Posted tagged ‘Patrick French’

The Indian Investigative Magazine Tehelka and its Hindi Version

31 March 2013

As English-speaking businessmen, tourists and spiritual seekers would all agree, one of the special advantages of going to India is that you don’t need to learn one or more foreign languages because they “all” speak, write and communicate in perfect English, whether in the (predominantly Hindi) North or the Dravidian South. Some foreign journalists might agree, although it is likely that those whose reports are most valued overseas have learnt a relevant Indian language, especially Hindi or Tamil. (Like Mark Tully, Edward Luce, Kris Kremmer, Patrick French, etc.)

For English-speaking foreign journalists, one of the most valuable sources of information on life in contemporary India is the highly independent investigative magazine Tehelka, whose dramatic 12-year history of sensational début and (persecuted) decline, followed by a slow but determined and vigorous revival (now including a thriving website) is well documented.

According to several Hindi dictionaries, Tehelka ( तहलका Ta-hal-kaa ) carries semantic content involving sensation, commotion, hubbub or hullabaloo. Tehelka itself clarifies the matter for us by quoting Time Magazine’s absolutely admirable definition:

“Tehelka is a delightful Urdu word, difficult to translate. It refers to that special kind of tumult provoked by a daring act, or a sensational piece of writing.”

Although this forthright intention nearly caused its early demise, the magazine has certainly lived up to its name and orientation, both the inspired creations of Tarun J. Tejpal. The current Internet motto is: “Free. Fair. Fearless”.

On its website Tehelka describes itself thus:
“On January 31, 2004, after more than two years of persecution, Tehelka was reborn as a weekly newspaper committed to constructive, crusading journalism. As a people’s paper geared to take a stand, to follow the hard investigative story. A fearless paper ready to create opinion, and not just remain a passive vehicle of news.
Over the years, Tehelka has firmly established itself as a people’s media choice. With public interest journalism, serious opinion and analysis, Tehelka has earned unmatched credibility and brand recall.”
(More of Tehelka’s amazing inside story is available from its Editor-in-Chief, Shoma Chaudhury, on

Independent writers also confirm and flesh out the Tehelka saga.

Mira Kamdar presents the “Tehelka Tapes” story in Planet India. The Turbulent Rise of the World’s Largest Democracy (Simon and Schuster, 2007,pp. 93-94):
“In March 2001, the fledgling weekly Tehelka rocked the nation when it released tapes secretly made by two of its reporters, Aniruddha Bahal and Mathew Samuel, showing bribes being taken in the ministry of defence at the highest level of the Indian Government.”

Kamdar also describes the retaliation by authorities intent on punishing Tehelka and its staff for the embarrassment caused and she notes the courageous resistance by the editors and reporters. As a result of government action, Tehelka’s staff was reduced from 120 to 4, and their main financial backer, Sharma Mehra, was prosecuted. Kamdar adds the encouraging happy ending by explaining that finally, through sheer determination, and backing from media personalities and others, the editor Tarun Tejpal [and his managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury] managed to reopen the paper in 2004. As a result, of strong support, the printed editions sell well and “The online edition reaches readers around the world. The paper continues to conduct sting operations, exposing corruption at every turn [ …].”

In his acclaimed 2011 study, India. An Intimate Biography of 1.2 Billion People, (London Allen Lane, 2011), Patrick French offers more background on Tehelka as well as specific quotations from the original sensational “Tapes”. In his chapter on wealth, business, politics and corruption in contemporary India, French makes the point that since 2000 the transparency factor has played an increasingly important role in Indian journalism and life:

“One of the strongest weapons against corruption was transparency – or a fear of being caught. Taking bribes was now becoming annoyingly difficult for senior bureaucrats and politicians, such was the fear of spy cameras. The 2005 “Right to Information Act”, combined with the new media’s love of spying and bugging, appeared to be undermining certain types of graft.” The author goes on to give three pages of details about the hazardous Tehelka undercover sting of 2001, involving politicians, military officers and bureaucrats, claiming that this was the incident which “sparked this shift, catching and shaming people for the sort of behaviour that had always been rumoured but never so graphically demonstrated” (p. 217). Be that as it may, after a long quote from the secretly taped Tehelka investigation, Patrick French adds that although the Defence Minister was forced to resign, “the most outrageous thing about this exposé was not the corruption […] but the state’s response to the dishonesty. The prosecution of those involved was half-hearted, and much more effort was devoted to prosecuting Tehelka, which was nearly destroyed by repeated investigations and court cases […]” (p. 219).

