Archive for the ‘1’ category

Eileen Younghusband Tells the WWII Story of the RAF Filter Rooms

28 February 2011

Eileen Younghusband’s 2009 autobiography (Not an Ordinary Life, ISBN 987-0-9561156-9-0) dealt with her long and fruitful life. However, she chose to make this very specific statement in her Dedication:

“I have written this book for all the young woman who served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in the Filter Rooms of RAF Fighter Command in the dark days of world war two and whose work and dedication have never been fully recognised.”

With the encouragement of some of her readers, including the iconic WWII personality Dame Vera Lynn, that largely untold story, dealt with briefly in her chapter on ‘My Time in the WAAF’ (pp. 36-54) has now been expanded and published as an important contribution to the history of World War II as One Woman’s War (Candy Jar Books Ltd, ISBN 978-0-9566826-2-8)

Although writing book reviews is one of my favourite hobbies, I do not intend to review this special book, mainly because others have already offered their expert comments on the importance of the story and Eileen’s skill in telling it. As a friend of Eileen’s of many years standing, I am happy to relay Eileen’s own words and to quote the recommendations of eminent wellwishers.

Eileen’s Dedication for her latest book reiterates and confirms her earlier determination to tell this vital wartime episode in which she played her part:

“This book is dedicated to the airwomen and officers of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force who worked in the Filter Rooms of RAF Fighter Command during World War Two. The Filter Room was the nerve centre of the Radar chain. These young women working underground, at speed, both night and day, calculated from Radar reports the position, height and numbers of all aircraft approaching our coast. From this information, hostile aircraft were intercepted, air raid warnings given and air sea rescue undertaken. They remained silent under the Official Secrets Act for thirty years. The story of their work has never been told. It is time to recognise their invaluable contribution to the successful defence of Great Britain in its darkest hour.”

Two experts assess Eileen’s work:

“In her autobiography, Not an Ordinary Life, Eileen Younghusband gave us a glimpse into the wartime experiences of a WAAF Special Duties Officer engaged in vital work in the Filter Rooms of Fighter Command, and later, in Belgium helping to track the deadly V-2 rockets back to their firing sites. In One Woman’s War, this vital period in the life of this country, is described in considerable detail, and constitutes an important personal account of an aspect of women’s contribution to the Allied victory in 1945 that is often overlooked or not known about at all. The work that went on in the Filter Room was crucial to the ultimate success of Fighter Command operations during the Battle of Britain, demanding the highest level of concentration and competence from the women engaged in it. This personal account also provides a fascinating insight into the creation and operation of the Chain Home defence system and the wartime development of Radar, written by one who was among the first to have to get to grips with this unprecedented leap forward in wartime technology.

The view from the Filter Room’ shows us the progress of the war in Europe in a new light, and the book also tells a very human story of how momentous events shaped the life of a young woman in wartime Britain.”
Stephen Walton (Senior Curator Documents and Sound Section, Imperial War Museum Duxford)

“Brilliantly written and eminently readable, the title One Woman’s War belies the amazing and rare wartime career path of Eileen Le Croissette in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. This is no ordinary story, to become a Filterer Officer required great aptitude, skill and judgement to interpret the often-confusing information from the Radar stations. Altogether there were probably less than 200 WAAF Filterer Officers and Eileen was one of only eight to serve in Belgium targeting the V2 missile launch sites. As well as serving at 11 Group Filter room, Fighter Command on the night of the Normandy invasion, she later received the Big Ben warning when the first V2 was detected approaching London.

Married only a few weeks, Eileen was then posted to 33 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force in Belgium, as a carefully chosen team sent to locate mobile V2 launch sites, by Radar and sound data, so airborne strikes could destroy the launchers before they returned to base. As war ends, she is assigned as a guide to the German concentration camp near Brussels. Not only facing the stark reminders of torture and human degradation, she suffered insults and antagonism from the imprisoned Belgian collaborators who replaced the camp inmates. The whole story is set against an intriguing backdrop of family and long-time friendships and correspondence with German and French pen pals, which in retrospect, contained many different perspectives on the Nazi regime.” Squadron Leader Mike S. Dean MBE (Historical Radar Archive)

Equally valuable, and even more warm and personal (as the following brief extracts testify) is the Foreword by Emma Soames, a grand-daughter of Winston Churchill.

“Her recounting of the war is extraordinary in its detail and reads as freshly as if it all happened a couple of years ago. It also explains the technicalities of how Radar worked then in accessible language. We should be thankful not only for Younghusband’s skill and the role she played then, but for her prodigious memory and energy that has produced this interesting volume.

As a grandchild of Sir Winston Churchill, I have a particular interest in her war experiences. She plotted one of Churchill’s flights when he was travelling back to Britain in an unidentified aircraft from a visit to Roosevelt in Washington. Towards the end of the war, after several promotions she ended up as an Officer at the most significant station, Stanmore which was responsible for the defence of London from incoming aerial attack. Here she saw my grandfather again.

One Woman’s War adds to the war archive that becomes increasingly important as the participants in the 1939-45 war gradually age and pass away, many of them taking their memories with them. As well as producing this readable account of her years in uniform, Eileen Younghusband has brought an extraordinary period and a previously unrecorded part of our air defences to life.”
*

It gives me great personal pleasure to present these extracts from the Exclusive Advance Edition of Eileen Younghusband’s latest absorbing and useful contribution to the history of the Second World War.

