Gurcharan Das is a die-hard optimist when it comes to the free-market, or the potential of India. Some of his views are rather unconventional. In a previous issue of Outlook magazine, he coins a new term: Inglish = Indian + English, in place of the 'Hinglish'. A more accurate term for the language.

He writes in Outlook:

'One day, I expect, we will also find Inglish's Mark Twain, the writer who liberated Americans to write as they thought. Salman Rushdie gave Indians permission to write in English, but Midnight's Children is not written in Inglish, alas! And this is not surprising for the young Indian mind was not decolonised until the reforms of the 1990s.

What exactly is Inglish is not easy to define, and needs empirical research. Is its base English or our vernacular bhashas? If it's the latter, then it is similar to Franglais, the fashionable concoction of mostly French with English words thrown in that drives purists mad. Or is it support English, with an overlay of bhasha? I think it is both. For the upwardly mobile lower middle class, it is bhasha mixed with some English words, such as what my newsboy speaks: "Mein aaj busy hoon, kal bill doonga definitely." Or my bania's helper: "Voh mujhe avoid karti hai!" For the classes, on the other hand, the base is definitely English, as in: 'Hungry, kya?' or 'Careful yaar, voh dangerous hai!' The middle middle class seems to employ an equal combination, as in Zee News' evening bulletin, "Aaj Middle East mein peace ho gayi!" Three Hindi words and three of English.

In contrast to this vibrant new language, the old 'Indian English' of our headlines is an anachronism: 'Sleuth nabs man', 'Miscreants abscond', and 'Eve-teasers get away'. In the ultimate put-down, Professor Harish Trivedi of Delhi University contemptuously says, "Indian English? It's merely incorrect English." '

The original article was written to protest the ban on English in primary-medium schools in Karnataka and how this might affect the ability of children to learn English correctly. It is scientific fact that languages learned as a child and as an adult are stored in different areas of the brain. Note, that this does not imply facility with language necessarily diminishes with age (examples: Conrad and Nabokov). He correctly states that, everybody knows that English is a passport to a better life. He goes on to predict that soon with India's large English-speaking population and adoption of Inglish across all levels, English and its correct pronunciation will be defined as it is done by Indians. 'Natives' taking over the Queen's English. What poetic justice!

However such a thing will never happen. I agree that certain words, idioms and expressions translated from the vernacular languages will be integral to English in a few years (eg: verandah, bungalow, etc.) but, Das's Inglish with "Voh mujhe avoid karti hai!" will never be English or Hindi. Like the proverbial dhobi's dog, it will belong neither here not there. Despite him putting down the elitist-sounding newspaper headlines, it is interesting to note that Das choose to write in pure English rather than in Inglish. If you talk to the Inglish speakers; they are not satisfied speaking Inglish but want to learn English, and will learn it and speak it correctly; although, with a thick Indian accent (to show the pervasiveness of vernacular sounds). All would like to speak and write in English correctly, given a chance.

At the same time I expect, there will be a 'return-to-roots' call and an opposite push for purity of vernacular speech. I can already see a number of us (the convent- educated, culturally- americanized, linguistically-anglicized lot) wanting to master our mother-tongues. Languages that don't deserve the neglect of the past decades as the educated class jumped on the English bandwagon. We are all better-off with retaining the best of all languages and given our natural facility for learning languages it's not a far-fetched thought.

Inglish is not going to be language but will always be a bridge for people moving in both directions. But neither the dhobiwalla's upwardly-mobile son nor the convent-educated wannabe Urdu scholar is fooling himself about its bastard origins.

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