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Thursday, July 28, 2011

In conversation with Ketan Bhagat

After the resounding success(citation needed) of 'Five inches someone?', 'One night with the call-girl', 'The three mistakes that made my life' and 'Two straights', author-cum-columnist-cum-blogger Ketan Bhagat has come up with his latest masterpiece, his magnum opus. Fittingly, its called 'The Four Faggots'. This novel, which completes his 'high fives' in the author world will allegedly make him an international bestseller.
So your sincerely decided to contact him to take his perspective on his upcoming novel!

Me: Hello Ketan! How're you?
Ketan: Oh well! Hello. I'm doing great. How can I help you?
Me: Well Ketan, I just wanted an interview with you regarding your latest adventure in the author world.
Ketan: Umm okay, I never disappoint my fans, sure go ahead!
Me: (Fan?eh)So Ketan, you've completed your 'final five'. What made you put a number in each and every novel of yours?
Ketan: Its a kind of superstition you see. Every writer has some superstition or the other, this is mine. And I also believe that its inspired from my belief in numerology.
Me: Well Ketan, numerology has nothing to do with numbers. Its like...
Ketan:What? Who told you this? Numero is derived from the Latin word number, so its certainly related to number. See even my name has numerology in it. Ke'ten' Bhag'eight'.
Me: Oh, that explains a lot! So, what's 'The four Faggots' all about?
Ketan: Its a sequel to my first bestseller, 'Five inches someone?'. It takes off from where I left it. Harry realises that he's in love with...Ryann, and the fling with that Cherrian girl was just an infatuation. When he proposes to Ryann, he learns that Ryann himself has fallen for Alokk, who's now settled in US. They both leave for the US only to discover that Alokk is making out with Venkatt, the cramming nerd. These are the four faggots. The story is about their ordeal with their respective lives. Its about accepting who you are, its about trying, trying and trying harder every time to... to.. you know to... to..get there or there about, you know..
Me: Terriffic! Well that's enough about the future, lets talk about your past. How do you reckon you made it to an ITI, that too the best one, ITI Delhi?
Ketan: Look, I trust you. Please don't tell this to anyone. If you remember clearly, didn't I write in 'Five inches anyone?' that half the trees in the world have fallen trying to clear EJE, the entrance exam for ITI? Well, a fourth of those were felled by me. I couldn't crack EJE in the first attempt, so I set off one day with my chain-saw towards what was then known as the Prairie forests. When I finished, I trimmed it in such a way that it has now become the world's largest grasslands.
Me: Then?
Ketan: Well, then the environmental ministry intervened, and I got my wish.
Me: Oh that's unbelievable!
Ketan: Oh its not that great, eh! Whenever the government plans to make a Golf Course or an amusement park, they give me a ring, and I do the needful.
Me: Lets not go that way Ketan. Well, in the past you've been accused of being a writer with very limited resources, what do you have to say on that?
Ketan: What exactly are you talking about?
Me: Well critics say that you only write in the First person, even if the narrator's isn't the best perspective to look at the story.
Ketan: No, not really! I disagree. You know my infatuation with numbers na, that's the reason. I always want to come first in everything. From being the 'first' bestselling English writer of India, to using the first person while writing. My work speaks for itself.
Me: Sorry to interrupt Ketan, but if that is the case, then why don't you become a professional writer an quit your banker's job at HBSC?
Ketan: Now you're getting under my skin okay, next question.
Me: Sorry Ketan, my bad! But Ketan, when I spoke to one of your professors at IMI, Ahmedabad, he said that the only thing you gained at the institute was your wife, Anushka!
Ketan: He's wrong. Totally wrong. I learned quite a few things at IMI, Ahmedabad. I learnt the Big Mac Index, the filet o fish index, the McAloo Tikki index, the...the...the...McVeggie index etc etc etc..
Me: Oh! He's wrong then. But Chetan, do you find it insulting that the first suggestion that google search gives when someone types 'Ketan Bhagat's' in the search bar is 'Ketan Bhagat's wife'? Does it mean that people are more interested in her beauty than your writing?
Ketan: That's not the case. Anushka is an average looking Indian house wife...
Me: But the way you described her in 'Two Straights' was extraordinary. It made the reader feel as if she were angelic, divinity personified!
Ketan: That was for TRPs, you see! Who would have read the novel had I said that she was an average looking lady, the best for a loser guy like me.
Me: Strange to hear that! Okay, do you think that writing 'the three mistakes that made my life' was the biggest mistake of your life?
Ketan: In hindsight, I really do. But I think it made my next novel, 'two straights' appear better than it was, by relativity.
Me: Oh that was very candid Ketan. Okay, one final thought. Does 'The Four Faggots' have a biographical touch to it?
Ketan: No dear! You're missing a point here! I always write in the first person you see... so the touch is not biographical....its autobiographical!