Translation 27. Google Translate: Present State and Ongoing Research

29 January 2011

ProZ.com is a large online site for professional translators and interpreters. It claims 300,000 members in 190 countries. In a recent newsletter, ProZ announced a new translating blogsite for members and ProZ member RominaZ posted this link to a recent article by Chris Griffiths on Google’s admission that its free online Translation service – which is very widely used and extremely useful for getting a rough idea of foreign language content – still has some way to go before being ready for “sensitive debates”.

Following up one of several links attached to the Griffiths’ article reveals further information from Murad Ahmed on the present state of Google’s massive translation operations and its ongoing research for improvements and extended uses.

Ahmed quotes the leader of Google’s translation team, Dr Franz Och:
“Like much else at Google, the solution to the problem lies in number-crunching. Google is trying to turn language into a mathematical problem. Its “machine translation” system analyses millions of different texts on the web, learning the laws and exceptions of a language and applying these rules to its translations.

“The way we are doing it is to learn from vast amounts of data,” Franz Och, the research scientist who leads Google’s translation team, said. “Our system is learning to mimic what human translators do … the quality of our translation is getting better.”

Ahmed also offers this interesting Google research news:
“As well as perfecting the system, Google is building devices that can make it more useful. Last year, Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, demonstrated a device on which people can take picture of foreign text on a mobile phone – a road sign or a restaurant menu – and get a near-instant translation of it.

“When asked what was next in store for the technology, Mr Schmidt said: “Google can translate 100 languages to 100 languages, so why can’t I just speak on the phone to someone who doesn’t speak my language? Well, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon.”
*
For a basic explanation of the Statistical Machine Translation method (SMT) favoured by Google (which is based on the statistical analysis of large bilingual corpora), see hubpages.com.

Translation 25. International Air Traffic Control and the Need for Good English

30 December 2010

International air travel is an everyday area of activity where misinterpreting, mistranslating and misunderstanding of language can have serious or tragic consequences.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has finally fixed 11 March 2011 as the date by which international communications between air traffic controllers and foreign aircraft must take place in English, especially in landing and take-off operations. [See here.]

Although it is difficult to find online documented examples of incidents where poor English communication between the control tower and pilots has caused danger or contributed to plane crashes, here are two cases for consideration.

On 25 January 1990, AVIANCA Flight 052 from Medellín (Colombia) to New York crashed near busy JFK Airport after circling in a long queue of aircraft during very bad weather conditions and, finally, running out of fuel. 73 passengers and crew were killed and many of the 85 surviving passengers were seriously injured. Ironically, the survivors owe their lives to the fact that at the crash site there was no outbreak of fire because there was no fuel left to ignite.

According to Wikipedia’s account of the accident and the subsequent inquiry, “The NTSB’s report on the accident determined the cause as pilot error due to the crew never declaring a fuel emergency to air traffic control as per International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines.” However, in the 6th part of a documentary re-enactment (in English) of the fatal journey, it is suggested that, in addition to the very bad weather conditions and the queue of circling aircraft with which traffic controllers had to deal, one of the contributing factors was that the Colombian First Officer used the English word ‘priority’ instead of ‘emergency’ to New York Air Traffic Controllers.

A second example, in which a Russian traffic controller’s English was clearly inadequate in an extended emergency, comes from the Moscow Times of 11 November 2010. This report on new ICAO regulations on the use of English contains an online link to an 8-minute “You Tube” audio recording of the embarrassing misunderstandings by the Russian air traffic controller of a Mayday call from a Swiss pilot following a “bird strike” on takeoff. (The initial crucial word not understood was “Mayday”.)

The article is written by Oksana Gavshina, Anastasia Dagaveya, and Vladimir Filonov.

English Language to Rule Skies

“Pilots and air traffic controllers at airports serving international flights will only speak English starting in March.

Russian pilots and air traffic controllers at the country’s international airports will be required to conduct all conversations in English starting in March 2011, and the practice could eventually be extended to domestic flights.

English could become the only language for communication between traffic controllers and pilots for non-military Russian flights, said Alexander Neradko, head of the Federal Air Transportation Agency.
Currently, both Russian and English are used for radio communication at the country’s international airports, while the rest only use Russian.

Neradko said it was difficult for dispatchers to accept incoming flights in two languages, posing a safety risk. The conversations are held on one frequency, meaning that they are heard by all pilots, who need to know what nearby planes are doing, he said.

In March, all international airports will switch to English. At the same time, pilots and staff will be required to demonstrate Level 4 conversational skills according to the six-level scale of the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO.

The organization had planned to introduce that requirement in 2008, but a three-year delay was requested for several countries, including Russia, to train pilots and flight control staff.

In Russia, knowledge of “radio-exchange terminology,” a standard set of commands and phrases, is all that is needed now, Neradko said.
The new ICAO standards would require a knowledge of English comparable to that of graduates from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, he said, adding that companies were ready to make the change.

Level 4 under the ICAO system is roughly equivalent to the knowledge of a high school student who scores a B- or C+ in English, said Sergei Melnichenko, deputy head of the language school Kompleng, which has a program for aviation professionals.

The current level is adequate for standard flights, he said. But in an emergency, more fluency is needed to give advice and make quick decisions, requiring at least Level 4 knowledge, Melnichenko said.

