To go or not to go


Visiting a doctor is a big no-no from where I come from. Basically, just a big no-no from my mum. Going to a doctor, as she says, is like inviting trouble. So, besides visiting the dentist once a year (which I have to) and the optician once in two years (which, again I have to), it is very rare to see us making a trip to the doctor’s sanctum sanctorum. Besides, you do have round-the-clock chemists or even an alternative therapy for the ailment that is causing you misery. Until a few months ago this doctor-visit-phobia was exclusive to my mum but recently it caught up with me too. So much so that my trip to the optician (after a year and a half!) yesterday was filled with extreme horror. I was full of nerves and was just waiting to be told that I would be losing my eyesight soon.

The root of all these awful thoughts got embedded a month ago when I got to know that one of my very good friends, who recently touched his mid-thirties, has a cataract in his left eye! Considering that his eyesight is 6/6! And there were no complaints from him before. And neither did he make a trip to the eye doctor! The eye doctor, in fact, made a trip to him! In the sense, it so happened that there was an eye-checkup camp at his office building a month ago. Just for the heck, he went there along with his colleagues. And it was then that the penny dropped!

So if you look at it, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  It would have been much severe later on.  But what if he had never been to the eye-checkup camp at all in the first place? He would have possibly been just like he was now? No? I know it is a contradictory state of mind that is right now hitting the keys.

After months of suffering from an ulcer in the tongue, my father finally decided to get up and visit the doctor. No gel or pill was helping him. And it turned out to be a terminal disease! Glad that he didn’t wait any longer to make that trip!

I still fear visiting any doc for any kind of pain that I suffer from (and mostly, it is in my head), sometimes it’s a lump here or there but it is about time that I start to see the positive side of making a trip to the doctor. And for all the other days, do like my mum says, follow moderation in life!  Life’s dilemmas…

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Being a non-native in your native land

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As a freelance voice-over artist with a distinct Indian-English accent I only look (but obviously!) for clients that are also specifically looking for an Indian/foreign accent and the demand is pretty disappointing when compared to the UK, the US and Australian accents. Freelance voice-over is still a niche market here. It doesn’t upset me that much to see online job pages full of voice-over work for other accents than to see an Indian client for the Indian market seeking a western voice!  Our fixation with west can get frustrating.

I have lived in the West and have never seen or heard a foreign (non-native) English voice for their local TV and radio programs unless it is a foreigner who is doing the talking!  It is understandable in countries like the UAE where the country has to cater to thousands of English-speaking expats who live there.

What’s wrong with our accent anyway that some of our very own prospective clients don’t want to give us work? Ok, we don’t sound ‘posh’ like the Brits and have many Westerners poking fun of our accent but that’s how we will be speaking all our lives.  Variety makes us distinct. Imagine all of us speaking alike, what good that will be? Imagine all birds tweeting alike! I live in an area where I am blessed to hear sounds made by different birds and I enjoy guessing the species of the bird by the sound it makes – sometimes it is a koel,  sometimes a parrot and sometimes even a peacock with that voice that deceives its graceful appearance and sometimes all these sounds just overlap! Now, imagine all of us speaking the same accent and having a similar intonation! The world will be a boring place.

And why just voice-overs, we are so fixated with everything West. Why do you want your ramp model wearing a heavy Indian costume for fashion shows that are showcased in India and are exclusively for Indian customers? How many times do you get to see a foreigner wearing a sari other than it is a celebrity attending an Indian function!

We are not a cosmopolitan country like the UK where you see people of many diversities living together – natives, hispanics, Asians, middle-eastern. It certainly makes sense to showcase global models for the fashion shows there.

Ours is an outright Indian market. And if we are so obsessed with the West let’s also pick up good things from them. Like the other day my beautician was telling me that instead of copying all the ‘special days’ like kiss day, flower day and even a slap day (I didn’t know there was a slap day!),lets pick up some civic sense too from them! Instead of just taking our streets and roads for granted and throwing about garbage just about anywhere lets also make an effort to throw it in the right place!

As much as I hate to write this, it does please me then when I see an out-of-the-blue Indian model on the cover of Gap. It is a rarity. And that unfortunately got popular for all the wrong reasons!  Maybe Gap had a reason to make a Sikh guy its model and it must have been indeed a big deal. They chose a very unconventional model belonging to a minority even in its own country of origin. You don’t have many turbaned-sikh models and actors in India too!

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Well, the only way I see the demand for Indian voice-overs and everything else that should be Indian atleast in India going up is when a foreign client pushes the demand for it. Why would they do that, you ask? I have no clue! But then we, well many of us and there is no denying that, ape them and it will certainly work!