So much for the “known knowns” about Tehelka. Less well known outside India, presumably because a (difficult) foreign language is involved, is the fact that since 2008, Tehelka has also published a Hindi version. However, unless you peruse the issues (or at least the Contents pages, you may not realise that Tehelka in Hindi contains much information not printed in its English version. Some of this extra information really needs to be more widely studied and reported on by foreign India watchers, because it is also the fruit of Tehelka’s ongoing commitment to revealing information which the public deserves to know. Another reason for foreign journalists to follow “Tehelka in Hindi” is that writing sensational reports in Hindi is likely to attract less official attention than writing them in English. Yet another positive factor is that India is not yet showing any signs of a decline in newspaper and magazine sales.

To justify my main assertion that a knowledge of Hindi is essential for foreign journalists, I propose to refer to 3 articles published in “Tehelka in Hindi” ( in December 2012 and January and February 2013. I am grateful to my translator colleague Suyash Suprabh for supplying me with these valuable copies of Tehelka.

1. The cover of Tehelka (Hindi) for 31 December 2012 announces the 12-page updated investigation by Brijesh Singh of the decades-long and hitherto intractable question of refugees in Kashmir (pp. 42-53):
Kashmeer kee sautelee saantaaneN (Kashmir’s Step-children)

Tehelka Kashmir Cover

Jammoo: Refugee Capital

2 lakhs [200,000]
Refugees from West Pakistan

10 lakhs [1 million]
Refugees from Pakistan-administered Kashmir

2 lakhs [200,000]
Displaced by the war with Pakistan

3 lakhs [300,000]
Pundits from the Valley of Kashmir

(To my knowledge this article by Mr Singh has not appeared in the English version of Tehelka and although I am aware of an Internet translation, I am not willing to share the URL until I am satisfied it is duly authorised.)

Following the horrendous gang rape in Delhi, the Tehelka Hindi issue for 31 December 2012- 15 January 2013 was devoted to Women’s Issues, including a short article on the positive history of Women’s Movements in India by Priyanka Dubey, Hauslon kaa haasil (‘Courageous Achievements’), in which she makes the point that, in view of their involvement in the decades of struggle for Independence, they were well placed to continue the fight after Independence in 1947.

The cover of Tehelka Hindi for 28 February 2013 announces a long article, by a retired politician, Arif Mohammad Khan, on another sensitive subject. The title given there seems to be ‘Isn’t there any room for change or modernisation in Islam?’ (‘Kyaa islaam meN badlaav aur aadhuniktaa ke lie kaaee sthaan nahee hai?’) The article itself (pp. 36-41), however, has a revised title: ‘Is there any Scope for Change and Reform in Islam?’ Where sudhaaroN (reforms) and gunjaaish (scope) have replaced aadhuniktaa (modernisation) and sthaan (place / room) and the rhetorical negative has been deleted.
(For this article by Mr Khan there is an English translation available on the Tehelka website, dated 7 March.)

The latest Tehelka sting operation in December 2012-January 2013 involved taping conversations by senior Indian police officials. These contradicted official statements on tightening up on attitudes to reported rapes and the way of investigating them.

Translation 40. Hindi-English-Hinglish, an Indian ménage à trois

23 January 2013

One of the aspects which makes travel to ‘Incredible’ India different is the ease with which foreign tourists and businessmen can make themselves understood (in English) in airports, shops, hotels and (usually) taxis. There is no language angst as in many other countries. This is because most urban Indians speak English as a first language and many others as a second one – as well as a regional language (or two). Indians are very used to learning more than one language. In the case of English, it can be useful in getting them a better job, thus improving the wages or salary that they receive.

The long relationship between Indian languages and English has been a major factor in the modern history of the India and its States. Now, with English as the major world lingua franca, it is proving to be beneficial to Indias’s increasing development and prosperity. It is also a comforting advantage over India’s fellow colossus, China, which in so many other ways is ahead of India. The Chinese are making massive investments in education but it will take them a long time to reach the fluency at present enjoyed by so many (numerically) in India.