In March, a Swiss Air flight taking off from St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport struck a flock of birds, causing vibrations in both engines and forcing the pilots to issue a Mayday signal. The air traffic controller was unable to understand the problem for several minutes until a pilot on another plane explained the situation in Russian.

An eight-minute audio recording of the incident, including further miscommunication once the plane had safely landed, was eventually posted online. Aviation officials have confirmed its authenticity.” [The article continues.]

Translation. 24. Translating a Résumé into Chinese: Jesse Newman’s Experience

5 December 2010

In The Australian of 4 December 2010, Jesse Newman shared his experiences in getting his résumé translated into Chinese:

‘Skills lost in Translation of a Resume’.
(Sub-heading) ‘Writing a Chinese version of your CV can be an exercise in disguise’

“As a mid-20s professional I have decided to jump into a bigger pond. In the past two weeks I’ve had the surreal experience of having my CV translated into Chinese.

“My English-language resume is a heady blend of white spaces, bold-faced key performance indicator achievements and independent project management positions. It’s a long document — six pages — designed to convey all key information in a glance at the front page. The rest is available for reading should I get to the interview stage. Education details and direct benefits to employers are set out upfront.

“I roped in Chinese friends with experience in the Australian and Chinese job markets, seeking help to move my shining document in all its glory into Chinese. Unfortunately my first draft hit some challenges.”
……………………….

For the rest of Jesse’s article (and a photograph), see his original version in The Australian.

Translation 23. Literary Translation: A Review Essay by Brian Nelson

30 November 2010

As I pointed out in an earlier blog, with reference to the very warm welcome accorded to Edith Grossman’s recent book, Why Translation Matters, ripples of overdue recognition of the craft of literary translation are spread when such skilled and respected practitioners of literary translation share their secrets and insights with us.

A more recent related plea for appropriate recognition for the work of literary translators has recently been presented by another distinguished literary translator and academic spokesman for literary translators, Professor Brian Nelson, in his review essay, ‘The Great Impersonators’ (The Australian Literary Review, 3 November 2010).

[Although no Internet reference seems available for this monthly section of The Australian newspaper, here is the version published in its November 2010 issue by The AALITRA Review (the Review of the Australian Association for Literary Translation). Also contained in this .pdf is a bonus piece on Grossman’s work by Jorge Salavert.]

In this review of three important recent books on translation, Emeritus Professor Nelson, who has translated several works by Emile Zola and is currently the President of the Australian Association for Literary Translation, briefly outlines and deplores public misunderstanding and underestimation of the input of the literary translator since the persecution of Saint Jerome, now the patron saint of translators.

According to Nelson, literary translation is still seen by too many (including many publishers and reviewers) as “an unfortunate necessity at best and, at worst, as a terrible form of treachery” – an allusion to the age-old slander, “Traduttore, tradittore” (translators are traitors).

After praising the recent memoir by Grossman and highlighting her passionate insistence on fidelity to the original text, Nelson goes on to present some aspects of the academic debate on translation studies in Umberto Eco’s Experiences in Translation (itself translated into English, by Alastair McEwen), such as the cultural differences between languages and the need to sacrifice “literal translation for the sake of preserving an appropriate style”.

However, it is Antoine Berman’s work Toward a Translation Criticism: John Donne (translated and edited by Françoise Massardier-Kenney) with its “theoretically sophisticated exploration of the ways in which translation is a critical process as well as a creative one”, that Professor Nelson singles out for recognition as a trail-blazing theoretical work well suited to a more rigorous discipline of translation studies, which he sees as vital to a more extensive (and overdue) public discovery and recognition of the real merits of literary translation.
*

(As an example of academic polemics over literary translation, see here.)

Contemporary India. 1a. Basic Sources of Information. Catherine Taylor’s Possible Sequel to Sarah Macdonald’s Interpretation of India

29 November 2010

I had never heard of Catherine Taylor until I read the article which I reproduce below (from The Australian, Weekend Magazine, 9 October 2010, at the height of the Commonwealth Games media coverage). Seasoned India watchers will detect the usual strong indications of a successful and balanced interpretation of India by an “expat” (non-Indian) English speaker:
– prolonged residence in India
– journalistic and writing instincts and ambitions
– keen observation and sensitive reactions
– deep understanding and appreciation in the face of gross “provocation”.

If my intuition is correct, we should therefore be seeing the publication of another interesting book on India by this resident visitor in the not too distant future. Here, with due acknowledgement to Ms Taylor (and in anticipation of more of her Indian observations), is the full telltale article which prompts this prediction:
Mad for Mumbai (The Australian, 9 October, 2010).

“Living in India is like having an intense but insane affair, writes expat Catherine Taylor.”

“TONIGHT, as I waved my high heel in the face of a bewildered taxi driver, I thought suddenly: I am absolutely nuts in India. It’s a thought I have often. Someone or something is always going nuts, and quite often it’s me.

“I was trying to get a taxi driver to take me home, a mere 500 metres away, but it was pouring with rain and my shoes were oh-so-high, and it was late. He, of course, was having none of it; no amount of shoe-waving and sad-facing from a wild-haired firangi was changing his mind, when suddenly I remembered the magic trick – pay more than you should. “Arre, bhai sahab, 50 rupees to Altamount Road? Please?” And off we went.

