Saturday, February 26, 2011

Queen's English

That kid was old enough to run around and play. His young mother was with him, doing her surveillance with motherly attention and love. She was talking to him, encouraging him. In their own special language, or that's what I thought; until I was in earshot.

She was talking to him in English. The kid was responding in his own language, like any other kid of his age; a dialect you would understand only if you have spent time with them. However the mother spoke a different one. It was the Queen's English. Perfect in grammar, composition, in that easily place-able Indian accent.

It took only a few seconds of casual observation for me to understand that she was a malayalee. The rubber band in her curly oil stained hair, the soiled salwar,the cheap sandals on her feet and the long, heavy gold chain that adorned a slim neck. It was almost 8 in the morning and the street was already busy. On this by-lane, the mother and son had come to out to play? It didn't look like the perfect time.

The mother was asking the kid to leave his toy car and come back. She kept telling him that they would come later to play. Too young to understand his mother's banter, he went on. The mother didn't really seem to mind. She was more concerned about demonstrating her English language skills. Her furtive glances around seemed to seek the approval of any one who was nearby. She wanted the entire neighborhood to know that she could converse with her lil kid in English. Wasn't it admirable?

I continued walking. Meanwhile the "English speaking" mom had scooped up her kid and had started walking back to their house. I could still hear her talking loud. "Son, we will come back later and play, do not worry". The kid was responding in his mother tongue this time. I felt relieved. You can't mess with some instincts when they are young.

There are many nationalities living nearby with their families. None of the parents speak to their kids in English, even if they all are studying in Anglican schools. Only Indians are more "English" when it comes to casual conversation with even kids. I don't think it was something the British left behind. It is just us Indians pretending to be something we should never be.

We should learn a thing or two from that lil kid. I should have written this piece in Malayalam, to start with.

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