The dominant position of English in India over the past two centuries is fairly well known and is easy to document. By the 1830s, Britain was ruling over vast areas of the Indian subcontinent with relatively few British soldiers and administrators. A deliberate act by Lord (Thomas Babington) Macaulay brought about the extraordinary dominance of English over the lives of Indians and was to change the destinies of all those Indians who studied the language to work for or under the British Administration. It is also responsible for the ongoing prominence of the English language in the independent Republic of India.

In the admirably succinct Wikipedia account:
“[Lord Macauley] introduced English education in India through his famous minute of February 1835. He called an educational system that would create a class of anglicised Indians who would serve as cultural intermediaries between the British and the Indians. Macaulay succeeded in implementing ideas previously put forward by Lord William Bentinck, the governor general since 1829. Bentinck favored the replacement of Persian by English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers. He was inspired by utilitarian ideas and called for “useful learning.” Macaulay convinced the Governor-General to adopt English as the medium of instruction in higher education, from the sixth year of schooling onwards, rather than Sanskrit or Persian then used in the institutions supported by the East India Company. By doing so, Macaulay wanted to “educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother tongue” and thus, by incorporating English, he sought to “enrich” the Indian languages so “that they could become vehicles for European scientific, historical, and literary expression”. Macaulay’s preference for the English language was based on his view of the local languages as “poor and rude” and on his belief that the body of writing available in Sanskrit and Arabic was no match for the scholarship available in English. He stated in his “Minute on Indian Education” (1835): “all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England.”
(Wikipedia, 23 January 2013)
(Note. Interested readers should see the absorbingly detailed account given by Pavan K. Varma in Becoming Indian, Chapters 2 – ‘The Imperishable Empire’ – and 3 – ‘Macaulay’s Legacy’, pp. 26-87.)

If we now fast forward to the end of the British Raj, as a result of Macaulay’s educational Minute, the position of English in the administration of India and in the running of daily urban life was so well entrenched that it was the national lingua franca, in partnership with regional languages (especially in the south), while in the north it was the partner (or perhaps big brother?) to Hindi.

1947 on-

In the Republic of India, the Hindi-English question has been present since the Independence ceremony.
1. In the Constituent Assembly on 14 August 1947,
“Few of the people in the hall could talk to each other in their native tongue; their only common tongue was the English of the colonizers, whose rule was about to end” (Collins and Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight, p. 287).
2. Jawaharlal (Pandit) Nehru’s famous eloquent Independence “Tryst’ speech was delivered in English.
3. Hindi and English were decreed to be the two main languages, with a limit of 15 years set for English.
4. Sixty five years later, Hindi and English are still the dominant official languages of India, with the advantage still favouring English (and English-speaking Indians.)

1950 The new Constitution was written in English.

“The 1950 Constitution had eventually fudged the issue: Hindi was to be the sole official language, but not for fifteen years (during which English might still be used. […] The hope was that in the fifteen-year interim tempers would cool and Hindi would win more friends …” (John Keay, India. A History, p. 528). As a result northern supporters of Hindi redoubled their efforts to coin more Sanskritised neologisms to cover modern and technical terms with the result that “the Hindi news on All India Radio became […] barely comprehensible” (p. 529). Meanwhile in the north there were protests against English and in the south, mainly in Tamil Nadu, the demonstrations were far more violently against Hindi, with many deaths and several self-immolations (Keay, 529).

From one of his interviews, Patrick French offers this extra detail, gleaned from a Tamilian professor:
“those protests were so intense, with people immolating themselves against the perceived northern domination, that the plan was abandoned and English continued as a parallel language. The powerful Dravidian political parties of the South came out of this movement.” (India, pp. 371-2).

Maria Misra offers another perennially important factor in the debate:
“Critics argued that the reform would grant an unfair advantage in the intense competition for government jobs to the 35% of the nation for whom Hindi was their first language. In 1959, Nehru began to retreat, promising that Hindi would not be imposed and that English would stay as an ‘associate’ language”.
(Maria Misra, Vishnu’s Crowded Temple, p. 289).