“I have lived in Mumbai for almost three years. It was my choice to come – I wanted offshore experience in my media career and India was the only country looking to hire – and I wanted a change. I needed something new, exciting, thrilling, terrifying. And India gave that to me in spades. In fact, she turned it all the way up to 11. And then she turned it up a little more.

“To outsiders, living in India has a particular kind of glamour attached to it, a special sparkle that sees people crowding around me at parties. “You live in India? My God, really? I could never do that. What’s it like?” The closest I have come to answering that question is that it’s like being in a very intense, extremely dysfunctional relationship. India and I fight, we scream, we argue, we don’t speak for days on end, but really, deep down, we love each other. She’s a strange beast, this India. She hugs me, so tightly sometimes that I can’t breathe, then she turns and punches me hard in the face, leaving me stunned. Then she hugs me again, and suddenly I know everything will be all right.

“She wonders why I don’t just “know” how things are done, why I argue with her about everything, why I judge, why I rail at injustice and then do nothing about it. She wonders how old I am, how much I earn, why I’m not married. (The poor census man looked at me, stunned, then asked in a faltering voice, “But madam, if you’re not married then… who is the head of your household?”) I wonder how she can stand by when small children are begging on corners, how she can let people foul up the streets so much that they are impossible to walk along, how she can allow such corruption, such injustice, such A LOT OF HONKING.

“But she has taught me things. She has taught me to be brave, bold, independent, sometimes even fierce and terrifying. She has taught me to walk in another man’s chappals, and ask questions a different way when at first the answer is no. She has taught me to accept the things I cannot change. She has taught me that there are always, always, two sides to every argument. And she was kind enough to let me come and stay.

“She didn’t make it easy though (but then, why should she?). The Foreigner Regional Registration Office, banks, mobile phone companies and rental agencies are drowning under piles of carbon paper, photocopies of passports (I always carry a minimum of three) and the soggy tissues of foreigners who fall to pieces in the face of maddening bureaucracy. What costs you 50 rupees one day might be 500 rupees the next, and nobody will tell you why. What you didn’t need to bring yesterday, you suddenly need to bring today. Your signature doesn’t look like your signature. And no, we can’t help you. Come back tomorrow and see.

“It’s not easy being here, although I am spoiled by a maid who cooks for me, and a delivery service from everywhere that ensures I rarely have to wave my shoes at taxi drivers. I buy cheap flowers, trawl for gorgeous antiques, buy incredibly cheap books; I have long, boozy brunches in five-star hotels for the price of a nice bottle of wine at home, I have a very nice roof over my head … on the face of it, it would seem I have little to complain about. But then, I am stared at constantly, I have been spat on, sexually harassed, had my (covered) breasts videotaped as I walked through a market, had my drink spiked, been followed countless times. I have wept more here than I have ever in my life, out of frustration, anger, loneliness, the sheer hugeness of being here. But the longer I stay, the more I seem to relax, let go, let it be.

“But I do often wonder why I’m here, especially when I’m tired, teary and homesick, my phone has been disconnected for the 19th time despite promises it would never happen again, when it’s raining and no taxis will take me home. But then a willing ride always comes along, and we’ll turn a corner and be suddenly in the midst of some banging, crashing mad festival full of colour, where everyone is dancing behind a slow-moving truck, and I won’t have a clue what’s going on but a mum holding a child will dance up to my window and point and smile and laugh, and I breathe out and think, really, my God, this is fantastic. This is India! I live in India! She hugs me, she punches me, and she hugs me again.

“Yet I know won’t ever belong here, not properly. I know this when I listen to girls discussing what colour blouses they should wear to their weddings – she’s Gujarati, he’s from the south, she’s wearing a Keralan sari. I know when my friends give me house-hunting advice: “Look at the names of the people who already live there, then you’ll know what kind of building it is.” (Trouble is, I don’t know my Kapoors from my Kapurs, my Sippys from my Sindhis, my Khans from my Jains). I know this when my lovely fruit man (who also delivers) begs me to taste a strawberry he is holding in his grubby hands and I have to say no, I can’t eat it, I’ll die… I know I will never belong because, as stupid as it sounds, being truly, properly Indian is in your DNA. I marvel at how incredibly well educated so many of them are, how they can all speak at least three languages and think it’s no big deal, how they fit 1000 people into a train carriage meant for 300 and all stand together quite peacefully, how they know the songs from every Hindi film ever made, how they welcome anyone and everyone (even wild-haired, complaining firangis) into their homes for food, and chai, and more food.

“I’ve seen terrible things – someone fall under a train, children with sliced-off ears, old, old men sitting in the rain nursing half-limbs while they beg, children covered in flies sleeping on the pavement, beggars with no legs weaving themselves through traffic on trolleys, men in lunghis working with their hands in tiny corridors with no fans in sky-high temperatures. I’ve read heartbreaking things, of gang rapes, corruption, environmental abuse. I’ve smelled smells that have stripped the inside of my nostrils, stepped over open sewers in markets, watched a goat being bled to death.

“I’ve done things of which I am ashamed, things I never thought I would do. I have slapped a starving child away, I have turned my head in annoyance when beggars have tapped repeatedly on my taxi window, I have yelled at grown men in the face. I have been pinched and pinched back, with force. I have slapped, I have hit, I have pushed. I have screamed in anger. I have, at times, not recognised myself.

