Excerpt from “City of Djinns” by William Dalrymple

“Perhaps it is language, the spoken word, which is the greatest indication of the distance traveled since 1947. 

The English spoken by Indians – Hinglish – has of course followed its own idiosyncratic journey since the guardians of its purity returned home. Like American English, likewise emancipated by Britain’s colonial retreat, it has developed its own grammatical rules, its own syntax and its own vocabulary. 

One of the great pleasures of our life in India has always been being woken on the dot of 7.30 every morning by Ladoo bearing ‘bed tea’ and the Times of India. The news is inevitably depressing stuff (‘400 Killed in Tamil Train Crash’, ‘150 Garrotted by Assam Separatists’ and so on), yet somehow the jaunty Times of India prose always manages to raise the tone from one of grim tragedy. There may have been a train crash, but at least the Chief Minister has air-dashed to the scene. Ten convented (convent-educated) girls may have been gang-raped in Punjab, but thousands of students have staged a bandh (strike) and a dharna (protest) against such eve-teasing (much nicer than the bland Americanese ‘sexual harassment’). And so what if the protesters were then lathi charged by police jawans? In the Times of India, such miscreants are always charge-sheeted in the end. 

My favourite item is, however, the daily condoling. If the Times is to be believed, Indian politicians like nothing better than a quick condole; and certainly barely a day passes without a picture of, say, the Chief Minister of Haryana condoling over the death of the director-general of All-India Widgets. Indeed, condoling shows every sign of becoming a growth industry. If a businessman has died but is not considered important enough to be condoled, it is becoming fashionable for his business colleagues to take out an illustrated advertisement and condole him themselves. The language of these advertisements tends to be even more inspired than that of the Times news columns.”


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