(Rumaging through some old papers, I came across this piece I'd written a more than a decade ago. I remember it was a journey in the local train in Mumbai from Bandra to Churchgate in the company of a group of young convent educated ladies with magnficent mastery over the English language that inspired me to write this piece)
They come in all shapes and forms. But the classic specimen usually wears her hair short, hoping, perhaps, with the severing of locks can be effected a cut off from the traditions of the culture she was unfortunately born into. However, time and again, she discovers to her embarrassment and ( irritation too), that roots cannot be severed as easily as the mane, for shoots keep sprouting up from some stubborn, hidden roots much faster than her hair grows back.
She speaks English taking immense pains to keep the vernacular flavour from tainting her impeccable language. A votary of the concept of Standard English, she’ll brook no arguments about standard being out and differences being in. Should you dare merely hint at such an outrageous idea, she’d immediately plunge into a heated defence of the sacrosanct nature of the English language with such indignation that it’d silence you forever. And so there she goes waiting for an “S” to be trapped among vowels so that she can go ZZZZing over it while looking down with celestial contempt at her riff-raff compatriots who are too preoccupied with expressing themselves to worry about preserving the Anglo-Saxon quality of a language thrust upon them by a quirk of history. She struts around, poor girl, too pleased with herself and her flawless English to detect the merriment she arouses among those around her who are twisting the language, sometimes stretching it out of shape to accommodate their Indian sensibilities which they respect more than the alien tongue.
And the most distinguishing quality of a present day anglophile is her withering scorn for anything Indian.
”What? Indians write novels in English?” She goes into peals of laughter.
“Rushdie? Oh, he has been in England all along.
“Seth? Well, he was in Los Angeles.
Roy? Mmm, she’s been out of India at least.”
“Indian journalism in English? huh! A disgrace! Indians should stick to the vernacular,”
“Haven’t Indian English journalists brought down governments, caused many an eminent head to roll, exposed scams and kickbacks?”
“So what? Their language is not up to the mark”
Which mark, one does not dare to ask.
And Indian cinema? Poor thing. If not for her superhuman efforts, she’d have retched all over the place.
“Cinema is a western medium”, she manages to stammer out. “Indian film makers can never be comfortable with it”. With a final heroic attempt to contain nausea, she declares that Indian should give up the idea of making movies.
“Plenty of English movies in the market. Dub them”. Mustering courage from her swooning condition, you venture to say,”We are not conditioned enough to enjoy them all that much. We like a little bit of running around the trees with music in the background, a little bit of romance, a dash of mush”
Oh, the pitying contempt in her eyes for the poor Calibans!
And the plight of music in India? How it makes her flesh crawl! When Beethoven thunders, her eyes close and she gets transported instantly to wherever he is at the moment. When the Spice Girls screech, she thrashes around in sheer ecstasy. Let not a Lata Mangeshkar or an Udit Narayan interrupt. Her ecstatic sway would come to an abrupt full stop and her nose would go up, up, up----the sky is then limit. An expression of supreme indifference would mask her countenance.
Did I say she hates everything Indian? Allow me to withdraw that statement. 'cos she doesn’t, you see. She likes everything ethnic – even if it is dried cow dung used as tablemats. You see, Europeans like all these ethnic stuff. Like them, she too believes that India’s glory lay in the remote past. Nothing of the present is really worthwhile except these relics from the past.
Cocooned in western rhetoric, these creatures head westward when they develop wings. If the westward pilgrimage fails to materialize, they seek out those with feathers of the same hue, and flock together.
This is a vanishing species. Thank God for his little mercies