Finally, in 1967, a bill was passed which, “while confirming the status of Hindi as India’s official language, gave the non-Hindi states a veto over the phasing out of English, thus effectively guaranteeing its place as “an associate official language” indefinitely (Keay, 529). States were allowed to conduct official business in their preferred regional language (Tamil, Telugu, etc.)

As a result of such language complications, India’s national parliament has some organisational similarities with the European Union; provision for interpreting services is quite generous. In the mid-1990s, the Indian Prime Minister Deve Gowda, who apparently did not speak Hindi or English well, must have been especially grateful for this service.

Among the provisions are the following, taken from

Constitutional Provision and use of different languages in Lok Sabha

“Under article 120 of the Constitution, the business of both the Houses of Parliament is transacted in Hindi or English. In order to enable the Members to communicate directly across the language barrier, a two-channel system of simultaneous interpretation from Hindi to English and vice-versa was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 7 September, 1964. Subsequently, to facilitate Members who could not express themselves adequately in Hindi or English, it was decided to extend the facility of simultaneous interpretation in some of the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. In November 1969, this facility was extended to some more languages of the Eighth Schedule. At present, the facility of simultaneous interpretation is available in the following languages namely: Assamese, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Manipuri, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Efforts are being made to provide simultaneous interpretation facility in the remaining languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

Direction by Speaker regarding use of languages other than Hindi/English
A member who wishes to speak in a language other than Hindi or English is required [under Direction 115 B(1)* by the Speaker] to give at least half-an-hour notice to the officer at the Table to enable the Interpreter concerned to take his seat in the Interpreters’ booth before the member speaks.

Interpretation of the Proceedings of Parliamentary Committees etc.
Arrangement for simultaneous interpretation exists in all the Committee rooms in Parliament House, Parliament House Annexe and Parliament Library Building where meetings of Parliamentary Committees, Departmentally Related Standing Committees, Consultative Committees attached with various ministries etc. are held.”

Many generations of Indian children from the upper and middle classes have had an ‘English Medium’ education, where the tuition takes place in English. For many of these children, Hindi (or another regional language like Tamil or Kannada) is a second language. Also, Higher education and much political, professional and technical training and activity are mainly conducted in English.

Mark Tully, the much-admired India-watcher and “interpreter”, with a lifetime’s collection of valuable observations on Indian life and history, offers this comment on the mixed benefits of English in one of his earlier books on India (No Full Stops in India, 1991):
“The upper echelons of Indian society regard English as one of the greatest gifts of the British. They have made it the language of the exclusive club they belong to, and parents who see half a chance of getting their children admitted to the club will make any sacrifice to provide an English-medium education for them. The élite are not concerned that English has impoverished Indian languages and stood in the way of the growth of an indigenous national language. They insist that English must be preserved as the common language of multilingual India, even though less than 3 per cent of the population have even a basic understanding of it” (pp. 7-8).

In more recent times, some members of the Other Backward Classes have begun to take advantage of an English education. Indeed, Patrick French presents this vignette about a Dalit writer and activist, Chandra Bhan Prasad, who set up a primary school in 2010 and also built a temple dedicated to a new deity, ‘Dalit Goddess English’. His supposition was that Dalits, being socially and educationally excluded, should learn English so as to advance” (India, A Portrait, p. 278).

Since the spread of English throughout India, words from English have been adopted by speakers of Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages. These borrowed words and phrases are called loanwords or loan translations (calques), In the case of Hindi, there have been many such loanwords and calques, adapted more or less to the phonetics of Hindi, and referring to daily life and to technical terms. This borrowing process goes on all the time between all languages in contact. Think of the massive influx of French or Norman words into English after 1066, or the number of Arabic words in modern Spanish which date back to the centuries-long Muslim rule.

Whereas everyday Hindi contains a very very large number of English loan words, adapted to the phonetics of Hindi, and referring to daily life and to technical terms, their rapid, inexorable, increase, almost on a daily basis, is the cause for the recent cries of alarm from some observers (for example, Professor Rupert Snell, quoted below). Many of these loanwords, and a large number of English acronyms, also based on English phonetics (bee.jay.pee, see.bee.aaee, for example), are understood by Indians in many cities.

