The third language of compromise

I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in three of the awesome-est cities- Mumbai, Bengaluru and now Hyderabad.

Mumbai is truly a cosmopolitan city that has benefited greatly by the hardworking Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, South Indians, etc. and of course by that invaluable British gift- the local trains.

B’luru and H’bad too are getting there…probably in a decade, they will match Mumbai in cosmopolitanism.

Born in a Kannadiga family and brought up in Mumbai gives you a unique benefit of learning more languages. I understand Marathi and Kannada in addition to Hindi and English pretty well (these days a bit of Telugu too).

So, as a multilingual, I never faced any problem in either Mumbai or Bengaluru or Hyderabad in communication.

There is one thing that’s common in these cities as I am sure is the case across India- the love for the local language.

Once travelling far distance in an auto in Mumbai, I engaged with the driver, like I always do, in a general tete-a-tete. I always feel if you want to get the pulse of a city, try travelling in the autos, cabs and buses as much as possible. The drivers and the co-commuters don’t hesitate to speak their minds.

The driver was amazed to know that I am a Kannadiga by birth yet could speak Marathi well. He actually thanked me for speaking in Marathi! Thank me? But for what? According to him, by speaking in Marathi, I have shown respect for the Marathi manus and the local culture.

It was then I realised that such things matter a lot, especially in a country like ours. The infrastructure may not have gotten better in this country but we have never let the foundations of our languages crumble.

The point is simple. We can argue till cows come home on how the languages should be prioritised in public spaces or the official communications of a state. The crux of the matter is respect. The locals, be it in Mumbai or Bengaluru, expect the migrant to show a modicum of respect to them, their language, their state, etc.

I felt déjà vu a year later in Bengaluru when a cab driver told me not many outsiders take the effort of learning the local language.

I was shocked when the Bengaluru driver told me how certain commuters have even abused him in Hindi. Those commuters might have abused a driver even in their own state. This is not to say they are rude or offensive people. Perhaps it’s a habit for some of us. All of us at some point or the other might have rebuked a cab driver or an auto wallah. Nothing to do with the language, of course.

But for a second, try entering in that driver’s shoes. For him when someone speaking in a language incomprehensible to him abuses, he will take it as a slight. The feeling would be that the commuter is doing so deliberately in a patronising manner even if that was not the intention. At times, a driver may even retort, or he may just remain stoic.

Such unfortunate incidents surely lead to an unwarranted stereotyping both ways. The angry commuter paints a picture in his mind about the local drivers while the cabbie would always think ill of people from different regions.

The word spreads. People rant among themselves about the ‘others’. A completely unpalatable situation arises. And a movement thus begins. Us versus them, our language versus their language, tolerance versus intolerance.

I was not surprised when the recent news of a HR executive racially abusing a delivery executive in Bengaluru garnered wide attention. Such incidents will further spark anger and deepen the divide.

We don’t need this right now. There are already lots of fissures in our society.

The local movements in K’taka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have certain validity. The state language must take prominence. Any additional language must be included only based on statistics.

In Bengaluru, there are more people speaking Tamil and Telugu than Hindi. Wouldn’t they feel isolated or offended if Hindi takes prominence over their languages in a city where they outnumber the latter?

Moreover, what if people from the South start making demands of wanting Tamil or Kannada sign-boards in the North? We may one day become the first-ever country in the world to have civil wars over signposts.

Also, a curious thing about local pro-local language movements in different states is why don’t the local governments take measures to promote their beloved languages? Hire tourist-friendly guides at popular public destinations, introduce tax-free language courses for the migrants to help them learn the state language quicker, have more electronic sign-boards at public places like the metros which will accommodate more languages on display, etc.

Similarly, the northern state governments can take the initiative of introducing one mandatory southern language in school curriculum in public schools. Such enterprises across the country can in fact further the integration process.

We as migrants wherever we go can be more courteous and respectful. If not master the language, at least take the initiative of learning, doesn’t matter if we sound stupid. The locals appreciate the effort (speaking from personal experience). Least thing to be done is not to be condescending towards the locals.