“I’ve yelled at a man for kicking a dog, and yelled at a woman who pushed into a line ahead of me when I wasn’t at all in a hurry. When a teenage beggar stood at the window of my taxi, saying “F… you madam” over and over, I told him to go f… himself and gave him the finger; once on the train I let a kid keep 100 rupees as change. I am kind and I am cold-hearted, I am fair and I am mean, I am delightful and I am downright rude. I am all of these at once and I distress myself wildly over it, but somehow, India accepts me. She has no time for navel-gazing foreigners; she just shoved everyone along a bit and made room for me. She has no time to dwell on my shortcomings, she just keeps moving along.

“And then, and then. I’ve been to temples where I’ve sung along with old women who had no teeth, I’ve held countless smiling ink-marked babies for photos, I’ve had unknown aunties in saris smile and cup my face with their soft, wrinkled hands, I’ve made street vendors laugh when I’ve choked on their spicy food, I’ve danced through the streets at Ganpati, fervently sung the national anthem (phonetically) in cinemas, had designers make me dresses, I’ve met with CEOs and heads of companies just because I asked if I could. She hugs, she punches, she hugs again.

“In short, I have been among the luckiest of the lucky. She keeps me on my toes, Ms India, and I have been blessed that she let me stay for a while. She wanted me to succeed here and she gave me grand opportunities and endless second chances. She willed me forward like a stern parent. She welcomed me. And when I leave, because I know I will one day, I will weep, because I will miss her terribly. And because I know she won’t even notice that I am gone.”

Given the language barrier and other political factors, it may be a very long time before we get such intimate and revealing pictures of life in China as those of Ms Taylor and the other writers referred to in my previous Indian blog.
Which may be a useful thought to mull over.

Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information

28 November 2010

Part 1
Basic Cultural Introductions for Foreigners (and NRIs)

Those about to visit India for the first time or who are thinking of relocating there for work purposes with an Indian or foreign company naturally turn to the Internet to get basic information. Everything is there, scattered over many websites, but as a preliminary orientation, I would recommend one webpage, assembled by an Indian-based provider of content writing and design services, http://www.chilibreeze.com. On this page (URL below), “Chillibreeze.com” offers 39 introductory articles for both foreigners and returning NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and POIs (i.e. other persons of Indian origin).

To further facilitate research, I have regrouped the articles below. To consult them, go to the relevant page of the Chillibreeze site and, checking them against a copy of this revised list, select the titles you wish to read. (I have separately listed the articles for NRIs and POIs which are in the Chillibreeze list on this web page and which also contain useful information about contemporary India, especially about changes in living conditions due to the prolonged economic boom of recent years.)

For Expatriates (Expats):
Group 1: Parts of the “India Survival Kit” Series posted in May 2008
The India Survival Kit – an Introduction. (This gives a full list of the 5 sections and articles offered.)

The articles:
Communication in India: It is different!
Ten Tips to Survive Indian Culture
How Indian Society functions: A few cultural tips
Indians Cannot Say ‘No’!
Indian Family Values: What you must know before you visit India
Indian English Quiz: How well do you know India?
What is Indian English? A Whole New Language!
Exotic India: Landscape, Celebrations, Temples, and Art Forms
Cultural tips for visitors to India: Food and Restaurant Etiquette in India
The Diary of an American visiting India – Part 1 / Part 2
The Role of Culture in Business Relationships with Indians – A Case Study

Group 2: Other articles mainly for Expatriates

Expatriates and NRIs in India – Experiences and Perceptions – May 2010 –
NRI tips to Expats Living in India – May 2005 –
Repositioning Delhi: A guide for expats and Indians – Aug 2008 –
Ten Tips from an Expat – May 2007 –
A look at the experiences of American in India – January 2006 –
An American’s Perspective of Life in India – May 2005 –
The Road Less Travelled:The Challenges – May 2005 –
Independence Day – Sept 2008 –
Meet Bob: An American Expat Living in Bangalore – May 2005 –
Must Have Book List for Bangalore Expats – Oct 2004 –
Expat Mom Gives Description of Life in Bangalore – Sept 2004 –
Long-Distance relationships – Jan 2009 –
Will your baby be born in India? – Oct 2007 –
Other Articles – mainly for NRIs and POIs
The Resident Non-resident – May 2010
Musings of an RNRI – Sept 2006
Returning to India: But which one? – Oct 2008
Moving to India? Five Things No One Will Ever Tell You – Jan 2010
India’s Work Culture- Some Tips for Returning Indians and Foreigners – May 2008
Notes from an Itinerant PIO on Freedom – May 2005
Why NRI’s Want Their Children to Grow up in India – May 2005
Top Ten Techie Favorite Areas in Bangalore – Oct 2008
A guide to relocating to Nagpur – Oct 2008
Is real estate in Bangalore booming? Let’s look at some trends – May 2008
Choosing the right school board for your child – Nov 2008
Tips for NRI parents living in India – August 2006
Surviving Summers in the Gulf – July 2010
Shopping at an Indian store in the US – Oct 2008.

Part 2

Basic Books by English-Speaking Visitors to India

The following is a brief reading list for those interested in benefitting from the (relatively) recent research and travels of English-speaking visitors to or residents of India.

Luce, Edward, In Spite of the Gods (The Strange Rise of Modern India), London, Little, Brown, 2006. (Abacus paperback edition, 2007. Also: New York, Doubleday, 2006.)