Poly-lingual madness


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Being born and brought up in a country where not one but two or even three languages are spoken naturally gives you a supposedly head start in life, boosts memory power , increases job opportunities along with other benefits that researchers claim of.

However, I have always wondered if it is any good knowing more than one language.

I have three problems with being a tri-linguist: it corrupts your grammar ; you make a fool of yourself by doing literal translations especially of phrases and lastly which is most awkward of all is the decision you have to take as to use which language where and when.

So here I go at length starting with the last of my three problems:

1) The decision you have to take as to use which language where and when.

Now this can be tricky. In most private offices, banks and branded places, it is an unspoken rule that you converse in English. It is a sign of being well-read. Especially if you have to go to your children’s school to attend a meeting, etc

However this very unspoken rule puts me (and maybe many like me) in dilemma.

A few days ago I happened to receive a call from an uncle whom I hadn’t spoken to in many years. He was looking for my father and got hold of my number. Now, an ‘everyday’ uncle would have causally started talking in Hindi.  This wasn’t the case here. After the exchange of pleasantries in English (which was sounding way too formal anyway!) I changed the language to Hindi without sounding abrupt and in the middle of it I realised I should speak in Punjabi to match his Punjabi accent and I don’t know how or when it went back to English in the end. This was a complete scramble of all the languages I have known and by the end of the call I wondered what was wrong with me!

The above was however a one-off  experience in personal life.

It is a different thing in public sphere especially when you have to go to offices to get ‘your work done’. For example if you go to a private bank where you are expected to speak in English with the bank agents, you would realise  immediately that you are sounding overtly formal which is not helping you solve your case and you are better off speaking in Hindi. And from the crisp, formal, serious English you smoothly glide onto  casual, friendly Hindi which to a foreign ear can sound downright hilarious.

One would wonder then why don’t we  start our conversation in Hindi and save the hassle of making a switch from one language to the other. Why initiate the conversation in English at all? Now, if that ever happens it would mean two things: you can’t speak English despite looking the ‘type’ who can speak English and you are way too chilled out (which doesn’t go down well with these bankers and other officers). The transformation from one language to the other has to be smooth and done at the right time…so you start off with English here and at the right time (depending on the kind of person you are interacting with) move over to Hindi and if you realise that the officer you are talking to is from the same region as yours you can then further change the language to regional!  Also, the higher the ranking officer you meet (which is nearly impossible as these corporate ‘babus’ are so untouchable) the language remains more formal which means … yes, English.

2) Grammar

My stand to have just one language is simply to attain perfection. After all, just doing one thing daily brings you an inch closer to perfection. In our case we are far from it and I blame our bilingual/tri-lingual tongue. We are mediocre in all our languages. In our English-speaking schools and colleges, Hindi is taught insipidly. Now wonder, we can say our abc’s better than k, kh, gs.

To make things worse we have added Hindi conjunctions and interjections in our English sentences besides nouns .  One of the two most over-rated two-letter Hindi word Na makes me cross. I told you na, Do it na, See na. The word Na in Hindi simply is to put emphasis on the statement. I see no use of it in Hindi too. So hearing it also in English is annoying, na? The second word is Ki. I told you ki she is coming, He said ki he won’t come. Here ki means ‘that’ in Hindi and I have no idea why can’t people say that for that in English. They say it so frequently ki my ears hurt!

And finally, 3) the literal translations.

I remember telling a Scottish colleague of mine in the UK long time ago that he must be upset as I was ‘standing on his head’! Now, I could see that it made no sense to him. It is a common expression in Hindi. The phrase ‘standing on someones head’ means bothering somebody by being around them whereas in English it means you can do something easily! What a contrast! And no wonder he looked flummoxed and expressed surprise when I said so. And the second one which I use for my daughter at times is “don’t eat my head” to which a non-Hindi speaker will not be able to fathom. Translations of phrases are a bad idea and should not be attempted at all but it comes naturally for speakers of more than one language.

So yes, the quest of achieving perfection in a language especially in a country like ours which has hundreds of languages is far from being achieved. And asking users to exclusively speak just one language at a given time seems impossible now. Maybe someday people like me would get familiar with this fusion of languages just as we have accepted using parsley and thyme in our Indian cooking.


The image on top is of a ‘cool cow’  or a ‘cool guy’. The Hindi word for  a cow is a gaay which as you can now tell is a homophone . Hinglish at its best! 🙂