Examples of simple loans:

bas, bus; tren, train; kort, court; steshan, station; saspains, suspense; iNjekshan, injection; graauNd, ground; saaikal, cycle; gaiNgrep, gang rape; haaidrojan, hydrogen; saintimetar, centimetre; kaarburetar, carburettor; aaiskreem, ice cream;
ekyoopankchar, acupuncture; spaainal kord, spinal cord. (For many more examples, see the Reference list, under Steel.)


aaee.aaee.tee., IIT (Indian Institute of Technology)
aaee.e.ess, IAS (Indian Administrative Service)
aar.bee.aaee., RBI (Reserve Bank of India)
aar.tee.aaee., RTI (Right to Information), BJP (Bharaateeya Janata Party – or, in Hindi phonetics)
dee.aaee.jee., DIG (Deputy Inspector General)
ef.dee.aaee., FDI (Foreign Direct Investment)
em.e., MA.(Master of Arts)
en.dee.tee.vee. (Indeeyaa), NDTV (India) – New Delhi TV
en.aar.aaee., NRI (Non-Resident Indian), NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme)
o.bee.see., OBC (Other Backward Classes)
pee.el.e., PLA (People’s Liberation Army – China)
pee o ke , PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir)
see.aaee.aaee., CII (Confederation of Indian Industry)
see.bee.aaee., CBI (Criminal Bureau of Investigation_
tee.dee.pee., TDP (Telugu Desham Party – Andra Pradesh)
tee.o.aaee., TOI (Times of India)
tee.tee., TT (train ticket inspector)
too.jee., 2G (The ongoing 2G ‘Spectrum’ scandal)

As well as Hindi, we now have ‘Hinglish’, one of a global variety of hybrid combinations of English with a dominant local language., used by bilingual, or partially bilingual speakers. But as we shall see, Hinglish in the form it has evolved over the last 15-20 years is a very complex linguistic phenomenon, on which many scholars are working. The major source of recent discussions on the Hinglish-Hindi-English trio is the 2008 Conference Proceeding, Chutnefying English, edited by Rita Kothari and Rupsert Snell. (Also worth searching for on the Web are Hinglish, Code-switching and Code-mixing.)

When first heard (on a Bollywood film, for example), Hinglish appears to contain far more complex elements of code-switching than, say, the more parochial ‘Spanglish’ of California, Florida, or Australia . (See under Steel in the Reference list.)
It is also probably more complex than ‘Chinglish’, but the special brand of Chinglish of Hong Kong, which is based on a very long and close association between Chinese and English may be closer. (See Wikipedia under Chinglish or ‘Code-switching in Hong Kong’.)

Hinglish can be freely observed in many Bollywood movies and on the streets of Indian cities. It is especially favoured by younger generations of Indians and goes far beyond loan translations. Here are some simple examples (taken from the Gurcharan Das article quoted later):

“Main aaj busy hoon. Kal bill doonga definitely. [I’m busy today. I’ll do the bill tomorrow, defintely.]
“ Voh mujhe avoid kartee hai!” [You’re avoiding me!]
“Careful, yaar. Voh dangerous hai!” [Careful, mate. You’re dangerous.]

Anand Giridharadas, a young American visitor, born of NRI parents, describes his first encounters with (upper class) Indian Hinglish:
It consists of
“stirring Hindi words into English sentences, conjugating Hindi verbs with English suffixes, and appropriating the pidgin English of the less-educated classes. He offers these examples:
“He was just line maro-ing.” [‘chatting up’ the girls]
“Chal, time pass karte hain.”
“Shall we pacca meet at seven?”
“Come jaldi se. Nahin to, the booze will finish.” [early; Otherwise …]
(From India Calling. An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, 2011.)

Here is another one from an Internet comment:
“Main baahar nikalnee vaalee thee, tab ren stated pooring. Main bheeg gayee and I went clothes chainj karne ke liye.” (“indi45”. One of the comments on Anjoo Mohan’s article in The Guardian on 27 January 2010: ‘English or Hinglish – does it matter what Indian students are learning?’)

(For other examples see Chutnefying English, Tomas Borowiak, and L. Thillai Salvi, in the Reference list.)

After seeing these brief samples, it is not difficult to understand that Indians are currently divided over the ‘Hinglish question’, especially for its implications for the future of Hindi (rather than for that of Indian English, which continues to thrive). The following paragraphs give an idea of the principal points of view.