Interviews and observations of India by the Financial Times’s correspondent from 2001 to 2005 during which time he learned Hindi and married an Indian wife. Highly recommended by Mark Tully, Professor Amartya Singh, William Dalrymple and ex-President Kalam, among others. A real mine of insight and information, with analyses of the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the rise of Hindu nationalism.
See William Grimes’s Review: ‘The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change’.

Sample: “Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”

Kremmer, Christopher, Inhaling the Mahatma, HarperCollins, 2006.

An account of various aspects of contemporary Indian history and life based on seven years of travels and residence in India between 1990 and 2001 by a journalist and writer who took the trouble to learn Hindi and established very close contacts with influential Indians.
A recent REVIEW by Richard A. Johnson.

Macdonald, Sarah, Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure, Sydney/London, Bantam Books, 2002.

An Australian journalist’s entertaining and informative account of contemporary life in India.
(A suitable bestseller for air travel.)

Tully, Sir Mark
The doyen of British correspondents in India over the past 40 years, renowned in the UK and in India. His work in presenting India to the overseas English-speaking world has been recognised by awards from Queen Elizabeth II and the Indian Government. A later blog will deal with his lifelong work in more detail. For this basic orientation list the following two works are recommended.
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1992.
The Heart of India, London, Penguin, 1996.

Aitken, Bill
Like fellow Indiaphile and septuagenarian Mark Tully, Bill Aitken has spent several decades of his life living and interacting with Indians and writing about them and about India. Like Tully, he is well known in India, where he has lived as a naturalised Indian citizen for nearly fifty years.

Aitken’s special interests are spirituality, travel, climbing, the Himalayas, and Steam Railways.
The Penguin Introduction to two of his works reveals that “He has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as secretary to a Maharani, freelanced under his middle name (Liam McKay) and undertaken miscellaneous excursions – from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala – on an old motor bike and by vintage steam railway.”

For this basic list on “India for foreigners”, I include three samplers of Aitken’s specialised oeuvre. More comment and analysis will follow in a later blog.

Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003.
Of the three mountaineering travel books by Aitken that I have read, this latest one is the best, full of fascinating detail, observations and adventure.
The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India, 1994.
Aitken’s very special spiritual climbing quest.
Branch Line to Eternity, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2001.
His travels on the last steam engines operating in India.

Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Out of God’s Oven. Travels in A Fractured Land, New Delhi, Viking, 2002.

An investigative book by two Non-Resident Indians, based on six years of travel and interviews on contemporary Indian issues.
(For an Asia Times Online review by Jason Overdorf in March 2003, see here.

Overdorf comments: “In a book of remarkable scope, the two writers address many of the seminal events of Indian history of the past three decades, ranging from riots by Dalits (formerly untouchables) …”

Dalrymple, William
Dalrymple has gained considerable acclamation and fame from his many scholarly works on India and Indian history. His latest book on spirituality in India has become a best seller in the English-speaking world (like most of the books on this list):
Nine Lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, London, Bloomsbury, 2009.

These nine exotic interviews on very diverse aspects of religion were prompted by Dalrymple’s desire to investigate the present state of religious beliefs in India following a period of great economic and social change.

Fishlock, Trevor, India File, 2nd edition, New Delhi, Rupa, 1987.

Another of the distinguished list of British correspondents in India, Fishlock first published this slim volume in 1983. His first chapter, ‘Inheritance’ (pp. 1-19) is still well worth reading.
*
NOTE: Further blogs on printed and online information about contemporary India are planned.

Background Reading on Contemporary India

7 October 2010

The purely economic pluses and minuses of staging the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will become apparent long after the Games are finished, as is the case with many of these ambitious international sporting events. Much more immediate will be the effect on overseas opinion of the publicity generated by the intense media coverage of the Games over these 13 days. A more personal form of publicity which will be spread around many countries is that of the thousands of visiting athletes and spectators. It is therefore to be hoped that a wider interest in travel to India, with her varied exotic offerings, will be a positive result of the 2010 Games, eclipsing the effects of the unfortunate (but unavoidable) negative publicity and nervousness which preceded the Opening Night.

Those eager to acquire a balanced picture of contemporary India may enjoy the following selection of recent books by travellers who have provided us with very detailed accounts and analyses (warts and all), based on lengthy periods of residence and observation.

Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods (The Strange Rise of Modern India), London, Little, Brown, 2006. (Also: New York, Doubleday, 2006.)
Interviews and observations of India by the Financial Times’s correspondent from 2001 to 2005, during which time he learned Hindi and married an Indian wife. Highly recommended by Mark Tully, Professor Amartya Sen, and William Dalrymple, among other cognoscenti, Luce offers a wealth of insight and information, and includes analyses of the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the rise of Hindu nationalism.
See William Grimes’s Review: ‘The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change’.
Sample: “Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”

Christopher Kremmer, Inhaling the Mahatma, HarperCollins, 2006.
An account of various aspects of contemporary Indian history and life based on seven years of travels and residence in India between 1990 and 2001 by a journalist and writer who took the trouble to learn Hindi and established very close contacts with influential Indians. Like Edward Luce, Kremmer married an Indian woman.
A recent REVIEW by Richard A. Johnson.

Sarah Macdonald, Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure, Sydney/London, Bantam Books, 2002.
An Australian journalist’s entertaining and informative account of contemporary life in India.
(A suitable bestseller for air travel.)