Many Indians learn foreign languages like German, French, Spanish, etc. either to get job opportunities abroad or just out of interest. Then why not learn our own brethren’s language, spoken in the same country? This logic extends to all Indians- north, south, etc.

Solutions are plenty for both sides of the argument. But even in a multilingual country like ours, the alphabet of compromise is lost.

Rahul Gandhi driving, walking and swimming

Rahul Gandhi travelled in his SUV to meet the distressed farmers. But was not allowed to go any further.

So, Rahul Gandhi hopped on to a bike. He was asked for the driver’s licence. He didn’t have any. So was asked to get off the bike.

“But I am Rahul Gandhi,” he said. “Great grandson of Nehru, grandson of Indira, son of Rajiv and apple of Sonia’s eye.”

“The times they are a-changing. Gandhis are passe and Modi-Shah are in. If you aint saffron, please start walking,” said the cop.

Hence Rahul Gandhi strode ahead. After many miles, he encountered a river. But that didn’t budge the Gandhi scion who removed his shoes and kurta to dive into the deep waters.

The river too proved hostile with crocodiles and sharks intending to eat the prince alive. Only in their dreams. Rahul ripped the reptile’s jaws apart. And the scared sharks withdrew without any fight.

Many adventures later, a drenched Rahul Gandhi finally reached a farmland on a camel’s back.

“I am here for you,” he told the farmers there. “Tell me what drives you anxious. I have read the Upanishads and the Gita. I will solve your grievances.”

“That’s wonderful, Rahul ji,” said the farmers. “But we’re afraid you have reached the wrong hamlet. You left your destiny on the other side of the border where you shall find your true subjects.”

Neither in MP nor in Rajasthan, Rahul G as ever found himself in no man’s land.

No complaints over no-contests against Pakistan

Many are complaining of the no-contest vs Pakistan these days.

But I am relishing this win. I relish each win against the arch-rival.

As a 90s kid, I have grown up thinking, in cricket, Pakistan is a superior team and India can defeat them only when Sachin’s blade wields magic or lady luck smiles on the men in blue.

But that used to happen once in every four or five games and it used to be so so demoralizing.

Back then, watching Ind v Pak was all about fears and tears. Now, it’s about Kohlis and jollies.

An Indian wins WWE title. Why I am not excited

So an Indian has finally become a WWE champion. Jinder Mahal is the name (whatever that means).

As a kid, I’d always root for a guy called Tiger Ali Singh to win some championship in the WWE. A tag-team championship perhaps, if not the main championship.

But I never saw the dude win a match in the ring, forget championships. Worse, I often saw him get humiliated time and again. It was cringe-worthy to watch Tiger getting knocked within and outside the ring.

Then came The Great Khali who at best won the WWE Heavyweight Championship which is like the best actor award (but critics choice) at any Bollywood awards function. Important but not mention-worthy.

Today as Jinder Mahal beat Randy Orton to win the big belt I don’t feel really excited. Because, hey, WWE is as genuine as an unicorn or the tooth fairy. I’d have preferred Jinder Mahal winning something when I was kid. You know when I refused to be persuaded that the WWE is not real.

The road ahead

Roads

It’s all so confusing, yet clear

I can see clouds everywhere

But the sun is firing white, bright bullets through

It seems things have neither reached a crescendo nor do they lie threadbare

Many roads await me ahead, all unfamiliar alright

Having walked without a map thus far

I won’t hesitate to move further, either left or right

The path, may be full of roses or scattered with thorns, still looks out of sight

No matter how many miles, the distances were never intimidating

When the road finally commences again

It’s those teeny-weeny pebbles on the gravel path I hope I don’t start counting

Dangal ticks all the right boxes

This is how you make a sports movie.

After Sultan, this is the second time this year one could see on the big screen some great akhada action. One critical area where Dangal nudges Sultan is its script which focuses not only on a crescendo-ending but also throws light on the sorry state of sports in the country.