In the 2008 conference, Hinglish was strongly supported as a natural phenomenon among bilinguals. Of special interest are the papers given by Professor Harish Trivedi and the renowned linguist, Tej. K. Bhatia.

Another keen supporter of Hinglish is Gurcharan Das, the energetic ex-businessman, and author of the bestseller India Unbound. Das began his article, ‘Inglish as She’s Spoke’ (Outlook India (2 May 2005) with customary vigour:

“In a world growing smaller and in an India growing bigger, English is the currency of the future. Even insecure vernacular chauvinists can’t deny us our due.” He went on to speak glowingly of ‘Inglish’ (i.e. Hinglish) as being “increasingly pan-India’s street language.” He portrays Hinglish as a possible future national “aspirational” language for all Indians: “perhaps we may have found a language common to the masses and classes acceptable to the South and North.”

During the 2008 ‘Chutnefying English’ conference, Das moderated and participated in a controversial Panel Discussion, ‘Is Hinglish the language of India’s Future?’ The following contribution by Das expands on the point already made above:
“The spread of Hinglish is a democratizing process. It is a way for the rich and the poor to communicate in the same language for the first time. I wonder why and how Hinglish came up in the 1990s? Is it the reforms that brought it about? Is it a part of the mental liberation of the young in the 1990s?”

A celebration of both Hindi and Hinglish is offered by the prominent diplomat and writer, Pavan K. Varma, whose recent three sociological studies on contemporary India and Indians are de rigueur for students of India, as well as Indians (and NRIs), who have already converted them into bestsellers.

Varma, who concentrates on observations and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary Indian society, suggests that the prominence and domination of English in India stunted Hindi’s growth in the past:

“We have a linguistic pool so large and diverse that despite attempts to colonize the language, it survived. However, over the past three or four decades, this rich linguistic heritage has been disproportionately overshadowed by a pan-Indian preponderance of English.” (Times of India (30 January 2012).

However, things have now changed:
“An assertive popular culture is beginning to acquire critical mass in India. The growing popularity of Hindi is a case in point. The attempt to introduce it by fiat failed; but the growing number of people who speak and read Hindi today would surprise its opponents” (Being Indian, p. 144).
“The popularity of Hindi has nothing to do with a new-found affection for the national language nor is it a deliberate dilution of linguistic chauvinisms. It has happened gradually, on its own and in response to market forces […].” “Many Indians are not fluent in Hindi, but a great many more understand something of it now. Hindi films are popular in Tamil Nadu.”

“A new lingo dubbed Hinglish, an irreverent masala of English and Hindi words, has sprouted spontaneously in the cities. The young speak it; with the success of Pepsi’s slogan – Yeh dil maange more (This heart wants more) – the advertising industry has also come to love it; successful films have adopted it; television resounds to it, even conservative English dailies have not been able to resist its appeal. Hinglish, like Indipop, thumbs its nose at the purists. It represents a confident new comfort zone, in which people arte more concerned with communication than with ideological loyalties” (p. 145).
(See also Varma, Becoming Indian. The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity, Chapter 3, ‘Macauley’s Legacy’, pp. 64-87, for a lengthier treatment of the Hindi versus English story.)

In the same conference Proceedings, the prominent Hindi lexicologist, teacher, and scholar, Professor Rupert Snell expresses deep concern for the present and future of Hindi in ‘Hindi: Its threatened ecology and natural genius’.
“… I see a far more insidious process at work: thanks to the influence of English on Hindi, that would-be national language is year by year sacrificing its own heritage of articulacy, and becoming a stranger in its own land.” He also sees the “elegance of Hindi being eroded by making its own innate lexicon seem exotic, esoteric and eccentric even within its own geographic territory” (p. 23).

His sad conclusion is:
“We are encouraged within the pages of this book and elsewhere, to celebrate the new, zippy Hinglish as a fun thing that echoes the buzz of youth culture and all that. But the point I want to make is a more sombre one: the unattractiveness, for whatever reason, of the over-formal register of Hindi promoted in official circles has turned a long-term trickle of English words into a monsoon flood; the result is a dilution of the genius of Hindi, and irreversible damage to its ecological balance. Hindi aspires to be a national language but is in danger of becoming little more than a notional one as people turn to English or Hinglish in droves” (p. 36).
(Kothari, Rita and Snell, Rupert, eds. Chutnefying English. The Phenomenon of Hinglish, pp. 22-36).
(In 1990, Snell had published a ground-breaking study, ‘The Hidden Hand’, in which
he foreshadowed his present position. See Reference list.)

