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Showing posts from November, 2006

Language Digest - 1

Let us start with a news that is a little old and was well covered in media for its absolute shock value. This is Chandra Bhan Prasad celebrating Lord Macaulay's B'day in Delhi. Here is a follow up post from Kafila. If we are able to get over the sheer recklessness of the whole thing, there are a lot of questions that demand a better answer than those being provided by Prasad and Co. .

Recently, there have been two interesting stories from the legal system of the country. The first is the announcement by Karunanidhi to make Tamil the official language of Madras High Court. It is also covered here, here and here. This is a continuation of his other steps to promote Tamil in all spheres of life. Here is a op-ed in ToI.

The second is a decision by the Calcutta High Court that a dying declaration can be used as an evidence if it is recorded in victim's mother tongue. Also covered here .

Jharkhand announces introduction of tribal languages in schools.

From Pakistan, murder of Urdu.

Language Digest - The idea

Human Languages play a role so basic in our lives that most of the time we fail to even notice it. The only other thing of comparable importance might be economy, not the stock market and big corporations, but our personal financial state and activities. Together these two cover a vast spectrum of issues.

On one hand stands linguistics, a scientific study of human languages, trying to under stand the current state of languages, how does human mind handle them, how do they develop and evolve and affect each other. Then we have the whole field of literature having authors, prose, poetry, translations, publishing. And then there are political issues, as Max WeinReich put it,
"A language is a dialect with an army and navy."
Languages play an important role in defining today's nation states. They both unite and divide people like few other things. The catch the fancy of people like little else, just lookout for number of people lamenting death of Hindi and other vernacular langu…

To a lovely morning !

Today was a lovely bright sunny morning ! The kind of morning that takes away a bit of the pain and makes you want to buy a bunch of flowers for no reasons at all (as if we should need any reason to get ourselves some flowers !). Yesterday night, I fell asleep reading the following:
"She descended the garbagey stairs, went out into the morning, a spanking-fresh June one, all spangly on the fire escapes. She paused for a moment on the stoop, taking it in. On a morning like this, you could believe the world was safe and promising. You could imagine that nothing harmful, nothing toxic, could flourish. Not when early light slanted down so purely from an ice-blue sky. Not when the window-box geraniums of the first-floor widow were incandescently red and a passing truck said PARTY PLANNERS in glittering gold letters."

-- Michael Cunningham, Specimen Days

The Culture Shock II - Cycling

When coming back to academic life, I was pretty excited at the thought of going back to having a bicycle as my mode of transport. The romantic appeal I find in riding a bicycle is matched by no mechanized vehicle. All of them feel too fast, just the means of reaching someplace. A bicycle is adequately slow and uncomplicated, leaving you a lot of time and attention to give to your surroundings. Walking is the nest best thing but bicycle provides the right amount of speed of commuting without compromising on other aspects too much.

Now given the distance and unusual times of commuting, it was quite infeasible for me to use a bicycle in Bangalore but I was hopeful that in the less hectic academic life I would be able to afford the luxury. Alas ! it was not to be or at least not yet. The reason being the nicely managed traffic of Pittsburgh.

Now if you read any sarcasm in my last sentence, please don't. After Bangalore, traffic in Pittsburgh is like heaven. However it is the sheer micro…

India, mathematics and beauty !

"...if India didn't exist, no one would have the imagination to invent it."An article by Mukul Kesavan in Telegraph about why India matters more and more in today's prejudiced world.

Again from Telegraph, For a True Flowering of The Mind by Partha Ghosh. I quote,
"Fourth, we must insist that they learn language and literature well. Without that, they will remain insensitive, incapable of understanding other people and other cultures, and nothing creative will ever emerge from them. Language creates the world we live in. The more sophisticated the language we use, the greater the freedom and power of our thoughts and the better the grasp of reality around us. This is why science had to invent the formal and abstract language of mathematics. Also, without the ability to read, hear, analyse and understand the constant bombardment of our ears and eyes by the media and politicians, and without the ability for clear and logical understanding and self-expression, there i…

Judicial activism: Good or bad?

