Atanu Dey On India's Development

Rajivspeak is getting out of hand

| 18 Comments

One of my pet peeves is the idiotic mixing of English and Hindi words in advertising copy which is cropping up everywhere on billboards and in print. Perhaps it is considered cool. But it is cool in only the way that displaying abysmal stupidity and illiteracy is cool–which is to say it isn’t. What it advertises is that that both the writer and the readers don’t quite know either of the languages and perhaps don’t even know that they don’t know the distinction between the two. I call it “rajivspeak” in honor of the man who was a master in this regard.

A few years ago, I was lamenting the poor grasp some people have of even one of the basic languages of India to someone. He wrote back saying, “I had the pleasure of watching Rajiv Gandhi give a speech in Hindi to the hapless denizens of Malda district in Bengal. The populace is linguistically challenged, period, at the best of times. And not just with respect to Hindi. They had to face up to Rajiv’s stuff, which if memory serves me right, went along these lines:

country ki economic situation detriorate hotey jaa rahi hai. Five year plan ke allocations properly distribute nahin huey, jissey problems exacerbate ho gaye. hum poori tarah vigilant rahenge ki plans ka proper implementation ho. agricultural subsidies jo hain, unhey hum appropriate tareekey se apply karenge aur vested interests ko mil kar confront karenge. humein dekhna hai ki jab hum firmly united hain aur hamarey interests ko firmly defend karte hain to duniya ki koi bhi power hamein subvert nahin kar sakti . . .

Imagine what the effect of the speech must have been on the hapless peasants squatting in the midday sun. They must have been shell-shocked. Remember that these people neither knew Hindi very well, nor had the faintest acquaintance with English. In fact, Rajiv Gandhi himself must have learnt some of the polysyllabic words in the not too distant past. Words such as investment, subvert, subsidy, etc.

Perhaps he was supposed to speak at the Rotary Club of Calcutta later on that evening and he thought that he would simply translate his speech prepared for that august body into “Hindi” (and why not, considering that he was in Bengal) and enlighten the worthy citizens of Malda district.

I can imagine that Rajiv’s chamchas must have found his speech riveting and must have congratulated each other on their good fortune at having such a learned, wise, and wonderful leader to do chamchagiri for.

  • chenchu0987

    Oh my god! Did this really happen?
    India must have attained the zenith of mediocrity in the 70′s and 80′s.
    How on god’s earth did these dolts come to power? After all dont you need at least some cunning and intelligence to get to the top?

  • anonymous coward

    The Hindi translation, done with the help of a couple of friends:

    desh ki arthic halat bigadti jaa rahi hai. panchvarshiya yojanaon me nirdharit rashi uchit prakar se nahi baanti gayi jisse ki samasyayn aur gambhir ho gayin hain. humein poori tarah satark rehenge ki yogjanaon ka theek prakar se kriyanvayan ho. krishi jagat main arthic sahayata ko sahi prakar se prayog karne aur nihit hiton ka milkar saamna karenge
    humein dekhna hai ki hum ek jut ho kar apne hiton ki raksha karte hain … to duniya ki koi taqat humein gira nahi sakti!

    Please feel free to correct me (and translate in more Indian languages) :P !

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    Thanks Anonymous Coward. But is “taqat” (and many other words in your translation) a Hindi word or is it Urdu? Wouldn’t “shakti” be the appropriate translation?

  • vasudevan

    funny confused desi…this rajiv guy! at least his italian madam tries to do it better! hale luya!

  • vasudevan

    talking about advertisements and idiotic, illiterate indians, have you seen the ad for some mobile phone which stars that female (some ex-actress in bollywood…she is a bengi but i forget her name).
    nyway…this ad has some stupid females saying …’wow!…how!…wow!. …stupid indians!

    [Edited for inappropriate content.]

  • http://anirudhbhati.com anirudhbhati

    And even if he would have been able to deliver it in chaste Hindi, most of the Bengali villagers would have been at sea.

  • http://www.mobilepundit.com/ vcbothra

    This is too funny to be true.

    Just visualise the poor dhoti-clad villagers squatting and looking up to their leader on the podium!!

    I can even hear a few of them muttering WTF! :-D

  • Amit

    The villagers were probably paid by the local Congress organizers to be at the rally. That’s how these rallies work, irrespective of parties.

