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A question of pronunciation. May 24, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

At home, we have always been interested in words, their origin, their character and their idiosyncracies. My son seems to have inherited our interest, but in a quirky sort of way.  He finds it extremely funny whenever people mispronounce words.  When I first noticed this, I thought it was a passing phase, but it has endured, and now I find that this has become one of my foibles too.

And I must say, of late, this has become a rather sophisticated pastime for us.  We have gone beyond laughing at the Malayalee simbly or the Bihari “If you don’t bhear soos, you get sock” type of regional accents.

I highly recommend this as a pastime, and to start you off, let me give you some examples.

Take the word bra.  It has a open sound to it, which seems to have a disconcerting effect on the typical conservative, middle-class south Indian.  It appears that they feel that something that is meant to cover the boobies should not have a sound that seems to encourage people to bare it all.  So whenever they are forced to use this word, they try to stifle its freedom by pronouncing it as brough (brought without the t in the end). How they pronounce this word will tell you how liberated they are.  I swear.  Watch out next time you hear this word.

Another favourite is the word film.  Most people, especially those associated with Bollywood, kollywood and other *ollywoods (other than H, of course), pronounce this as philim. Obviously, the only time this pronunciation is correct is when you use it in the sentence “romba philim kaatran“.

Some others, who know that philim is wrong but still can’t pronounce the l & m together end up saying flim with a smug look on their face that seems to say “See how sophisticated I am!”.

But the word that gets my attention everytime is question.  Most people seem to have their own take on this, despite  this being a fairly common word.  Some of the different pronunciations are given below.  Please read them aloud and repeat a few times to get the full effect. Don’t rush, read the next few paragraphs slowly.

1. Kostin.  Say this loud a few times and I’m sure a few faces will come to mind.
Typically spoken very hesitantly and sometimes accompanied with a look of distaste.  Kind of like how you open your mouth wide and let everything in it drop out when you find something horrible, like say, hing, in your mouth.
Variations include additional s’s – Kosstin, Kossstin and so on.

2. Kostinn.  Strident, ear-piercing, demanding, in a needy sort of way.
Used by people with tinny voices with a predisposition to throwing tantrums. Desperate survey takers and cold-callers eking a living demanding answers from disinterested people come to mind easily.
Variations include additional n’s –  Kostinn, konstinnn.

3. Koshshun. Go on, say it loud, it’s not unpleasant
Used by people who know that -tion is pronounced shun.  With varying intonations, people try to pass it off as an American or British accent, mostly unsuccessfully.

4. Koschin.  Quite common.  Not as distasteful as kostin, but still shares some of its please-fall-off-my-tongue-without-touching-anything-else feel to it.
Users are typically very self-confident and don’t care what you think of their pronunciation.
Variations include additional h’s – Koshchin, and koshhchin.

5. Koshchan. Rare, but delectable. K-O-S-H-C-H-A-N. Go on, savour it. Say it again.
Usually accompanied with large inquisitive eyes and puckered lips demanding to be kissed. These people know exactly what they are doing. I think this should be the official recommended pronunciation. Because saying it like this will guarantee a favourable answer – every time!

That’s it for now.  I hope you have got a flavour of a pastime that is pleasant, requires no extra effort or time, and can give you immense pleasure during your wakeful hours, at home and at work.  Along the way, you learn a lot too.  While a person is telling you something using words, the words are telling you a story of their own!

Oh! And by the way, can you still pronounce the word question?


Could not resist… May 19, 2009

Posted by globejam in Childhood.
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Here is a snapshot of my wordpress stats page.   S’s relative somewhere is searching the net for the recipe for Globe Jam!   If you are reading this, a big hi! to S’s mom.  And yenjoy the globejam.  For the benefit of others, the jay-yay-yum rhymes with farm.


Absurd, you say? May 18, 2009

Posted by globejam in Childhood.

A long time ago, when I was very young, I went to my friend S’s house.  It was hot outside and so we were playing inside.  After sometime, his mother came by and asked me “Would you like to eat some Globe jam?”.  Imagining it to be some exotic foreign sweet, I nodded my head enthusiastically.  Soon she came back with a small cup with the very familiar round ball of khoa in sugar syrup.  After she went back into the kitchen I sniggered, “This is Gulab Jamoon.  Why does she call it Globe jam?”.

S responded with, “It’s round like the globe, right?”.  I had to agree.  “And it is sweet as jam, no?  That’s why it is called Globe jam”.

What can I say?  Some things can be real absurd and yet make total sense!

I am totally disenchanfranchised May 17, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.
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shravan kumarOn election day,  for the sake of democracy and the future of this country, I take my elderly parents to the polling booth.  Kind of like that man who lugged his aged parents around in cane baskets,  except, to stay with the times, I ditch the cane baskets and use my car instead. We have done this many times – vote as a family, I mean – but this time it is slightly different.  My parents are a lot older and they are going to be voting for an independent candidate for the first time.  So, along the way, we rehearse the process again. 

“Amma, remember the slate symbol. Don’t forget his name, E. Sarath Babu, Ok?”, I say. She is annoyed at being treated like a fogey old lady. “Ok. Ok. I know. Studied in BITS Pilani, went to IIM [A] afterwards, now he is foodking. Avanthaney? I know who I am voting for!”, she says. My dad nitpicks, “He is not foodking, his company is”. “Same thing!”, she retorts. I sigh, thinking it would be so much easier to just go by myself, finish the voting quickly and get to office. But having taken up the cause of a man fighting against losing his deposit, I know every vote would count.

We reach the polling station. It’s not so crowded after all. We go in search of our counter and find it at the far end of the school. My father is holding the umbrella for protection from the scorching sun, ostensibly for both himself and amma, though he is walking ten steps ahead of her. There is a sudden urgency to cast his vote, it seems.

