Guest poem submitted by Suresh Ramasubramanian:
(Poem #516) The Patriot
I am standing for peace and non-violence. Why world is fighting fighting Why all people of world Are not following Mahatma Gandhi, I am simply not understanding. Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct, I should say even 200% correct, But modern generation is neglecting- Too much going for fashion and foreign thing. Other day I'm reading newspaper (Every day I'm reading Times of India To improve my English Language) How one goonda fellow Threw stone at Indirabehn. Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking. Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself) Lend me the ears. Everything is coming - Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception. Be patiently, brothers and sisters. You want one glass lassi? Very good for digestion. With little salt, lovely drink, Better than wine; Not that I am ever tasting the wine. I'm the total teetotaller, completely total, But I say Wine is for the drunkards only. What you think of prospects of world peace? Pakistan behaving like this, China behaving like that, It is making me really sad, I am telling you. Really, most harassing me. All men are brothers, no? In India also Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs All brothers - Though some are having funny habits. Still, you tolerate me, I tolerate you, One day Ram Rajya is surely coming. You are going? But you will visit again Any time, any day, I am not believing in ceremony Always I am enjoying your company.
Nissim Ezekiel, a Jew who lives in Bombay, is possibly India's greatest living poet . He's most famous for his wry commentaries on contemporary India - often written in an exaggerated 'Indian English' - note, for instance, the overuse of the present continuous tense in today's monologue. (Or is it that much of an exaggeration? I meet people who talk like that all the time...). Today's poem is in many ways typical of Ezekiel: a wry view of patriotism mixed with some fairly sarcastic political commentary. It appears to have been written around the time of the infamous Emergency in 1977 (which was invoked by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - to suppress her political rivals, according to some). That particular Indira regime was marked by lots of corruption, a '20 point program' for regeneration, the forced sterilization of people (to implement a 'one family, one child' rule mooted by her power hungry and vicious son Sanjay Gandhi)... ... all as seen through the eyes of an old pedant gossiping over a cup of lassi (sweetened yoghurt) with his neighbor. Also, note the dig at the 'unity in diversity' which is official Indian policy. India is a huge mix of several races - most of which speak different languages, wear different clothes ... All in all, though, a refreshing change from blood and thunder jingoism. Suresh. [thomas adds]  Suresh goes on to ask, "Is the man still alive? He turned eighty a few years ago"; to which I reply, yes, he's alive, but he suffers from an advanced case of Alzheimer's disease and is in institutional care. [Note on Indian English] Like most hybrid dialects, Indian English  has its own curious set of syntactical structures and odd coinages . Usually, these result from over-generalizations of rules that hold in the vernacular; for example, many Indian languages use doubled verbs to indicate an ongoing action, hence phrases like "world is fighting fighting" in today's poem.  The usual compound form is 'Hinglish', a portmanteau of 'Hindi' and 'English'. Truth to say, though, there are almost as many forms of Indian English as there are Indian languages, which is why I've chosen not to be more specific in my nomenclature.  Odd, that is, to native speakers of English. To Indians, they sound perfectly natural: witness my astonishment on finding out (just a few months ago) that 'black money'  was not a phrase in currency  elsewhere in the world.  That is, money made on the black market. Who'd have thunk it?  Pun fully intended. Need you ask? Other often-seen idiosyncracies include the following: "I am simply not understanding" - as Suresh pointed out above, the misuse of the continuous tense is rife in India. And in this poem. "modern generation is neglecting" - another common mistake, the omission of the object of a transitive verb. "Too much going for fashion" - 'too much' is by way of being a universal modifier in Indian English; I use it very often myself <grin>. "Other day I'm reading newspaper" - Hindi doesn't have articles; hence either their complete omission as in this sentence, or their replacement by numbers, as in "You want one glass lassi?". "To improve my English Language" - This one's a classic: the use of the phrase 'English Language', where just 'English' will do, is widespread. "One goonda fellow" - Nouns are often used as adjectives, as also in "student unrest fellow". "Lend me the ears" - when articles _are_ used, they're as likely as not to be used incorrectly; as also in "Not that I am ever tasting the wine". "All men are brothers, no?" - The interrogative 'no?' at the end of the sentence is common to many non-native speakers of English. Please note that I'm not trying to pick holes in the language of today's poem, nor am I poking fun at Indian English; rather, I'm trying to point out how brilliantly Ezekiel has managed to capture the essence of the latter in the former. Incidentally, linguaphiles and/or Indophiles might be interested in Hobson-Jobson, the definitive reference on words of Anglo-Indian origin, available online at http://www.bibliomania.com/Reference/HobsonJobson/ Also, the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary has a supplement on Indian English; sadly, it isn't available for public access online (as far as I know; I would be happy to be corrected on this point). [Moreover] Both Martin and I first read Ezekiel's poem in an anthology titled 'Panorama: A Selection of Poems', which we had to study in high school. The choice of poems is astonishingly good - there's a lovely mix of the famous and the obscure. Highly, highly recommended. thomas.