Monday, December 05, 2005

Writing Back?

A certain ‘friend’ has been nasty about my style of writing. Come to think of it, how do I write? At times I am quite stilted, at times a certain humour creeps in, but the latter usually happens more or less involuntarily. It’s a bit embarassing to admit it, but when I read certain passionate entries written in my diary at the high points of teenage angst, it requires a great deal of self control not to burst out laughing. I shall never be a dedicated, conscious humourist though,I fear.

In passing, may I add I strongly object to MS Word underlining in red the word “humour” each time I type it out. Twerp!

Baba and I discussed English and englishes this morning, over a delectable breakfast of Welsh rarebit, which in our household goes by the inelegant name of dim-alu-tomato. (For those who are out of this culinary loop, I’m talking of fried tomatoes, fried boiled potatoes and fried boiled eggs tossed together in a little oil, salted to taste. Magnificent recipe.) Anyway, so Baba and I were mounted on one of our favourite hobbyhorses, where he cringes at what passes for English these days and I tell him it’s the age of the englishes and that’s no bad thing either. For one thing, the day of ‘correct’ English as written by, say Nehru, is indeed over, seemingly in Britain too. But the englishes that have come up in its place, all the lingoes of the ex-colonials, the new colonizers (I refer to the Asian immigration invasion, as some are pleased to term it) and well, of the new generation, is so rich, so varied, so very densely packed with social, racial, political moment, it would be a shame to ignore it for an older and far less democratic lingua. Or so I feel. Baba does not agree.

He said, nowadays, very few writers use the old phraseologies, the little touches that made one’s writing more authentically English than one’s peers. To use, for instance “Don’t tell a soul” in favour of the “Don’t tell anybody” more commonly heard outside England. I myself would prefer to write in the language that allows the delightfully esoteric “Cover sale outside” (to indicate that envelopes are sold outside the post-office). This line is all but incomprehensible to a non-South Indian but to me its beauty lies in that, that to understand it one requires some knowledge of the land one is standing in, where envelopes and plastic bags are universally recognized as “covers”. If one's language does not reflect one's immediate surroundings, how authentic is it and if it is less than authentic, what claim can it lay to being heard?

I suppose we will agree to disagree. We’re from different worlds, he and I, although he heads the IT department of his company and I’m shocking my circle by getting married at the incredibly young (?) age of twenty-three.

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