  • anonymous coward

    Atanu,

    You caught me on that one :) .
    I guess the necessary changes are:
    halat = stithi
    taqat = shakti

  • socal

    Few more:

    halat=paristithi, avastha, vyavastha

    taqat=bal, shakti

    bigadti= vikaT

    baanti= vitaraN

    aur= adhik

    puri tarah=poorNa taya, poorNa roop se

    duniya ki …=vishwa ki koi shakti hame parajit na kar sakti

    gira=patan, asthir, vichal

    May be more.

    thanks. you made me register, finally.

  • http://jihadwatch.org/ Notsure

    Idiotic nonidiotic mixing, A living language has these. I have always prefered lowbrow single finger salutes than Highbrow wags of finger.
    koi badi bat nahin hai boss.
    English mein jungle hai, khaki hai, juggernaut hai…
    Now if hindi gets kaizen kureitsu that will be good too

  • lurker

    I think your disdain for rajivspeak simply reflects your firangi mindset.
    eg. Here’s a wonderful interview with 4 IIM guys who started a spa -
    http://youthcurry.blogspot.com/2008/03/young-entrepreneur-series-iv.html
    Its entirely rajivspeak. Notice how easily they switch between English & Hindi mid-sentence & don’t have any hangups. Personally, I love rajivspeak & think rajivspeak, walk rajivspeak, talk rajivspeak etc. And fyi nobody says shakti, bal , jal, vivah, pitaaji etc. People say paani, taqat, shaadi byaah baap, mere dad. Kaam chal jata hai. You will have to go back to pre 1990 Doordarshan days for vyavastha, poorntaya, pathan, vitaran and other chaste hindi examples your readers came up with. Rajivspeak, bambaiyya, that’s India’s future. Do you watch any Bollywood at all or is it just BBC News on Akashvani SWII ?

  • Amit

    All this discussion and hand-wringing about someone mixing Hindi and English words, and not using shuddh Hindi is happening in English. Oh, sweet irony!!

  • http://socalcontentions.blogspot.com socal

    There’s some non sequitur in saying that suggesting alternate words reflects trivial dislike. Preference for certain words over others is entirely personal.

    What is not understandable is mocking one and celebrating other as future.

    Now, for a generation which anoints a stammering yo-yo as a star is certainly entitled to declare itself the way it wants, but I doubt that speech dyslexia can ever pass off for future. And that’s precisely what ‘Rajivspeak’ is–a cute euphemism for speech dyslexia.

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    Lurker (#12):

    I believe that you have not quite understood the point of my post. The point was that rajivspeak demonstrates that the speaker does not know how to speak in either of the languages. I don’t care if the person speaks in Hindi, Urdu, English, Swahili, or Romulan. My complaint related to the inability of the speaker to speak a language, or any language.

    That you don’t know how to speak either Hindi or English and are forced to speak a bastardized language is not a shining medal to be worn with pride. Stupid is not cool. Stupid is just stupid.

    BTW, disdaining people’s inability to express themselves adequately in any language is not a “firangi mindset.” It is a matter of reasonableness. For chrissake, learn at least one language so that if you have something worthwhile to express, you can do it competently.

  • MinCat

    Ah! Finally! It lets me comment. Very funny and certainly a good point, but here’s a thought, perhaps the reason people speak like this is simply that it is very difficult, especially in the supposedly linguistically homogeneous north, to find an audience and an orator who are actually fluent enough in one single language that they understand the shuddh Hindi for exacerbate. I wonder if one could do a survey and see how much English is in a speech made in Thirunelveli or Thekkady. Could it have something to do with the level of education available in that language, in that Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal are definitely three states where they make a very big deal about fluency in the local language, and the most bhadra of the bhadralok are very comfortable in the state language. Of course, Rajivji (couldn’t resist) was highly educated in English, and from a family where they probably spoke English in the house, making his knowledge of Hindi, or Nagamese, or Tamil, or any of our eighteen official languages sparse.

  • vasudevan

    sri sri ravisankar solved my migraine problem. so he must be good. as regards his being a demi-god…well…hinduism always believed in having a crowd of gods. so what if…one more? in any case democracy rules there. sri sri can sit on the same swing with khushboo…

  • vasudevan

    sorry for the out-of-context comment but since there is a definite demand-supply imbalance, one needs to ferret into whatever is available.