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December 31, 2006
Organiser Home
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India That is Bharat
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December 31, 2006

Page: 16/27

Home > 2006 Issues > December 31, 2006

India That is Bharat

Lalu?s horse responds only to English

Aimed at finding out the ?happiness quotient? of the American people, it gave them two choices: Which would make you happy?a gift of 100,000 dollars that everybody else got, or a gift of 50,000 dollars for you alone? And what was the finding? An overwhelming majority opted for the lesser amount.

Satiricus has it from the horse's mouth that if you want to make horse sense in this our India that is blessed Bharat, you need to know English. All progressive people know English. And at least one progressive horse. For the other day the papers reported that a horse belonging to Lalu Prasad Yadav, which was sold off for more than one lakh rupees, ?responds only to English commands.? See? This horse doesn?t believe in horsing around. He knows that he belonged to a politician skilled in horse-trading. But does that mean he knows ?English as she is spake?? Satiricus wonders. He wonders if this horse understands commands in English only when given with the right accent. For the right accent seems to be important enough for a professor of English in Pune to conduct classes in teaching it.

But here again Satiricus has a doubt?when this professor teaches rightly accented English, is he under the impression that he is teaching Queen?s English? In that case he would be interested to learn that the Queen herself has found that she was not speaking Queen?s English. For according to a study recently released by a professor of phonetics, when Elizabeth the Second became Queen of the England more than half a century ago, she would have been heard referring to ?thet men in the bleak het?, while now she would speak of ?that man in the black hat?.

?Similarly?, says this study, ?she would have spoken of the ?citay? and ?dutay?, rather than ?citee? and ?dutee?, and ?hame? rather than ?home?. ?Oh, my! Quite a problem?for this professor of Pune and that horse of Laluji. Especially for the horse, when he finds that, believe it or not, the Oxford Dictionary says a ?horse? can also mean an ?ass?!

For Satiricus, however, this solves a big problem?the problem of his poor understanding of the Queen?s English. After all, ours is a republic, so it would be unbecoming for us to be good at this royal language. Is that not why it is necessary for an English-language journalist in India to be bad at English? Bernard Shaw once said (as usual with his tongue in his cheek) that he wrote good English because he was an Irishman. But Satiricus is neither an Irishman who knows good English, nor an Englishman who cannot differentiate between a horse and an ass. He is an Indian?an Indian who not only practises Shaw?s illiterate profession of journalism, but an Indian who also practises the ignorant profession of secular journalism.

So as a columnist it is natural for him to think he is making horse sense when he is just being an ass. After all, when the dons of the dictionary don?t differentiate between the two, why should (or how could) he?

*   *   *

?Keeping up with the Joneses? is a common English phrase that seems to be going out of fashion. Why? Probably because Jones was an Englishman, not an American. For in the US of A ?Keeping up? is not enough.

Take, for instance, a poll conducted there. Aimed at finding out the ?happiness quotient? of the American people, it gave them two choices: Which would make you happy?a gift of 100,000 dollars that everybody else got, or a gift of 50,000 dollars for you alone? And what was the finding? An overwhelming majority opted for the lesser amount. The data showed that what mattered for the happiness of an American is not how much money he has, but whether the money he has is more than what the Jones next door has.

The little of the article in which Satiricus read this was a question??Money equals happiness?? The American answer to this question seems to be ?Equal money does not equal happiness?. In a way this is a convenient quantification of happiness. If you have a hundred dollars, you are happy because your neighbour is unhappy with his 99 dollars. But what happens when the neighbour gets two dollars more? Why, it would make the happy American an unhappy American by a full dollar. By the way, what about that American who has Bill Gates living next door?

*   *   *

Satiricus lives and learns. He lives from day to day and week to week, and learns from weekly column to weekly column. The other week, for instance, he wrote in his column how our progress dispensation recently rendered singular service to secularism by devoutly defending Shariat Courts, fatwas and even the jazia. In that defence the UPA government defended the jazia imposed by Aurangzeb as a mere ?special tax? non-Muslims had to pay for failing to render military service. Of course Satiricus had then supported this step towards secularism. But could not his support have been stronger? He is now happy to learn it could have been. He now learns that in India under Muslim rule Hindus were called zimmis and had to pay the jazia tax. And it was not levied by Aurangzeb but by Mohammed bin Qasim for the first time in 712 after he conquered Sindh.

?By only benchmark of human equality, the zimmi?s was a subhuman status? say Prafull Goradia and K.R. Phanda in their book Anti-Hindus. Well, now, Satiricus knows that a communalist-cum-Hindu is a subhuman being, still he was curious how subhuman. He found the answer in another book, Studies in Medieval Indian History by B.R. Nanda.

On page 123 it says: When the zimmi comes to pay the jazia he is seized by the collar and vigorously shaken and pulled about. But that was not secular enough. So on page 141 the book says: The Hindu, or payer of jazia, is he who, should the collector choose to spit into his mouth, opens it without hesitation, so that the official may spit into it. What can Satiricus say? He can only say that the Muslim India of historical times was the spitting image of the secular India of present times.

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