Wordly Matters

Having done my schooling in Trivandrum, I grew up speaking Manglish, a mixture of Malayalam and English. At school, my classmates and I invariably ended up giving all our English teachers a really hard time.  I remember how exasperated my high school English teacher, Mrs. Sheila Thomas,  would get if she came across a sentence like ‘The car is black in colour‘ while correcting our answer papers. I can still picture her screaming, “Isn’t it obvious that black is a colour, then why do you keep writing like this?”

Our physics teacher in eleventh grade, Narayanankutty sir, used to announce in class, “The last date for submitting your physics records is tomorrow.” And somebody in class would hopefully ask, “Tomorrow itself, sir?” At this point, Nakku sir (as he was fondly called) would chuckle to himself and say, “When I say tomorrow, I mean tomorrow. I don’t need to add the itself.” He had countless other Nakkuisms such as “You think entrance exams are tough? Wait till you get to college, then you’ll understand that the exit is harder than the entrance.” Another was, “As your Physics teacher, I cannot teach you what to do in the lab. Rather, I can only teach you what NOT to do. The rest is up to you.” Damn. I miss his classes and his weirdness.

When it comes to writing in English,  less is often more. To illustrate this, my father used to tell me a story when I was younger. A newspaper editor walks up to a fishmonger who has put up a sign that says ‘FRESH FISH SOLD HERE’ and says that the sign is extremely redundant. He goes on to explain,  ‘Isn’t it obvious that you’re selling fish here? So you can remove the HERE. And since it’s obvious that you’re not going to give away the fish for free, you might as well remove the SOLD.  Nobody would buy fish that’s rotten, so you can remove the FRESH as well. As for the FISH, you can take that down as well. It can be smelt from half a mile away.’ Wonderful story, ain’t it? It’s a perfect example of how we should not be obsessed with ‘wordly’ matters. Let’s be a little stingy from now on.

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