We reach the counter and join a smallish line. A really old man is at the top of the queue. Everything is repeated multiple times for his benefit. A photographer is clicking away, hoping to exaggerate the age of this voter and hit the front page of some daily. The old man labours with his walking stick and finally reaches the voting machine. He goes behind the torn up cardboard carton, the makeshift screen for the secret ballot, and fumbles for an eternity. “Pothun thathaa, move along”, says the impatient polling officer. The old man leaves and I don’t hear the beep that signals the successful recording of his vote. The group of party representatives who are supposed to monitor the process and ensure each other’s behavior all go nudge-nudge, wink-wink,  hoping to cast his vote for their candidate later in the day.

We reach the entrance of the booth. On the walls around the door are the posters of all the candidates with their respective numbers. There are totally 48 candidates. Amma has forgotten her glasses. She squints and points at some other symbol and says “Is that the slate?”. Its hot and I am already tired and impatient. “No, maa, that’s something else. See here, see the name written in big letters. This is the slate. Number 24. Marakkadey”, I whisper, hoping nobody can hear this conversation. She is nodding her head doubtfully when my father, a little hard of hearing and consequently a little loud, whispers so all can hear “Tell her it is number 24, otherwise she will vote for some other idiot”. I am cringing now, wanting this hell to get over soon.

My dad hits the head of the queue, presents his voter id, locates his name on the list, reaches the voting machine with a spring in his step and the deed is done. My mother is next. Same process, albeit a little more slowly. My brother follows suit and now it’s my turn.

I present my voter id and the officer looks at her list and says, “Sorry, but your name is not here in the list”. I have a voter id, I have voted before, even at this same polling booth, I am right here in person – but sorry, no, I can’t vote. I am dejected and I whine “I want to vote!”. “You should have checked earlier, when we made the rounds with the latest voters’ list”, she admonishes me as though I am an errant school kid. Appa says, “Come along, don’t stand there and fight. Everyone is watching”, and drags me away.

Now I hear that E. Sarath Babu may have lost his deposit. Hopefully by more than one vote, otherwise I’ll be burdened with this guilt till next elections.

So the story continues… educated people can’t win. The corrupt parties with their illiterate candidates and money to burn continue to rule the roost.  While people like me and Kamal Haasan have to continue to watch impotently from the sidelines.

I am disenfranchised and completely disenchanted. Can you blame me for feeling disenchanfranchised?

Gay Anthem May 10, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

Today in Sunday Times on the front page is an article titled “Same sex couples ‘marry’ with approval of parents”  (I can’t find the link right now).  I don’t understand why this is headline news.  It’s not dated today, doesn’t have any location mentioned, doesn’t have any celebrities involved, has nothing to do with politics – don’t tell me the TOI has not enough material for the front page!

Anyway, when I read the article, this old Tamil song tune popped into my head.  So I decided to compose a gay anthem around it. It starts like this:

Radha, Radha, neeyum gay  
Kannan’um gay, naanum gay  
Radha,… Radha, neeyum gay

I am releasing this under Creative Commons. Feel free to use, reproduce (ha, ha), and expand on it. As an exercise, I request readers to add the next stanza. Go!

Secrets from our hoary past May 5, 2009

Posted by globejam in Nonsense.

Today, I am going to bring to you, for the first time ever, in written form, a secret known only to a select few Deshasthas. Something so enigmatic that it makes secrets like the Masonic handshake and the traditions of the knights of templar seem like mere child’s play.

I have to do this because I can no longer deny my thirst for knowledge, nor rid myself of this strong belief that the time for this secret to come out and save mankind is now.

Now, dear reader, if something happens to me, because of all that I am about to reveal, remember to repeat the words that I am going to divulge until the truth is out!  I implore you not to give in so that my efforts do not go to waste.

Back to the secret.  This comes from the heartland of Deshasthas – Triplicane.  The key to the secret is a ditty that has been passed down from one generation to the next solely by way of word-of-mouth. For hundreds of years, from every generation a few chosen children are taught this at a very young age and through a process of repetition made to learn every syllable, every glottal stop and every nuance of it, so that it may be faithfully passed on without any distortion.  Its meaning is said to be so profound that mere mortals cannot fathom the depth of the contents of these few words.

Hold your breath now, for I am going to write it only once.  

Aggi-pettay, Giggi-pettay
Kozhi, Kodhamma
Pilli, Pithuk

Lore has it that there are three groups of deshasthas who have been entrusted with three different portions of a secret that can be extremely devastating if known to a single person.  It is believed that the above ditty is used every thirty years or so to help each of the three groups to ensure that the other groups exist and are continuing to guard their portion of the secret for that day when a sign will tell them what to do.

Most recently, my research tells me, the call to unite the three groups was made through a popular tamil film song whose original lyrics started with Aggipettay, giggipettay, kharrompettay, pettay rap!

While the meaning of the ditty has been lost for ever, my efforts towards unlocking the secret have led me to believe that the the first line refers to two places, and the second line to a specific chicken dish that is available only in a village in Tanjore. I have since confirmed that triangulating these three places should point us to a village that is very significant to the Deshastha clan – somewhere between Usilampatti and Periyakulam.

The final line seems to be some form of mild expletive, because when uttered in front of some of the chosen ones, it results in vehement denial in the form of a response that sounds like “Thooch Pithuk” which translates to “you are Pithuk, not me“.  What Pithuk itself may mean is not yet very clear.

Dear reader, you can help me in my quest to unravel this secret. First learn the words given above by heart.  Then, whenever possible, and as often as you can, in crowded areas, in parties and wherever groups congregate give a loud rendition of this ditty.  If anyone reacts weirdly, please note down their names and addresses and pass the details on to me. 

Remember, your help could save this world!