English is still the lingua franca of India and its de facto national language.

Although Hindi is officially supported and promoted by the Department of Official Language (DOL), financed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, an article by Rashmi Sadana in April 2012 suggested that progress by DOL is impeded by bureaucracy.

Hindi will continue to absorb foreign words and Hinglish will continue to grow and to be discussed and studied.


From the point of view of translation needs as well as for language teaching and learning, especially teaching or learning Hindi as a second language, more effort needs to be made to record the most common English loanwords (and phrases) which have been adopted into the Hindi language so that they can be listed in monolingual and bilingual Hindi (-English/ German,Chinese, etc,) dictionaries, because English/German./Chinese students need to know them!

Over the past two years of listening to and reading the Indian media and Internet sources, I have collected roughly 2000 English loanwords in Hindi, most of which are much more necessary to foreign learners than the linguistic gymnastics involved in ‘performing’ in Hinglish, which is more suited to bilinguals. Given the size of the loanword phenomenon, my glossary should be taken as a (large) sample only.

The collection will be available shortly, to be sent by email, as a pdf document, to those students who wish to consult it for their personal use. (@


Collins, Larry and Lapierre, Dominique, Freedom at Midnight.
Das, Gurcharan:
India Unbound. The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age, New York, Anchor Books, 2002.
‘Inglish as She’s Spoke’, Outlook India, 2 May 2005.
Giridharadas, Anand, India Calling. An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, USA, Times Books, 2011.)
Keay, John, India. A History. Revised and enlarged edition, NY Grove Press, 2010.

Kothari, Rita. Translating India. The Cultural Politics of English. New Delhi: Foundation Books (Cambridge University Press India), Rev. ed. 2011.
(An excellent study of the publishing of translations of Indian works in India and the recent burgeoning and increased academic interest in Translation Indian Universities. It includes a survey of the perennial English and Hindi questions in Chapter 3, ‘The Two Worlds Theory’, pp. 26-35.)

Kothari, Rita and Snell, Rupert, eds. Chutnefying English. The Phenomenon of Hinglish, New Delhi, Penguin, 2011.
(The results of reporting the 2009 conference.
The collection of papers and discussions offers a plethora of views on Hinglish, its nature and recent impact. It also draws attention to the influence of the media, including Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV, etc. This, along with the Internet and text messaging, all points to major urban usage of hybridised Hinglish by young people, who are in a majority in India.

The sociolinguistic paper by Professor G.J.V Prasad (‘Tamil, Hindi, English: The New Ménage à Trois’, pp. 141-160) is full of valuable insights into the complex state of multiple language use in contemporary India, with special reference to the author’s personal multilingual experiences and the nature of Indian Englishes, which vary according to linguistic areas, as illustrated with reference to Indian English literature.

In response to his conference brief, and as a Tamilian, Prasad’s major focus here is, correctly, on the ‘anglicization of Tamil’. The anglicisation of the Hindi language and its potential consequences may turn out to have been the elephant in the room at that gathering.)

Misra, Maria, Vishnu’s Crowded Temple, p. 289. London, Penguin, 2008.
Sadana, Rashmi, ‘How we live multilingually and what this says about our language and literature’,
Snell, Rupert, ‘The Hidden Hand: English Lexis, Syntax and Idiom as Determinants of Modern Hindi Usage’, South Asia Research, 1990, 10, 53-68.
(An important study, worth reprinting, in which Snell presents a cornucopia of detailed evidence on the massive influence of English on Hindi, leading to his Trojan horse analogy. The rapid growth of Hinglish over the last 15-20 years was to reinforce his thesis.)
Steel, Brian:
‘El Espanglish de Australia’,
‘Hindi Vocabulary for Lucky English-speaking Learners,
Tully, (Sir) Mark:
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1991.
India. The Road Ahead, London, Random House, 2011.
(esp. pp. 176-199: ‘The English Raj’)
Varma, Pavan K.:
The Great Indian Middle Class, Revised ed., New Delhi, Penguin, 2007 [1998]
Being Indian, London, Arrow Books, 2006 [2004].
Becoming Indian. The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity, New Delhi, Allen Lane, 2010
(Chapters 2 – ‘The Imperishable Empire’ – and 3 – ‘Macaulay’s Legacy’, pp. 26-87.)

