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.