Just then I hear some inchoate voices over the line, something that sounds like aluminium crashing on bones kind of...a deafening male scream...and then the line goes blank...

beep...beep...beep...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

To bhi or not to bhi

Reminder: In case your pronunciations are already pretty awry, please refrain from reading this blog post. You might end up feeling a bit screwed up!

"dheere dheere my englis becoming so gooding ki now when I speak in English people say -wow Mrs. Sharma what command over the language, what pronounciation, to which I politely reply-I beg your pardon, it's not pronounciation, its pronunciation"...
This is the transcript of my all-time favourite ad! A delightfully wonderful masterpiece, which, in a mere 58 seconds, encompasses the entire point-of-view of the great Indian bourgeois towards the fabled language. A closer look at this advertisement would tell you that, at least in our society, pronouncing a word correctly, is as important as using it at the right place, and at the right time.

This brings me to the larger picture. What exactly is the right pronunciation?
English is exclusively inclusive. No other language has adopted, borrowed and sheltered so many words from other languages. This has been English's forte, its idiosyncrasy, its X factor. However, on the flip side, this has also created probably the most challenging task for a wannabe angrezi scholar. The native languages have a typical way in which the words are meant to be pronounced. These porridges, when kept in isolation and restricted to a certain sect, are completely unambiguous. The problem arises when we mix these porridges together in the cauldron to make the ultimate potpourri.
In Britain alone, there are quite a few accents(which is pronounced as 'aksent' and not 'assent' by the way). Those familiar with cricket commentary might well have observed(and laughed at) Sir Geoffrey Boycott's famous Yorkshirish accent. A few might well have drawn parallels between his, and David Lloyd's who happens to be a fellow Yorkshireman too. So, what's the corrent pronunciation of the word 'gully'? Is it 'guully', as Boycott or Lloyd would say it, or is it 'galli', as Sidhu would say it? The answer is, surprisingly, both (conditions applied).

I vividly remember an incident that happened almost 15 years ago. Dad used to teach the various parts of speech to my sister and I. To put things in perspective, my dad spent most of his childhood in Bettiyah, a lost district in Bihar's rural heartland, where people seldom forsake Bhojpuri for Hindi, leave alone English. He went on to join the most backward of the country's 'alleged' forward looking organisations, the Indian Air Force, where you're taught to say yes, before asking what, and where the vocabulary is well defined and well...limited. A right is known as 'righto', transfer as 'posting', any public service bus as a 'PSI', a shopping mall as a small 'canteen', and a message as a 'signal'. Its not tough to imagine that not much of the emphasis is on pronouncing a word correctly.
So, one fine day, my English teacher(who was a grumpy old lady herself) asked us to recite the various parts of speech! I, knowing the 'poem', did a Hermoine Granger and raised my hand as high as I could. "Noun-pronoun-adjective-verb-adverb-preposition-conjunction-interjection". I didn't expect her to squeal '50 points for Gryffindor', but neither did I expect her to say/do what she did. For the first few minutes there was completely pandemonium. The noise of students giggling and feet thumping could've been heard from miles away. I stood there, chagrined, wondering what wrong I had said. I repeated the 'poem' in my mind, again, and again. My words weren't wrong, but my pronunciation(as she pointed out later), was. I had made the grave mistake of pronouncing 'verb' as 'bherv' and 'adverb' as 'adbherv', something that my dad had always done, and passed on to me. I went home and confronted my dad, cried myself dry, frivolously accused him of teaching me the wrong things and locked myself in the bathroom till the point the smell of the gutter got the better of me.
I was made the laughing stock of the class. Fellow pupils, girls, and teachers alike would look at me and say the dreaded 'bhi' word. I started hating my name too, for it began with the dreaded 'bhi' letter as well. I would fight, throw a few things back at them, but I soon realised that all my efforts were futile. I resigned to my fate. Fortunately, time, for once, proved to be the best healer.


Fifteen years down the line, I know that I wasn't wrong. If 'verb' can't be 'bherv' then neither can 'Punjab' be 'Puunjab', 'bathing' be 'bating', 'Bhatinda' be 'Pathinda', 'future' be 'fusure' and 'rasgulla' be 'roshogulla'.
No exam tests you on pronunciation. It just can't. So if someone tells you that Gavaskar can't pronounce 'McGrath', then go and tell him that 'McGrath' can't pronounce 'Gavaskar' either. And that none of them can pronounce 'ten Doeschates'. Pronouncing is one of the most arduous tasks! If given a chance, people would certainly opt to implement the 'Dijkastra's algorithm' as compared to reading out aloud his name.

However, there are a few words which have standardised pronunciations. 'Edict' should be 'edite' and not 'edikt' while 'champagne' should be 'shampane' and not ...you know what.
The relief is that these words are few, and far between. So the next time someone tells you that verb is not 'bherv', tell him to shut up and go get a 'laiph'.