Note: For more examples of information on loans, Hinglish, code-switching and code-mixing, see:
Baldauf, Scott, ‘A Hindi-English Jumble, spoken by 350 million’, The Christian Science Monitor, 23 November 2004.
Borowiak, Tomasz, ‘Mixed Conjunct Verbs And Other Manifestations of Hindi Englishization’,

Click to access Borowiak_INVELING15.pdf

Selvi, L. Thillai, ‘Code-Mixing in Hindi: A Study’,

Click to access hindi%20oct-dec-11.pdf

Contemporary India. Basic Sources of Information. 2. New Books by Patrick French and Anand Giridharadas.

31 January 2011

Two more very recent valuable contributions to a wider understanding of contemporary India are briefly outlined and recommended below.

Anand Giridharadas, India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, Times Books, USA [and Black Inc, Australia], 2011. ISBN 9781863955164

This is a valuable book by the son of Indian immigrants to USA. Giridharadas relates how the incomparable combination of an Indian background, frequent visits to India, and a thoroughly American upbringing and education led to his appointment as the first Bombay correspondent for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune between 2005 and 2009.

India Calling presents the fruits of his keen observation, insight and analysis of Indian realities and the changes that have been happening for the past two decades.

Proof of Giridharadas’s originality and the importance and intimacy of this picture of contemporary India is to be found in the (priceless) recommendations by three eminent writers and scholars which adorn the book’s covers:

Professor Amartya Sen
“One of the finest analyses of contemporary India. This is an engrossing and acutely observed appreciation of a country that is at once old and new – an enormously readable book in which everyone, at home in India or abroad, will find something distinctive, and altogether challenging.”

William Dalrymple
“A memorable debut, full of insights and diversion.”

Edward Luce
“Savvy and often moving, India Calling is for those who prefer the view from the ground than from thirty thousand feet.”

A must for Indiaphiles and for the growing number of India watchers.

Patrick French, India: a Portrait, Allen Lane, 2010. ISBN 9781846142147
[Due for publication by Random House later in 2011]

Patrick French’s writing career has already produced several important books, on the explorer Francis Younghusband (1994), India’s Independence (1997), Tibet (2003) and V.S. Naipaul (2008). The first two of these were awarded prizes and also attracted some polemical attention.

French’s latest work, based on extensive research and recent travels aims to portray the everyday contradictions found in India and to offer background to explain why India is as it is today. As proof of the author’s reputation, many reviews have already been published, among them David Gilmour’s (‘All these Indias’) in The Spectator (19 January 2011) and an anonymous review in The Economist (22 January 2011), ‘A colourful depiction of momentous times in a giant country’, in which the reviewer, although positive about the new book, makes the following criticism: “While presenting few new ideas, Mr French has a sometimes surprising tendency to lay claim to established ones. That Western power will be diminished in relative terms by Asia’s rise, that Indian politics is becoming ever more dynastic and that the country’s Hindu nationalists need to freshen up on their manifesto are all commonplace. Mr French suggests them as insights.”

Although this point needs examining, novelist Aravind Adiga’s review in The Observer (16 January 2011) seems altogether over the top and will not prevent me from buying a copy of French’s interesting-looking book.

“To write well about India, however, one needs more than just affection; and what is missing in this book is evidence, so present in A Million Mutinies Now [by V.S.Naipaul], of a struggle to understand India and one’s own place in it. French never gets much beyond the glib assertion in his preface that the new, cool India is the “world’s default setting for the future” …”

Adiga’s radiator then boils over:
“And this is the main problem with the book: if there is some crisp writing in it, there is not a scintilla of original thinking. VS Naipaul managed to combine a love of Indians with a healthy contempt for the nation’s mostly mediocre intelligentsia; this is something French fails to do. Everything in here is a rehash of the vapid, vaguely liberal orthodoxy that dominates so much of academia in India.”

Why not give Patrick French the benefit of the doubt and visit his website?

Or listen to his 2-minute introduction to his book here.