Sir Mark Tully
The doyen of British correspondents in India over the past 40 years, renowned in the UK and in India. His work in presenting India to the overseas English-speaking world has been recognised by awards from Queen Elizabeth II and the Indian Government. For this basic orientation list the following two works are recommended.
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1992.
The Heart of India, London, Penguin, 1996.

Bill Aitken
Like fellow Indiaphile and septuagenarian Mark Tully, Bill Aitken has spent several decades of his life living and interacting with Indians and writing about them and about India. Like Tully, he is well known in India, where he has lived as a naturalised Indian citizen for nearly fifty years.

Aitken’s special interests are spirituality, travel, climbing, the Himalayas, and Steam Railways.
The Penguin Introduction to two of his works reveals that “He has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as secretary to a Maharani, freelanced under his middle name (Liam McKay) and undertaken miscellaneous excursions – from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala – on an old motor bike and by vintage steam railway.”
For this basic list on “India for foreigners”, I recommend three samplers of Aitken’s specialised oeuvre.
Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003.
Of the three mountaineering travel books by Aitken that I have read, this latest one is the best, full of fascinating detail, observations and adventure.

The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India, 1994.
Aitken’s very special spiritual climbing quest.
Branch Line to Eternity, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2001.
His travels on the last railway steam engines operating in India.

Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Out of God’s Oven. Travels in A Fractured Land, New Delhi, Viking, 2002.
An investigative book by two Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), based on six years of travel and interviews on contemporary Indian issues.
(For an Asia Times Online review by Jason Overdorf in March 2003, see here.

Overdorf comments: “In a book of remarkable scope, the two writers address many of the seminal events of Indian history of the past three decades, ranging from riots by Dalits (formerly untouchables) …”

William Dalrymple
Dalrymple has harvested considerable acclamation and fame from his many scholarly works on India and Indian history. His latest book on spirituality in India has become a best seller (like most of the books on this list):
Nine Lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, London, Bloomsbury, 2009.
These nine exotic interviews on very diverse aspects of religion were prompted by Dalrymple’s desire to investigate the present state of religious beliefs in India following a period of great economic and social change.

Trevor Fishlock, India File, 2nd edition, New Delhi, Rupa, 1987.
One of a distinguished line of British correspondents in India, Fishlock first published this slim volume in 1983. His first chapter, ‘Inheritance’ (pp. 1-19) is still well worth reading.

Translation 22. Cultural Content of Given Names. The Case of Hindi

30 August 2010

For the curious student of foreign languages and cultures, the influence of dominant national religions is often visually or audibly embedded in the language, especially in vocabulary and idiom and, as we shall see below, in people’s first, or given, names.

In English, with the decline in influence of the various Christian churches, the deliberate choice by parents of given names with strong Christian connotations has waned, especially in the cases of Faith, Hope, Charity, Comfort, Constance, Grace (Gracie), Epiphany, and Patience. With many others, the survival of the names usually has more to do with their acceptability and sound than with solid religious associations.
For example:
Adam, Benedict, Benjamin, Candace, Christian, Christopher, Dominic, Eve. (As further proof of this decline, the former descriptor for English language given names was the Christian name but this term is no longer officially recommended or accepted in most English-speaking countries because of far-reaching social and cultural changes in the past 50 years.

In other European languages the religious link is still strong, or at least stronger than in English, notably in southern predominantly (at least in name) Catholic Europe. For example, in spite of the massive decline of catholicism in Spain since the demise of dictator Franco and in some other Spanish-speaking countries, many children are still baptised as:
(Girls):
Anunciación, Concepción, Inmaculada (immaculate), Natividad (the Nativity), Encarnación (incarnation), Ascensión, Martirio (martyrdom), Esperanza (Hope), Consuelo (Consolation), Milagros (Miracles), Jesusa, Dolores (María de los Dolores), Cruz (Cross – as noun rather than adjective);
and
Amparo (Protection), María del Pilar (Mary of the Pillar), Mercedes (Mercies), Rosario (rosary), Caridad (Charity), Paz (Peace).

Similarly, the following boy’s names are still bestowed upon infants in Spanish-speaking countries:
Jesús, Salvador (Saviour), José, (Joseph), José María (Joseph and Mary), Santos, (Saints), Angel, Angel María, and Miguel Angel.

In Jewish families, religion-related given names are still current and strongly retain their cultural semantic connotations:
Aaron, Abraham, Adam, Benjamin, Daniel, David, Ephraim, Esther, Hannah, Isaac, Jacob, Jeremiah, Jonathan, Joshua, Moses, Noah, Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Samuel, Sarah, Solomon.

In India, a sizeable minority of the population are Muslims and bear Muslim names deriving from Arabic, Persian and Urdu:
Abdul, Ahmed, Ali, Anwar, Asif, Aziz, Feroz, Hussein, Imran, Irfan, Irshad, Karim,
Mirza, Mohammed, Nasim, Nur, Rahim, Said, Salim, Salman, Samir, Saroj, Sayid, Tahir, Tariq,Yusuf, Zakir, etc.

However, the overwhelming majority of Indians (approximately 80%) identify themselves as Hindu and bear names so closely associated with aspects of Hindu spirituality and culture that many of them are also nouns or adjectives in Sanskrit or in Hindi, its derivative or descendant.

