Tag Archives: Language

AN ODE TO MODERN POETRY


“MY COLORLESS SOLITUDE”

As my skeptical mind wonders
How many out there can really write
poetry
Versus how many think they can
And make you and me believe it
for our brains don’t understand.

Damn, I think I just rhymed
That’s not how real bards do it.
Rhyming is for dilettantes; ne’er for them auteurs
Because modern poetry
is not about rhyme
What it also isn’t about
is reason.

It’s not conventional, for convention is passé
As long as we are the same kind of different
But of a different kind, all the same.

Some lines are excruciatingly long, like the never-ending brook, a meandering rivulet, the labyrinth of thoughts, an abyss of bad metaphors
Others, short.

It’s about variations in the lengths of its various lines
For variations give
it form.
And form, character.

Sentences.
Incomplete
sentences like these
make for complete
lines. An odd break
here.

(Also, every ‘here’ need not always have a ‘there.’)

An enveloping verb, an earthy adjective
Incongruous phrases
like “my colorless solitude.”
With a hint of pathos – melancholy to be precise,
And a paradox thrown in
For what can be more telling, than the sorrow of a smile?

Just vague enough
as you wonder if it makes sense
Yet, teasing with apparent profundity
so you hesitate to call out its absurdity,
Out of fear – fear that it’ll show
you’re not nearly as intellectual, you know

Besides, something so dark and vague must have to do
with that arcane thing
they chose to call…“Life.”

Do I have it all covered? Do my lines represent me?
Or does my verse only make it worse? (Sorry; just had to be pathetic, you see.)

Arcane, noir, vague check.
Profound, paradox, pathos check.
Form check. Character check.

So it is, in all its depth and profundity
And unnecessary redundancy,
My poetry, a glimpse of the real me
A hint of aura, a touch of mystery.
The dark side, the light side, and all things I believe
myself to be. Exactly
like how you believe yourself to be.

You and I, we’re not so different, don’t you see?
But for the fact
that one of us
writes terrible poetry.

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We are Indian, and so is our English!

Only in India will you see ‘only’ as emphasis at the end of a sentence. This is one thing that the rest of the world will never get only. We are a quirky lot that way. Seriously, you will freak out if we told you how much we look forward to freaking out. A man can tell his wife he’s stepping out to catch a fag – or that he’d like to make a quick stop at the booth for an STD – and she won’t bat an eyelid.

It’s all been a part of our growing up. We give tests at the time we should be taking them, and we spend hours mugging in their preparation. Yes, in India, mugging is something only “good students” do. Unfortunately, it won’t help them when they’re being mugged by the “bad students.” One thing I guarantee you, however: whether you’re in India or in the US, mugging will almost always be followed by an eventful passing out.

An Indian student I know was perplexed when his friend asked him for a rubber to uh, “do” what he had to do. Understandably so. It’s counter-intuitive for an Indian to imagine how a rubber could be used to do, when its purpose – as we’ve always known it – is to in fact, undo. You could well argue that a rubber used for prevention is better than one used for cure – but come on now, don’t you wish rubbers in  the US could do the magic that Indian rubbers do – erase your mistakes?

Unlike your Lady fingers, you don’t want to discover our Lady fingers in a sinfully delectable Tiramisu – unless Tiramisu to you is Gumbo. In any case, our vegetarianism isn’t just limited to Gumbos – even our jokes could be veg. or non-veg. And mind you, we take our royal heritage seriously. Fun, sleep, bathroom all come to us.

We will ask you for your goodname, and introduce ourselves as “Myself, Goodname Surname.” We will be very eager to meet you – because you Goras are much cooler than us Indians (or at least so we all believe). In fact, we will even go so far as to do jugaad, take the long-cut, travel out of station, and even bring along a tiffin for you. And in case we cannot contain our excitement for too long, we might just ask to prepone our meeting.

Well, by now you must think we have mangled the English language beyond recognition. But alas, even when it comes to doing something wrong, we don’t quite get it right – Indian English is considered one of the official and recognized dialects of English. Most, if not all terms above have legal usage. No apologies, we’re Indian – and so is our English. What to do? We are like that only!

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Afterthought: I have a theory Indians invented the mathematical postfix notation “za”. As in, “two one za two; two two za four.” Unfortunately, some ignorant killjoy told me that it is actually “two ones are two; two twos are four.” I shall reserve my verdict till the fact has been verified. What a shame!

Edited 141209

If you liked this post, you could read my piece on Marathi English on the MacMillan Dictionary blog.


A Market on the Drug

What nature set out to do, the pharma companies took upon themselves to upgrade. And understandably so – it must be hard to run a business on just the finite supply of official diseases nature has to offer. Medicines to cure diseases are so 60’s, as are vitamins to prevent them. That leaves drug companies no choice but to do what they’ve become so adept at – invent diseases! Come on now, don’t even question its ethics – advertising has always invented the need for commodities one could completely do without.  Why not extend that idea to creating diseases? Say, for instance, Apulchritis” – the condition of not being stunning, drop-dead gorgeous.

I must confess, upon being told of the existence of cosmetic drugs, my ever fainéant mind was quite thankful in anticipation of the twenty potentially saved minutes. Imagine, you swallow this tiny pill, and the blush, lip color, mascara etc. magically appear on your face.  Of course, all in a perfect blend so it looks like you never quite wore it to begin with. It’s another story that this isn’t exactly what cosmetic drugs mean. In fact, they promise something even bigger. Mascara is apparently for losers – so what if one can make it appear magically on one’s lashes? The real deal lies in enhancing them [sic] lashes themselves. And while we’re at it, let us tighten up that skin as well. Because if you’re too smart to subscribe to what we (want you to) think, the least we could do is make you feel miserable for having “inadequate” lashes, or a non-20-year-old skin when you are 67.

