January 20, 2020
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As a TV-wallah in Britain, I'd close working relationships with the successive Secretaries of Information at the Indian High Commission, all first class professionals. One of them, a friend, had a very proper accent and an English idiom that came straight from P.G. Wodehouse, "Old chap" and "splendid", though generously peppered with "Farrukh, yaar, kaisey ho?" and other flattering emphases. One morning I had professional occasion to call this friend from my office. Here's how the conversation went:


"Farrukh!! Bloody good to hear from you, old chap. Busy, boy. The PM's here for the Commonwealth doo-dah. South African sanctions which India is sponsoring and Britain is opposing is at the top of the agenda...."

"That's what I called about. I must in all fairness tell you that today in peak time we've a documentary, secretly shot, claiming India is clandestinely breaking sanctions in several ways with South Africa." Silence at the end of the phone. Then: "Eh, shuddup yaar!" The veneer stripped by shock. It was pure Delhi University undergraduate-speak. It was a cry from the heart which said "I don't believe you, my friend, are doing this to me." But I was doing it to him and "shuddup" was leniency itself. Shut up, in this context, isn't rude as it is in all contexts in English. It merely means "I don't believe you" or "this cannot be true!" It's exclusively Indian in origin and usage, and even though it is, in form, an instruction, enclosed between 'Eh' and 'yaar' it is somehow more friendly than the cold British equivalent: "You've got to be joking!" X-ji is now an ambassador and I hope we are still friends.

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