Dangal doesn’t just tiptoe around the shambles that the Indian sports is in today by making passing references. But it delves well into the practical issues faced by many sports persons as they rise to many challenges on their way to the national and the international arenas.

The wrestling scenes throughout the movie are gripping. Even if they are about daily training for the young girls (Geeta Phogat and sister Babita Kumari), the grappling shown on screen appears too real and exciting. After a long time, perhaps after Lagaan and Chak De! India, I felt an adrenaline rush while watching an Indian sports movie.

This is how you make the audience root for the protagonists in a movie.

In a very poignant scene towards the climax wherein Mahavir Singh Phogat (played by Aamir Khan) tells elder daughter, Geeta, ahead of her final match in the Commonwealth Games that her real opponent the next day would be the conservatives in the society who for long have restricted girls and women in stereotypical silos. This is where we realise who in the movie are the real protagonist and the antagonist.

My favourite scene is towards the climax where they play the national anthem as Geeta wins the Commonwealth gold. My wife took me by surprise as she stood up in reverence to the anthem. It is a moving scene for many reasons. Phogat, locked up in a room by an official, can’t go and guide his daughter from the side-lines in the final match, something he successfully does throughout the tournament. He is dying to know how well Gita is playing and if she has won. The father-cum-coach gets his answers as Jana gana mana is played in the arena. The song also gives answers to his longstanding question that if he can ever ensure a gold medal for India.

A Supreme Court ruling a few weeks earlier had triggered much debate over people standing in the cinema halls for the national anthem before the movie starts. Today, I couldn’t help myself like so many passionate others in the audience but stand during the movie.

This is how you make people stand for the national anthem.

Cash shortage, longer queues continue

I was told the HDFC bank is doing a good job in dispensing cash almost everywhere. So today morning I went to a local branch and saw a queue of about 60 people already waiting there…at 7 am!

I was asked to write my name on a paper which had a list of people waiting for a token. My token no. would be 59. The bank would open its shutter at about 9.30 am. The tokens would be distributed starting 10.15 am, one of the assembled people there told me. And the cash would be distributed starting 12.

So, I left for home and came back with wife at about 11 am. The bank employees said they have already distributed 45 tokens and that they won’t give away any more. Only 45 tokens. Assuming they distributed about Rs 6,000 per token today, (average money given away by banks of late has been Rs 4,000, more or less.) the total cash distributed by the bank amounts to a paltry Rs 270,000. Even if we assume the money allowed to be withdrawn was the maximum limit of Rs 10K, that still amounts to only Rs 450,000.

Note this is the third Saturday of the month. Not the first week, the salary week. During the salary week, too, the average amount disbursed almost everywhere, at least here in Hyderabad, was mostly Rs 4K or Rs 5K, tops. After futilely trying at the start of the month, we strategically decided to come now. But running into the third week, this is the same case.

Dejected, we went to a nearby Axis branch. Thankfully, there were no tokens, nor was a long queue to be seen. I had to wait for about an hour before the teller gave me Rs 4K. Though, we were finally relieved that we got something in our hand, it was a close call as the shutters of this bank were closed minutes after we entered in. Or else, we would have returned home empty-handed like others. This was sheer luck.

After collecting the two precious pink notes from the counter, I asked the teller if there is any hope of collecting more cash next week. She said it’s subjected to the total liquidity they receive from the RBI. But her tone and the recent trends indicates it’s wishful thinking to expect more cash over the counter in the coming days.

What was more telling was what she said about the denominations. Of late, they have been receiving only Rs 2,000 notes. Rs 100 and the new Rs 500 currencies were just not available. That suggests the RBI wants to distribute maximum money in the form of less cash. But the fact that the top banks have been distributing only Rs 4,000 shows that either precious little cash is coming from the central bank or there is a severe leakage at some stage, causing the shortage. Regardless, neither the queues nor the disappointments aren’t getting any shorter.