Oh, of course it’s all tested and proven! Well, uh, kind of – did you not look at the before/after pictures that has transformed so many suckers clients? I’ve always wondered if these before/after pictures actually allude to before/after Photoshop®. But that’s for me to wonder and them to no – for them to deny, that is.

I don’t exaggerate when I say pharmas are the world’s next superheroes. They don’t let tinpot agencies like the FDA get in the way of their creativity. Oh don’t get me wrong – it’s not like the FDA is ethical uptight about such innovations. But well, their approval is required, and they are answerable to authorities themselves. So instead of bothering the poor agency with incessant appeals for drug-approval, why not invent a way to get around them? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Neutraceuticals – you know, that “stuff”, which isn’t quite a medicine (since medicines need FDA approval), but it’s a very “necessary” dietary supplement to prevent any “disease” the drug might have cured? Yes, any disease. Even marginal weight gain.

I have always appreciated genuine creativity. I have nothing against the genius of these inventors, nor will I stand in the way of fools suckers their clientele.  But dear pharmas, while you are at it, would you humor the woes of a small blogger and come up with a solution for small things that annoy much? Here’s her wishlist:

Aspirit: Asprin’s little cousin; completely eliminates hangovers.

Pedolacrytinnitol: Shuts off the adult tympanum to the shrill whine of a child once the frequency reaches that of F#. Recommended daily use for mommies, occasional one time use for air travelers.

Macromemory Plus: Enables one to still remember the big things after making sure the tiny details are taken care of. This is for those out there who remember to pack the phone charger and camera batteries, but leave the phone/camera behind. You know who you are. (Unrelated: There might be some husbands out there who want to try this out.)

Micromemory Minus: Selectively erases any painful memories – or for that matter happy memories that might make the present painful. Yes, they did make a movie to this effect. But I assure you the pill will be better – it won’t have Jim Carrey.

Flavorridex: There are some dishes that otherwise taste phenomenal, but for the presence of one atrocious dominating flavor. Yes, that annoying bay leaf or some overwhelming cardamom in an otherwise harmless dessert. Take Flavorridex, and you may savor the delicacy with your choice of the unflavor. Available in various non-flavors.

Irony Plus: Helps reduce or eradicate sarchasm. Especially when it’s you the sarcasm is directed at.

There, that’s a start. I refer you to the imaginative readers for more gems.

Faux Amis

The good thing about living in a foreign country is that you can learn a new language. The bad thing about living in a foreign country is that you often learn a new language the hard way. No wonder then, does the tonsured guy at the airport take offense when he hears someone shout “Hey, bald man!” in his direction. Much as his glare and angry fist may sound justifiable at that point, I assure you there would be some who might empathize with the poor German instead, for the slip. Having realized the horror of his faux pas a tad too late, the hapless Herr has no choice but to emphatically repeat – in German – “Hey bald Mann! Komm doch bald!” (Hey soon man, come on soon!). Phew, a close shave, indeed!

If you speak more languages than one, you must surely have come across false friends, or as the caviar-connoisseurs would say, faux amis. The kind of friends who talk to you smoothly, and get you into trouble just as smoothly. Like Juan, this suave Mexican friend I had back in the university. If there was one thing that gave either of us a juvenile kick, it was to embarrass the heck out of other at the most opportune moment. Imagine then, how the tables were turned on me when in my naïve triumph – and my broken Spanish – I exclaimed “Está intentando dejarme embarazada!” Naturally, I was certain I was saying “He’s trying to make me embarrassed!” It was the price I paid to learn a new word that day. Embarazada, in Spanish means pregnant. Not embarrassed.

Let that be a lesson, my friends. You’ve often been told appearances are deceptive – but don’t let that fool you; they really are deceptive! Your German friend may well want to give you a Rat when you’re already feeling low and confused. Believe me, she means well. Of course, you could repay her kindness with a Gift on her birthday, if you want to. But then, you don’t want to. When in France, avoid sitting on a chair. But even if you do, don’t fall off it when someone casually mentions they put their clothes in an expensive commode.

And finally, bear in mind – a jar of peanut butter should be the very last place to look for a preservativ, almost any place in Europe. Unless of course, you are – in more ways than one – f**king nuts!

March Past

march-past /mɑrtʃˌpæst, -pɑst/ n. A wake-up call to stalling tax-filers that April is almost here.

Usage: The amateur procrastinator files his taxes at March-past. The seasoned one still has the luxury of a couple weeks before parading to the post office.

Root: march-past

Present Tense

present tense /prěz’ənt tɛns/ adj. Anxious about whether the gift you plan to give your sweetheart would be appreciated enough.

Usage: Crap. It’s that You-don’t-love-me-enough Day again. Always makes me present tense; I must love her at least $100 more this year.

Root: present tense


I put this up on Twitter the other day, and Naren came up with a very nice rejoinder. I’ve added Usage, Root and the IPA pronunciation:

gift rapping /gɪft ræpɪŋ/ n. Delivering a sharp blow with the knuckles to one’s beloved’s head for a pathetic present.

Usage: Crap, it’s the usual cheap fake diamond ring again. Honey, could you come here when you have a minute? There’s some gift rapping to do and I’d like you to be present.

Root: gift wrapping

Hyperbloge

hyperbloge /haɪˈpɜrbləgi/ n. A constant added to any mundane incident to give it optimal drama to blog about.

Usage: Why don’t you blog about your conversation with the pharmacist? A little hyperbloge and you should be good.

Root: hyperbole