S has been here since December and one of the most frequent questions he comes across from American/Non-East-Indian friends is how he gets to speak such good English! Sure, ignorance does prevail, but construing India to be a non-English speaking country is slightly unacceptable - considering the number of revenue generating working Indians and students out here. Sure, we owe them credit to this thought because a large percentage of Indians here are the world renowned GOLTIS. Now, that gives us a reason or two to understand why this misconception was born.
Golti: "Haaee. Whaat ees yuvar naam ra"
Mallu: "Halthy commooonicasion are yimbordant".
No offence meant, but most from these groups switch to their vernaculars and stick to their peers - this is the general feedback at S's workplace.
The other day when we were heading to Richmond from Atlanta, our co-passenger in the flight, Mr. Paul Woody, seemed rather amused that we spoke flawless English. He didn't seem to know where India was. He couldn't believe that we learned English in India.
P.W: "So which part of the world are you from?"
P.W: "And which part..."
Me: Drawing a blank - that's when I realise he doesn't know where India is.
"It's far east... near China"
P.W: "Ahhh ok. You speak real good English, how did you learn that!"
Me: I'm tempted to say, "Well if you have the Poms ruling you for decades, it sort of rubs on you", but then I resort to "We have a real good education system in India and I'm just an average speaker. You should listen to some of the people who are mindblowing."
P.W: "So where do you work here?"
Me: "I'm not allowed on work, I'm on a dependent visa."
P.W: "What a waste of talent! With that smile and personality and the way you talk, you should be in marketing!"
Flash! S thinks he's flirting. But then, he's an old man. So we thought he was one of those MLM guys, since he was asking S way too many questions about wanting to set up his own business. Then he reaches to his briefcase, fishes out a card, and to our relief, it said Certified Public Accountant.
Then the conversation drifted to his political views, and he seemed completely enthused with us. When we finally landed at Richmond he made me meet his family that was receiving him. In Tamil, we have a friendly phrase called "Reyil Snegidam", which denotes a friendship that commences in a train journey. This is our "Flight Snegidam" :)
The next time someone gets amused with Indians who speak good English, I should probably introduce them to some Arundati Roy, Anita Desai, Shashi Tharoor, and The Hindu!
Here's to a happy, scary and eerie Halloween.