Look west for self affirmation

English is not just another language, its the language of business. But why should accent be a criteria for admission to a school?

“The CBSE marks don’t mean anything to us. We have certain criteria about the kind of children we want. She wasn’t able to speak English properly and that was also a problem,” said Aruna Ummat, Principal, DPS Dwarka.

Let me go on bit of a tangent here. A few years ago, when Lagaan made it to Oscar finals, TV journalists asked several film personalities for their opinion on the news. Tone and composition of those TV programs made it obvious that media felt proud and was looking for feel-good reactions. Then they asked Mahesh Bhatt how he felt. And he said:

“the manner in which people wag their tails in front of foreign academies and get swayed by them is pathetic and unacceptable.”

I recall (but I cant dig out any articles to prove) that even Amitabh Bachchan said something similar about undue importance being given to Oscars in our film industry (which BTW has named itself Bollywood). Anyhow, Mahesh Bhatt was ridiculed by one and everyone for his comments like above and more.

Didn’t he make sense though? He may be attacking Aamir Khan who showed little respect for Indian awards, but burnt serious midnight oil to get Lagaan an Oscar. But the point was made to me. Our movies are made for our audience and culture. And it is stupid to expect foreign press to judge them well.

Have you seen Salman Khan interviewing with Hindi TV channels? Few Hindi words spoken firang style will remind you of Lagaan’s English cricketers. And even more surprising would be his English with a put-on American accent. Unfortunately not-born-in-the-USA is his message. God even knows if he can bear the “shame” of speaking Marathi in public.

Take the recent “rudest city” survey everyone is talking about. Aren’t “thank you”, “my pleasure” and similar etiquette western measurements for politeness? I would argue “achha” and “theek hai” do the job. And store clerk not saying thank you is poor customer service, not rudeness.

Yes, west sells well. In fact anything with word “imported” sells well. But I am surprised to see significant number of TV and print ads showing western and blonde models (Surya Bulbs). Don’t tell me good looking models are in short supply here.

Look. I am not trying to say Oscars are meaningless. Or that Salman Khan is a bad actor. Or that English shouldn’t be spoken with put-on American accent. Or that Mumbai isn’t a rude city. Or that products advocated by western looking models aren’t good. I am not talking about imitating the west and things like that. Its not even about taking undue pride and our culture and ways – not all things we see and are used to are perfect.

The thing I am saying is – why can’t we be just ourselves and feel okay with that. Why do we have to look west so often for self affirmation? We need to just learn to be comfortable with ourselves.


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