For years, we have been mocking Indian English as a bastardisation of the original, as an inept way of saying the same thing while fuddling up the essential structure that gives it meaning. And most examples we see of this gross attack by Indians on the English language (apparently as revenge for the English occupation of our country) seem to justify this rejection of the form as a valid mode of expression.
But this hasn’t dimmed its popularity. The malleability of this hybrid, made of more languages and dialects than one can pinpoint, means that it serves the basic need that makes people use language – to communicate with one another. And while we the purveyors of correctness find it, at times, difficult to comprehend, this might be because of our preconceptions of the language, the ones that force us to use English in one particular manner, exclusive of any other. In general, we even choose (usually consciously) between the two major modes of English accepted worldwide – the English and the American (that these constitute only two is another preconception, which is, in one word, wrong). But this isn’t necessary. For those not entirely proficient with the accepted form of language, it is more important to put forth the thrust of the communication in a way that it can be understood by the target. If it isn’t, they have a hundred other manners of speech to choose from. We, on the other hand, do not. Or we think we do not.
And so the hybrid has grown into what could be classed as a pidgin – if only it could actually be classed. When heard on the street, it picks up on the emphasis on speech rather than the writing, which is manifested in posters that say ‘Child Bear’ when they mean ‘Chilled Beer’. It affords us amusement, but to the person on the street, it signifies [a] intrigue, [b] comprehension (he is, after all, the target) and [c] a drink, cold at that. And while it might be ambiguous when put into writing, it possesses a palpable clarity when spoken. After all, both “Leave me to the corner” and the phrase “corner boys” can actually be understood.
But this is merely work-going (kaam-chalau, as anyone should be able to tell you). The true class of pidgin comes through not when it is forced on the user, but when it is chosen. It is, therefore, the high-school and college students, along with young upcoming professionals, that make it come into its own when they, who should know better, choose to ignore the meepings of self-proclaimed custodians of linguistic purity and tear the language limb for limb and put it back together in an unselfconscious lingua franca that might not rival its parent in elegance, but does possess an underlying sense of humour such that grammarians haven’t spent hundreds of years trying to wipe out.
English is a beautiful language to write in, to read in, and, in fact, even to use. But when it is the mundanities of your day you wish to talk about, such as your mother making a vegetable market of your head, or your tiffin not falling well enough that day (see, in-jokes galore), I prefer the pidgin. And actually, I think linguists should pay a bit more attention to it than they do. Sometimes I swear, if you listen carefully, it’s a language all its own. Mother promise.
Current Music: Richard Galliano – ‘Libertango’