Saturday, 17 November 2007


Xenophobia: an irrational, though sometimes justified, fear of foreigners.

Everyone is a xenophobe, whether they'd like to admit it or not. It is a common affliction, and mainly owes its popularity to the fact that every culture thinks every other culture is queer, impractical, or just plain weird. Certainly, all cultures have their own oddities, the
tie being a case in point. No one except those who wear them on a daily basis (and not even all of those) think they are useful, but they are still used to denote status and rank (and in some cases, extreme poshness). Indians have language. If you pick out any six Indians at random, five of them will be speaking different languages (none of which will be English) and the sixth will be able to speak all five (and English). The English have the idea of saying please and thank you, especially when they don’t mean it. This idea has spilt over into the third world, where whenever you call anyone, you have to endure at least five minutes of ‘Please hold the line’ first. It is now amazingly easy to tick off any person in Europe, simply by not adding please to the end of your sentence. It is even easier to appear extremely shallow in India, by doing the exact opposite.
And the accents. Bad enough that there is an English accent. Worse that there are countless amounts of international English accents. But the worst is that each country has its own set of individual English accents, making it impossible to understand unless you've grown up there, or happen to watch a lot of that country's English TV (which is the only reason I am able to understand English at all).
To everyone else, there is just an Indian accent. But to Indians, there are many distinct (Indian) dialects of English, each with their own list of Indian words that are allowed in.
Another distinct feature is the teaching method. In India, if you don't do your homework, you are shouted at for at least fifteen minutes, thirty if the teacher doesn't like you. But whenever you give it in, it is always marked, though usually to record that you got a zero on it. In England, though, teachers actually say (and actually mean) 'Give the homework in by this date, or I won't mark it'. And they use the 'dark sarcasm' that I first heard in that Pink Floyd song, that I've understood only now. The way of shouting at a pupil without raising your voice, while appearing at ease, while smiling.
But if there is one thing that I still can't get over, one thing about England that I really, really think is worth moving three thousand miles, it would be the sunset. The colour of the sky at 4.00 in the afternoon is just indescribable, and it is something that makes me feel slightly better when I come home from school (Well, until the sun starts setting at 3 o'clock, anyway. Once that starts happening, I'll probably be distracted at around 2.45 every day, and I'm sure my work will suffer or something).
To quote Neil Gaiman, an author whose works I like, ' Y'know, most every night it's a bloody beaut. And every night its different. And I think, any god who can do sunsets like that, a different one every night... well, you've got to respect the old bastard, haven't you?'

No comments: