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ashokbhatia

Dear All,

As an Executive Secretary of the Animal Division of the International League of Happiness, I hereby appeal to all of you, especially sociologists, linguists, litterateurs, politicos and legal luminaries amongst you, to quickly evolve a purely vegan code of conduct for the usage of English and also to push through some judicial reforms, thereby facilitating happiness in the animal world.

Several species of animals are miffed at direct as well as indirect references to the members of their respective tribes, often in a derogatory manner. They believe that the tendency of Homo sapiens to use references to animals of any kind is to be curbed. They also plead for some legal reforms to be pushed through.

Some of the species which have already registered a protest with us are as follows:

  • Potato Chip, the famous race horse, takes a jaundiced view of the fact that politicians…

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Dear All,

As an Executive Secretary of the Animal Division of the International League of Happiness, I hereby appeal to all of you, especially sociologists, linguists, litterateurs, politicos and legal luminaries amongst you, to quickly evolve a purely vegan code of conduct for the usage of English and also to push through some judicial reforms, thereby facilitating happiness in the animal world.

Several species of animals are miffed at direct as well as indirect references to the members of their respective tribes, often in a derogatory manner. They believe that the tendency of Homo sapiens to use references to animals of any kind is to be curbed. They also plead for some legal reforms to be pushed through.

Some of the species which have already registered a protest with us are as follows:

  • Potato Chip, the famous race horse, takes a jaundiced view of the fact that politicians in several countries indulge in what is euphemistically referred to as ‘horse trading.’ He says he has no rights to demand a stoppage of such behaviour on part of our politicos, but would like the allusion to his breed in the said term avoided.
  • Wilfred, the alligator, is unhappy that the simple act of expressing pseudo-sadness is often referred to as someone ‘shedding crocodile tears.’
  • Bartholomew, the well-known canine in the service of Stiffy Byng, is not amused that top honchos in management are often referred to as ‘top dogs.’ What makes him even sadder is the use of the phrase ‘barking up the wrong tree’, which, he feels, makes light of the kind of sterling service his species renders to human beings, alerting them of imminent dangers and even saving their lives at times.
  • Augustus, the cat, takes a strong exception to the fact that junior employees across companies often use an expression which refers to her species as a tough and terrorizing boss in our democratic times. To say that ‘when the cat is away, the mice will play’ reflects a Theory X mindset, whereas human beings should be worrying about popularizing the Theory Y mindset instead.

  • The Empress of Blandings threatens to refuse her daily feed till the time the expression ‘bringing home the bacon’ gets obliterated from everyday use. Lord Emsworth is deeply disturbed about this unforeseen development, especially because the next local Shropshire Agricultural Show is not too far off. Queen of Matchingham, the prize sow of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, heartily seconds the notion of adopting such a non-violent protest, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Aunt Elizabeth, the hen with a much dreaded foul temper, has registered a strong protest against the use of the phrase ‘don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.’ If finance experts continue with this practice, she demands a share of the returns earned thus. Use of the term ‘hen pecked’ is also improper.She is of the view that meek and submissive husbands are more to be pitied than to be censured in such a manner.
  • Bovines point out several aberrations in the language used by human beings. (a) ‘A man’s meat could be another’s poison’ is a phrase which is objected to by all bovines. (b) Members of this species take a jaundiced view of the concept of ‘the milk of human kindness.’ They feel that the time is now ripe for human beings to openly acknowledge the benevolent kindness they, the bovines, show towards them, the humans. Keeping their calves starved while providing copious supplies of milk for human consumption is not their idea of fun in life. (c) Nor is it pleasant to know that one is being reared only to be slaughtered one of these days, when their Guardian Angels happen to be on a vacation. (d) Business magnates who label some of their verticals as ‘cash cows’ could soon find bovine herds protesting at their doorsteps with loud moos and a substantial deposit of excreta on their otherwise sparkling premises.
  • Bill the Parrot takes a satirical view of the expression ‘birds of a feather flock together.’ He is also consulting legal experts to find out what steps he can initiate against Twitter which clearly infringes on the rights of all avian tribes.
  • Members of the piscine species are upset about the usage of the term ‘fishy business.’ They also feel that they have not been given due credit for the supreme sacrifice made by one of their own in getting a matrimonial alliance between Bertie Wooster and Honoria Glossop scratched. After all, getting gobbled up by as many as 23 cats is not their idea of fun in life. Rupert Psmith, the Secretary General of the International League of Happiness, who despises anything related to fish, strongly urges all of you to cease and desist from using this term.

  • Bears and bulls look askance at being used as motifs for collective human behaviour in the stock markets.
  • Peter the snake is surely not enamoured of ladders but is surprised that a popular game of humans uses its name without prior authorization. If prompt steps are not taken through the right channels, a suit of infringement of copyrights could soon be on its way. A win in such litigation might leave the reptile hissing gleefully all the way to its bank.
  • Percy and Edgar, representing the tribe of swans of all sizes and shapes, whether angry or otherwise, are upset with the expression ‘cooking each others’ goose’, which, they feel, projects their brethren in a poor light. Right Honourable A B Filmer and many others could soon face another backlash. All of them are hereby advised to plan their boating trips accordingly. Moreover, they are of the considered opinion that the use of the term ‘duck’ in some sporting activity lowers their dignity, since it signifies a nil score.
  • Newts are none too pleased at the prospect of humans with negligible intelligence being addresses thus. Their pride is hurt. ‘Pissed like a newt’ is another rude expression which hurts them deeply. They are not clear as to why they should take the rap for persons losing control over their own gulping down of tissue restoratives in bulk.
  • Eustace the monkey is of the considered view that what his genetic successors refer to as ‘monkey business’ is a perfectly legitimate activity not to be sneered at. A delegation of his tribe is soon planning to get a legal notice issued to Homo sapiens, asking them to stop using such derogatory references to a species which ranks pretty high up in its IQ rankings.
  • The tribe of worms and caterpillars, adept at popping up in salad bowls and thereby meriting a sullen and reproachful look from the person on the table, is up in arms at one of their bluish limbless amphibian members being recently christened as Dermophis Donaldtrumpi. Most of these distant cousins happen to be blind to subtle shades of life and can merely make out the difference between light and dark. Also, they prefer to remain underground. But for them to be labelled after a President who downplays climate change and its ecological impact is a cause of serious concern. They believe that a reference of this kind is against their public relations policy. Moreover, anything that threatens the availability of green leafy vegetables and lettuce which they love nibbling in the company of their loved ones does not meet with their approval. They also detest crawling out of their dens early in the day, only to be devoured by an early bird.
  • Lions happen to be somewhat depressed these days. They feel that they are never allowed to tell their side of the story whereas hunters, who have not ended up garnering an obituary column, often keep walking away with all the glory. As advised by Wadswordth Hemmingway, the lawyer turned golfer, they have already filed a petition in the International Court of Justice, requesting that Principles of Natural Justice be followed.

Your kind support to quickly evolve a vegan variety of English is earnestly solicited. Linguists of other tongues may also follow suit and rid their respective languages of all idioms which have a link to the animal kingdom. It would be highly appreciated by all animal rights organizations across our planet. Appropriate legal reforms also need to be pushed through.

Such verbal and judicial weeding out would contribute towards our cause of ensuring a greater level of happiness in the animal kingdom.

With a cheery pip pip!

Madeline Bassett

Deputy Secretary – Environment

International League of Happiness

 

Note:

Iconic former French film star and the Brand Ambassador of our Animal Division, Brigitte Bardot, has already asked President Emmanuel Macron for a Christmas “miracle”, with closed circuit TV in abattoirs and a curb to hunting.

(Another post in the same vein: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/an-ass-ass-erts-itself)

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“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature,” said P.G. Wodehouse.

Well, someone of my dubious literary intelligence cannot claim to know what exactly defines literature. Allow me, therefore, to take the argument a bit further and surmise that a common love for some selected authors could prove to be a good foundation for a bond of friendship to evolve and develop.

This is precisely what I rediscovered recently, while on a short visit to the City Beautiful of India – Chandigarh.

The basic idea was to chew some fat together with some other fans of P G Wodehouse in the city. But the Guardian Angels, ostensibly concerned about my cholesterol levels, directed me to the lair of Prof. Ashwini Agrawal, with whom a simple cup of tea, accompanied by some savouries, facilitated the creation of a bond which is sure to develop into a long-lasting friendship in the years to come.

Arthur Hailey

Any discussion about Plum remains incomplete without his fans gushing over his use of the English language, his unique turn of phrase, the relentless lampooning of the British aristocracy in his works, and the sharpness with which his characters, whether human or otherwise, get etched. His dazzling wit comes in for praise, as does his scintillating humour. Our meeting was no exception to this general rule.

Besides Plum, several authors whose works we both had devoured in the past got discussed. The breezy whodunits dished out by James Hadley Chase came up for discussion. So did the erudite works of Arthur Hailey and Irwing Wallace. The meticulous thrillers of Frederick Forsyth got covered. Many other authors whom both of us admired in the past found their way into the brief discussion we had.

Frederick Forsyth

Some challenges got discussed. Getting the young millenials to read itself topped the list of concerns expressed. To attract their attention to Plum’s works came in a close second. The scheme mooted at the New Delhi meet of Plum’s fans – that of launching a matrimonial website which would facilitate bonding between two souls of which at least one happens to be a die-hard fan – was considered a good solution towards ensuring that the genes of Wodehousitis get passed on to the coming generations.

Professor Ashwini Agrawal rued having recently lost a great collection of his books, including those of Wodehouse, to the vagaries of imperfect plumbing in a portion of his house. As a renowned archaeologist who specializes in Numismatics, he also has a room overflowing with books of professional interest.

He is an avid traveller. It just so happened that we could meet up. The credit of leading me to him rests entirely on the slender shoulders of Ms. Abha Singhal

Prof Ashwini Agrawal

Joshi, another Plum fan based in New Delhi. Those of you who follow my blog posts may recall her having played the role of Gladys Biggs at the last gig in the metropolis, held on the 11th of November, 2017.

Like Switzerland, Chandigarh also hides its Plum fans rather well. One hopes that this post might ferret out a few more who reside in the City Beautiful. This could pave the way for a Drones Club to come up there, so those aspiring for an Olympic medal for throwing of bread crumbs may get some well-deserved practice and even those aiming to get a Grammy for a boisterous rendering of Sonny Boy might get a platform to showcase their skills.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/a-plummy-encounter-in-new-delhi-india)

 

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To be or not to be a die-hard fan of a particular literary figure is perhaps decided by our Guardian Angels. Mines have been benevolent and ensured that I suffer from acute Wodehousitis.

But when it comes to William Shakespeare, much revered by all and sundry, my GAs have ensured that I never qualify to be even a mild case of Shakespearitis. One of the several challenges I have faced in my life is that of understanding the literary fare dished out by William Shakespeare. Given the high level of what Bertie Wooster might label as my Pumpkin Quotient, repeated attempts on my part to comprehend the ingenious outpourings of The Bard have failed miserably.

But an absence of Shakespearitis does not necessarily guarantee peace of mind. On the contrary, it makes life even more of a challenge. The brow is invariably furrowed. The heart is leaden with woe. This is so because he is to be found everywhere and apt to spring surprises at all times, not a very pleasing prospect for a faint-hearted person like me. Such are the perils of not suffering from Shakespearitis.

The omnipresent Bard

The simple irony is that my GAs have always managed to make The Bard keep popping up through all stages of my life. His persistence to engage me over the past few decades deserves to be commended. His near-omnipresence in my life merely testifies to his feeble hope that one day he may be able to assist me in improving my intellect in some way, much like the aspirations of Florence Craye with respect to Bertie Wooster (as in ‘Joy in the Morning’). I suspect I might have left him severely disappointed, disgruntled, dismayed, disheartened and dispirited. I offer my sincere regrets for the same.

The taming of a student

His omnipresent nature can be readily appreciated. His works were there at school, shoring up the proverbial Tyrannical Quotient of the Classroom. Unlike Bertie Wooster, I never won a prize in Scriptural Knowledge. Yes, I did win several prizes and trophies in various essay-writing competitions. Surprisingly, I even managed to secure an all-India rank in the final school leaving examination. On all such occasions, his works kept finding their way to my bookshelves.

His plays were often staged at the University I went to. With renewed enthusiasm which is so very typical of Homo sapiens at a tender age, I attempted to burrow deep in his works. The intention was merely to impress some of the delicately nurtured around. But the language was beyond the capacity of my limited grey cells. The best I could achieve at one of the performances was the unique distinction of drawing the curtains in and out for a stretch of two and a half hours, merely to make a young lass in the troupe happy.

Much ado about nothing

Then came the whirlwind phase of my life in the corporate sector. At times, there were bosses whose state of indecision would remind me of Macbeth, the one alluded to by Bertie Wooster as ‘the cat chap’. In smaller businesses, there were owners who could have mentored even someone of the deviousness of Shylock. Often, I had morose colleagues who might have inspired Shakespeare to fashion Hamlet. And yes, there were indeed subordinates who could have been scoundrels, perhaps described by the poet as being ‘arrant, rascally, beggarly and lousy knave.’

When the entrepreneurial bug caught up with me, there was never a dearth of ‘enterprises of great pith and moment’ to be undertaken.

In the realm of entertainment, I kept running into movies which were either based on, or inspired by, one of his works. Even when trying to relax and enjoy a vacation, The Bard has been apt to pop up without fail and throw a spanner in the works.

The Merchants of Venice

While visiting Venice recently, I ran into a branded showroom where the manager took no pains to hide his Shylockian leanings. The stone-paved streets were not without their normal quota of small shops peddling their inane stuff at prices which might make even Hollywood celebrities cringe. Even those selling seeds to be fed to a swathe of pigeons at the Piazza San Marco were extorting prices which would have cheered up any farmer in the hinterland and pulled him out from his current state of depression.

The famed couple of Verona

When the family decided to visit the house of Juliet in Verona, all we were hoping for was to spend a few moments of togetherness, something we miss these days owing to the temptations offered by the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves.

Alas, that was not to be. The courtyard outside her house was swarming with those eager to claim their fifteen seconds of fame when their photo grabbing a part of the anatomy of the famed heroine got uploaded without any delay, courtesy the smart phone carried by a friend/relative. There was a long queue of wide-eyed tourists wanting to clamour up to the famous balcony where the two lovers are supposed to have had their midnight rendezvous.

Immediately upon entering the hallowed premises, we encountered a shapely statue of Juliet. Right opposite was the bust of The Bard, appraising her comely profile with a stiff upper lip and a steely eye. Romeo, had he been around, might not have been amused by the poet’s presence in quarters where he would have appreciated privacy more than any kind of literary upliftment.

The hapless lover might already be turning in his grave, wondering as to how his name has become synonymous with ‘eve-teasing’ in a far off land known as India, where one of the state governments has recently thought it fit to set up so-called anti-Romeo squads so as to ‘control’ public display of affection. One, he was never known to be a roaming lecher. Two, his passion was heartily reciprocated by the party of the other part. Three, with such juicy choices available as Casanova and Don Juan, not to mention several CEOs who have recently hogged the limelight due to all the wrong reasons, there are certainly better options available when it comes to projecting someone as an unwelcome lover. Shakespeare’s star-crossed creation continues to get bad press for all the wrong reasons. But we digress.

As you do not like it

This uncanny habit of The Bard to keep popping up at regular intervals in my life has left me all of a twitter. Several times have I mustered up enough courage to pick up any work from the Shakespeare canon. With renewed enthusiasm and gusto have I tried to wade through a work of his. But the experience has repeatedly left me with a highly enfeebled state of nerves.

My worst nightmares have been those wherein I have been conferred a literary honour of some sort, only to be gifted with a big parcel containing some tomes of his. The mind boggles. The chin goes down. The jaw slackens. The shoulders droop down further.

The English Proficiency Pyramid

Pray do not get me wrong. I have nothing against Shakespeare. Given his everlasting popularity, there is no doubt that he must have captured all facets of human emotions in an impeccable manner. His usage of quite a few phrases appears to have spawned a veritable stream of English literature, and continues to do so today.

He must have also set high standards for Queen’s English. He must have enriched the language in a manner which might be more vast and deep than those who have either preceded or succeeded him. This surely warms the hearts of our linguistic purists. But lesser mortals like me, surely at the bottom of the English Proficiency Pyramid, are apt to feel very dense.

A tide in the affairs of languages

Modern day communication thrives on simplicity. Complex ideas which get conveyed in a language which the masses understand. It appears that most of our great poets and literary figures perfected the art which is just opposite. Simple ideas couched in high-profile and complex language, which only those at the top of the Language Proficiency Pyramid might fathom.

When it comes to this particular trait, Shakspeare has good company. In Urdu poetry, Mirza Ghalib is not always easy to understand. In Hindi, the poetry of Jai Shankar Prasad comes to my mind. In Sanskrit, Kalidasa often keeps a lay reader guessing.

The cause of sustained Shakespearitis is possibly purely literary. Perhaps there is a commercial logic to this web of poetic complexity. Publishers of his works might still be laughing all the way to their respective banks. Besides, those publishing dictionaries would also not be found complaining.

Presenting soon: A Plummy Shakespeare

Somehow, the bulldog spirit in me refuses to give up.

In order to soothen the frayed nerves, I plan to present to you a Plummy Shakespeare very soon. Since the Wodehouse canon is littered with quotes and references to The Bard, I shall soon take the liberty of sharing with you some references in the weeks to follow. This might help many others like me, already suffering from acute Wodehousitis, to also have a brush with yet another dreaded affliction – Shakespearitis.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/presenting-a-plummy-shakespeare-part-1-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/presenting-a-plummy-shakespeare-part-2-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/presenting-a-plummy-shakespeare-part-3-of-3)

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Languages are an important means of communication. The better you are at communication, the higher are your chances of Languages Winnipeg_Forks_-_Plains_Cree_Inscriptionsuccess in life. Success need not always be on the materialistic plane. It could even be just a sense of inner contentment you experience when you are able to connect with people of a different region or country. The sheer joy of being able to express yourselves clearly, as also that of being understood by the party of the other part, makes you feel at home in the most alien surroundings.

My father, who was born and brought up in British India, knew three languages – Hindi, English and Urdu. Whenever I came across a word of chaste Urdu in a poem or a song, he would explain it with much relish. On quiet evenings, he would pull out his worn out diary and read Urdu couplets to us. I always found Urdu very fascinating and lyrical, though I could never get to learn it. The ghazals, the nazams and the shaayari this language has spawned just leaves me mesmerized.

Life has been kinder to both my children who have ended up learning not only English and Hindi but also Sanskrit, Tamil, German and Norwegian. Not to be left behind, the newly arrived toddlers in the family are already honing their communication skills in diverse languages. The ease with which they switch between various languages and use different words from different languages in the same sentence leaves the entire family exasperated at times. You could very well call this Esperanto!

What about yours faithfully, you may well ask. People who are familiar with my subdued levels of IQ are of the opinion that I shall never get nominated for a Nobel Prize in any field of human study, especially so in the realm of linguistics. I am pretty dumb when it comes to learning languages. Other than Hindi and English, I have merrily tossed away opportunities to learn many other languages.

In childhood, I ended up learning Telugu which I found to be quite similar to Sanskrit. However, having never had to use it Languages Ancient_Tamil_Scriptagain, my knowledge of Telugu as of today is close to nil. Sanskrit was a part of the curriculum at school and what a treat it was to learn this mother of several other languages. The present knowledge of course happens to be rusty. It is a pity because knowledge of Sanskrit opens up newer vistas of wisdom enshrined in the Indian scriptures.

I spent quite a few years in Chandigarh. Somehow, the rustic nature of the Punjabi language never agreed with my innate soft nature. For close to eighteen years now, I have been living in the southern part of India. However, the only phrase I have learnt to speak so far is ‘Tamil teriyaadi’; in other words, a declaration that I do not know Tamil. I use it regularly, much to the amusement of the street vendors who are decent enough to give me an indulgent smile with a shrug.

Yes, I have a ready excuse for having practiced this policy of linguistic isolation. In senior management circles that I move in, my interactions are limited to those who speak English. However, I do realize that this laziness of mine in learning the local language is entirely my own loss. Admittedly, Tamil is a very rich language. May be some day I shall pick up the courage to fulfill my pious intentions of learning it!

I have never had the chance to learn Bengali, but I really find it very soothing to the ears. One of the best gifts I ever received from a friend of mine is a set of audio CDs containing Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s songs in Rabindra Sangeet, sung by a proficient Bengali singer in Hindi. The experience of listening to it on a quiet evening is absolutely uplifting and invigorating!

For a family where the parents hail from different regions of India, it is natural to have a conversation at home either in the ‘mother tongue’ or in the ‘father tongue’! Enter a visitor who knows neither and the family effortlessly switches over to English. Family members also enjoy the freedom of exchanging socially unpalatable remarks about the visitor who has no clue as to what is up!

Our family languages help us to maintain strong filial bonds. These also help us to preserve and build upon our cultural IMGP8066roots. However, knowledge of other languages helps us in building bridges with people from other regions and countries. By learning and using a language, we also help to preserve and perpetuate it for posterity.

Mine is a wrong example to follow. Even at the risk of being labeled a hypocrite, allow me to say that if you ever get an opportunity in life to learn a different language, just grab it! You learn your mother tongue naturally. If your parents are from diverse cultures and regions, you naturally end up learning your ‘father’ tongue as well! If you are lucky to live in a country other than where you were born, you naturally get exposed to colleagues and friends and also pick up the native language.

So, if life throws another chance your way, just pick it up and learn a different language altogether. You would surely end up having more fun. You would also end up being better connected to another part of humanity. Yours would be a more contented soul!

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