Since these Hindi/Sanskrit names are still far less well known in the wider English-speaking world outside (largely English-speaking) India than the others offered above and since they are featured in the global media more and more often due to India’s increasing economic and geopolitical development and will continue to grow in global importance for English speakers (and others), I present a small selection in this overview of the links between culture / religion and language.

Acknowledgement
Apart from my own reading, travel and study, I am relying heavily here on the glosses offered in a very rich, tentacular interconnected website for ALL Given Names, that of Mike Campbell, which I recommend for further and deeper study: Behind the Name. The Etymology and History of First Names

The following is a selection of female and male Hindi or Sanskrit names which will be met in travel in India as well as in the media and on the Internet, and, of course, more and more, in Bollywood films and in the literary and sporting worlds.

Abhishek, m, anointment
Aishwarya, f, prosperity
Ajeet / Ajit, m, unconquered
Amar, immortal [cf. Amartya Sen]
Amitabh, m, shining (Buddha) [as in Bachchan]
Ananda, f, bliss
Aravind, m, lotus
Arjun, m, clear
Aseema, f, boundless
Ashok, m, without sorrow

Bharat, India
Dev, m, god
Devdas, m, servants of the gods
Devi, f, goddess
Divya, f, divine
Gauri, f, goddess Parvati
Gita, f, song [Bhagavad Gita]
Gopal, m, cow protector [Krishna]
Govind, m, cow herder [Krishna] [Sikh version: Gobind]

Jagdish, m , ruler of the world
Jay, m, victory
Jayant, m, victorious
Jyoti, f, light
Kalyana, m, beautiful [also a beer]
Kamal, m, lotus
Kiran, f, sunbeam
Krishna, m, dark blue; Krishna
Lakshmi, f, female deity

Madhu, f, honey
Mahesh, m, great Lord
Maya, f, illusion
Mohan, m, charming
Narendra, m, lord of man
Nirmala, f, pure

Padma, f, lotus
Pankaj, m, lotus
Prabhu, n, mighty
Pradeep, m, lantern
Priya, f, beloved
Purushottam, m, the best amongst men

Radha,f, flower [& Krishna’s female companion]
Raj, m, king
Rajesh, m, king + Isha (deity)
Rajneesh, m, lord of the night
Ram, Rama, m, Lord Rama
Ramesh, Rama + Isha (deity)
Rani, f, queen
Ravi, m, sun

Sachin, m, pure
Sanjay, m, triumphant
Sati, f, truthful
Satya, m, truth
Shanti, f, peace
Sunil, m, positive prefix + blue [Krishna-like?]
Suraj, m, sun
Venkat, m, a reference to Vishnu
Vijay, m, victory
Vikram, m, distinction.

Translation 21: Translating @ into Other Languages

28 August 2010

Have you ever wondered how the now indispensable email term “@” translates into other languages (apart from those which merely use the term as a symbol)?

Well, Dot Wordsworth, who presents a short and always interesting weekly column on English usage in the British Spectator magazine titled ‘Mind Your Language’, has recently offered this very useful piece, which I quote verbatim below. I recommend her other pieces to readers who are unaware of her research into English usage. (Taken from http://www.spectator.co.uk/politics/all/6215453/mind-your-language.thtml)

21 August 2010

“I found myself in a fine pickle trying to give my email address on the telephone in Spanish. It was bad enough with W, an uncommon letter in Spanish. They have their own version of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie (or Able, Baker, Charlie for older readers), but I didn’t know it. Whisky for W seemed to work, but I dried up when it came to the @ sign.
The newly useful @ sign is called apestaartje, ‘little monkey’s tail’ in Dutch, and Germans follow suit. It is chiocciola, ‘snail’ in Italian, and a snail is also apparently what Koreans name it after. The Danes and Swedes liken it to an elephant’s trunk, but the Norwegians think of it as a pig’s tail.
The Spanish for ‘at’ is a, but a is also the name for the letter A. At last a nice friend of Veronica’s tells me that the Spanish for @ is arroba. I asked: ‘What does that mean?’ If I had asked that of a Frenchwoman, who would call @ arobase, she would have answered, ‘It just means that sign in email addresses.’
In Spanish, though, it had a meaning already, a measure of weight, a quarter of a quintal. If that sounds obscure, remember that quintal is an English word too, pronounced kwintl, formerly meaning ‘100lb’, later ‘a hundredweight’, which schoolgirls of my generation learnt was 112lb or a 20th of a ton. That means that an arroba is the same as our quarter: two stone or 28lb. Both the Spanish and the English words quintal come from Arabic, qintar. The dear old Arabs got that word from Latin. They borrowed lots of words from Latin, and qintar came from centenarium. From the same Latin word, we English derived centenary, a measure of weight as well as of years. (The Oxford English Dictionary gives the ‘regular’ pronunciation with the stress on the first syllable, which no one uses today.)
On a website called Purnas, partly devoted to the Aragonese language (there is such a thing), I found a learned article proving that the earliest use of the @ sign for arroba was not in Seville in 1536, as someone claimed last year. An example is given from a document written in 1448 in the Aragonese town of Ariza, recording a shipment of wheat.
Although arroba comes from the Arabic ar-rub, ‘a quarter’, modern-day Arabs call @ by the Arabic word fi, meaning ‘at’ — and ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘near’, ‘by’, ‘to’ or ‘times’, as in multiplication — which is a sort of correlative of ‘@’.”

Any other translations would be of interest if readers care to send them in.