Sometime ago I posted my rather withheld reaction to the conviction of Santosh Singh in Mattoo case. A recent comment on that post led to this post.

We live in the times of Judicial Activism in India and I can either say that it could not have come at a better time or I can observe that perhaps this was in the natural order of things. Passing through the Nehruvian era, Emergency, unsuccessful Junta Party govts when the public trust in the legislature and executive has deteriorated increasingly, judiciary remains the last hope of the Indian middle class. Is it something to be celebrated or even relied upon is the question I want to explore.

Every activist is motivated by a ideology and it although it is easy to believe that the driving ideology behind the Judicial Activism is one of justice for one and all, we would be naive to do so. No doubt it remains the primary guiding force but the question is not about the intention to seek justice for all but about how one perceives the justic…

Generalizations Galore !

Today I heard someone giving a talk sayThat’s a mistake that creolists make all the time…to generalize what they have found to all creoles or some kind of language universal.It’s ok. Impromptu speakers always make the same mistakes that they are faulting everyone else for making, especially when it comes to overattribution. What? I’m tired.From here.
Should I add that linguists are all good at catching such mistakes ;-) !

Aise hi kabhi !

One of those days, one of those times when that sudden feeling of melancholy takes over ! So sad yet so hauntingly enjoyable ! What is it that the heart longs for? What fires this craving? What old dreams haunt the open eyes? How can one say and yet, how can one keep quiet but for lack of words ! goonga keri sharkara, baitha hi muskaaye ! And the reason can be as simple as a song that you have heard hundreds of times before. That ever so thin line between hearing and listening and it is so suddenly crossed ! Every word becomes pregnant with meaning and every movement of voice becomes a door to a whole new world. Blessed are those who gave voice to the human pain and longing !

Song: Tera mera pyaar amar, Phir kyon mujhko lagta hai darr.
Singer : Lata
Movie: Asli Naqli
Music : Shanker-Jaikishan

Enjoy it here.

The culture shock I - Banking

One of the standard question popping up during conversation with friends these days is about the culture shock. When somebody first asked me the question, I found it a bit strange and my response to it a little stranger. Probably culture shock is a word too strong because I really can't find things which I could describe as "getting over the cultural shock". No doubt this place is very different from India but most of that was known and expected what with so much of US reaching our drawing rooms and bedrooms these days. Having a sister and numerous friends over years living in US also make a difference I guess.

But even in these days of global village, there are surprises. Some of them are presented here for your perusal. Interesting point to note is that some of them can in fact be described as "reverse cultural shock" in the sense that I expected them to be something based on the image of this place I had formed in my mind and they turned out to be the other w…

The Joke !

Brian: 'Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't NEED to follow ME, you don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for yourselves! You're ALL individuals!'
The Crowd (speaking in unison): 'Yes! We're all individuals!'
Brian: 'You're all different!'
The Crowd (in unison): 'Yes, we ARE all different!'
Man in crowd: 'I'm not...'

-- From Monty Python's Life of Brian
Are you or are you not?

I have a right to know ! - Links

Following up on my previous post about RTI, here are some links:

Parivartan : This is the NGO started by Arvind Kejriwal which is heading the RTI movement in India. The site has all kind of info.

The Indian RTI blog.

Taz writes about Arvind Kejriwal's visit at Sepia Mutiny.

And while I am at it, let me recount a vivid example of how the international institutions like WB impose their will on the administration. So all your doubts about the evilness of WB may not be far fetched after all. The story goes that Delhi Govt has a project about the privatization of water distribution in Delhi. The project was funded by WB. The project was being run secretly for 5-6 years ! And when Parivartan tried to get information under RTI, they initial response of the Govt was a complete denial of the existence of the project. However after a extended confrontation, they were able to get all the files related to the project and the details that came out were shocking. The project was finally scrapped af…