Friday, February 20, 2009

Baa Baa Black Ship

The 2nd episode in my 3 part series on faux-pas in conversation.
(Episode 1)

At age 14 or 15

One of my first "hanging around" groups comprised a set of people much elder to me - 2 aunts, 1 uncle, 1 sister, 1 brother-in-law, my mom and my dad. Now had there been another kid of my age, I would probably have played carrom with that kid in another room. But there wasn't and so I became a regular member of their "adda" or discussion. Many a times, I contributed to their conversation and got the happy feeling that I was as old and as mature as them 1. And then, sometimes, there were times like this one which put me where I belonged i.e. in the correct age bracket.

I was sitting next to my Mesho (maternal uncle) that day. Now Mesho was a tall man who spoke less. But when he spoke, everyone listened. The expression used to regularly describe him, a typically Bengali expression, was "Onaar khoob personality aache." which I think translates into "He has a very intimidating personality". Now, if being like one of the elders was cool, being like Mesho denoted a Nordic level of coolness. Addressing a sentence to him usually required careful consideration and thought, but my Mom presented me with such an opportunity that day, that I pounced upon it with eager glee.

The topic of discussion had veered to the subject of ships, and my Mom committed the typically Bengali error of pronouncing 'ship' as 'sheep'. My first language English education was aroused; here was an opportunity to gain some brownie points in front of the insurmountable Mesho, a pucca pundit of the British language. He undoubtably would be glad to know that I took so much care of restraining the 'e'-s in 'ship', and so I said, "Dekho Mesho, Maa'r ki baaje pronouncitation. Ship ke sheep bolche! (Just look at my Mom's poor pronounciation. She's calling a 'ship' as 'sheep'.)"

I finished my sentence and was eagerly awaiting a pat on my back for my diligence, or a commiserating sentence about the sad state of English pronunciation in Bengal. But my Mesho's face remained expressionless. I became a bit anxious. Finally, he spoke, "Pronunciation-er banaan bolo to. (Spell pronunciation.)"

I gulped. Had I goofed up somewhere? But he was asking me a sitter... I was too good at spelling to make a mistake at this one, and so I said, "P-R-O-N-O-U-N-C-I-A-T-I-O-N."

"Confident?" he asked.

I thought to myself, that's how I pronounce it when I say it, and that's the easiest way to work out spellings, so I must be correct, "Haan. Confident. (Yes. Confident.)"

Mesho smiled now, a smile which I realized was not for the reason I was hoping for, and said, "Kaal English teacher ke jigesh kore niyo. Spelling taa bhool, uccharon-taao taai bhool... Ota 'pro-NOUN-ciation' noy... ota actually 'pro-NUN-ciation'. Nijer Maa'r uccharon theek koraar aage nijer taa theek koro. (Ask your English teacher tomorrow. You spelt it incorrectly and hence your pronunciation is also incorrect. It's 'pro-NUN-ciation', not 'pro-NOUN-ciation. Son, before you correct your Mom's pronounciation, correct your own first.)"

I could find myself wanting to melt away as he spoke, but an embarrassed exit is all I managed that day.
1 At age 14, kids long to grow older and be free from the shackles and rules enforced by their parents. By age 26, they learn better.

... 3rd episode coming up.
PS: I had been itching to put up this PJ that I came up with the other day. I would have included it here anyway. But now that I used the word 'intimidating', I get legal privilege to put up its' 'dictionary' meaning here (For those uninitiated to PJ-dom, this is no way connected with actual meaning intended in above piece.):
Pronounciation: intimi-dating
The process of asking a girl out for dinner and threatening her with dire consequences if she refuses.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I saw them together

I saw them together:

The bushy tail
of a running squirrel
going swish and swash.

And a jogging girl's
Pony tail
Bobbing up and down.

Two planes.

One big one small.

One fast one SLOW.

Flying .....high.... flying ....low....

A white trail behind one,
A constant "whirring" sound from the other.

A bevy of leaves -

Young yellow
and Fresh green

On a single tree.

Bright red berries,
on a tree.
Lush green grass,
And to fill the empty spaces,
pure blue sky beyond.