"And what would your good name be, sir?" asked the greeter, with the Dickensian formality that only India has preserved.
So begins writer Benjamin MacIntyre's visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival (read it all here), an event that's been held the last six years to relish in and appreciate the colorful wordplay, rhyming, and dose of formality that characterizes Indian English, and makes it its own distinct entity from the its British source. A few examples:
Unconstrained by received pronunciation, Indian-English delights in wordplay and internal rhyming, eliding words, inventing new ones, but also retaining the elaborate, grammatically correct constructions of an earlier age. A hair-washing is a "headbath"; when a politician scrambles from one place to another, he is "airdashing"; sexual harassment is "eve-teasing."
Couples without children are "issueless", and when a meeting is brought forward, it is "preponed", the opposite of postponed.
The Indian love of English words is on daily display in the crime reporting of Indian newspapers, where "sleuths nab evildoers" or "miscreants abscond" after committing "dastardly deeds."
Spring a year ago, I got to spend a whole semester thinking a lot about India, Pakistan, and larger South Asia, and grew to appreciate the charming quirks and vast diversity of the area even more than I had before. (There's at least one blog about that, here.) The whole concept of a taxi wallah or a chai wallah is stunningly sensible: "wallah" means "someone who does this" or "a person from here," so you might call me an Atlanta wallah. Saves a lot of syllables, and characteristically delightful Indian English. Last spring, it made my job as a mall sales associate a little easier, being instead a retail wallah.