this morning, the mechanic wrote out a bill in a neat legible hand: 

Tyre rotasan – Rs.100

I couldn’t immediately figure out what he meant. But when I did, I felt the bill conveys two important messages. 

Firstly, He didn’t write out the bill in his own language. This means, he belongs to the one third of the world population that prefer to conduct business in English. 

Secondly and quite sensibly, he doesn’t give a damn about the rules of English spelling (or grammar, I am sure). But he has the confidence to communicate in a language that has become the lingua franca of world business. 

And I had to note with a tinge of regret that he uses the English language with a lot more freedom than I do. What is more, he has the ability to create new language like some of the best writers of all times. 

The bill also told me that in the long run, English is going to cover a lot more space in our lives, but English teachers like me will be out of job. Amen!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A page from my diary



There were reasons to be upset and I was. The dull foggy sunless winter afternoon didn’t help. Maybe, I was just going through the winter afternoon blues. And like I always do when I am down, I tried to find solace in English grammar.

A flight of mynas – I later found out from the Net, they were pied mynas or pied Asian starlings – were passing by. They felt sorry for me and decided to cheer me up by settling down on the peepul tree outside my study, and chirping noisily. They were saying many things … I could catch only one sentence. They were asking me to take out my camera.

Wikipedia says: “This myna is strikingly marked in black and white and has a yellowish bill with a reddish bill base. The bare skin around the eye is reddish. The upper body, throat and breast are black while the cheek, lores, wing coverts and rump are contrastingly white. The sexes are similar in plumage but young birds have dark brown in place of black. The subspecies vary slightly in plumage, extent of streaking of the feathers and in measurements.”

And this is what they looked like in the dull light.