The Legend of Mehran

The incredible story of Sir, Alfred Mehran and the story behind the comma……

There is always some bright chap who would say, man, this guy has forgot his grammar, he put a comma after the Sir. The comma is at the right place and - but naturally, Maddy is going to tell you a story, which perhaps many of you would recognize, but would have no idea, that it is in reality based on reality, reality being an ‘unreal’ person called Sir, Alfred Mehran.

First I will break the initial suspense, for it is needless in this case. Remember the movie ‘Terminal’ played by Tom Hanks? Well, the character Viktor Navorski from the movie was loosely based on Sir, Alfred. But then who is Sir, Alfred? There lies the real story, and of course there is yet another story behind the story and possibly another behind that. A sad and interesting story, a story telling you what mankind has become and how some stuffy people sitting behind the desks of bureaucracy, people who have lost the feel of real life, dictate the lives of the ordinary, while loftily delivering complicated words of legalese.

Even after so many decades of travelling and living in a number of countries, I feel a twinge of anxiety when I have to stand in an immigration officer’s line, waiting for his questions and deliberations. Not that there is anything to worry, but it is the inane feeling that he has no right to decide what I should be doing, that this world belongs to everybody. But let us get to the story of Sir, Alfred. For that we first go to the oilfields of Persia, and just around the turn of the 20th century, 1908 to be precise when oil was discovered in the Masjid Sulieman area by a bloke called William Knox Darcy. Thus was formed the Anglo Persian Oil company (which later on became the AIOC and finally formed what we know as BP these days) and this was where Abdul Karim worked as a physician. After many years of working there, Karim retired and moved to Tehran. He died in 1967 when his son Mehran Karimi nasseri was just 22 years old, a sensitive young lad.

And now we go to Paris to meet our man. Charles De Gaulle was the first French president, the general who fought the Germans and took France to its modern path. Well, the grateful French named their ultra modern Roissy airport in Paris after him, one that occupied all of 12.5 square miles, a city by itself. Paul Andreu built the Terminal 1 on an avant garde circular design, but it was certainly not for the stay of one eccentric gentleman, who chose to make it his home for all of 18 years. A sthey explain, the first terminal, designed by Paul Andreu, was built in the image of an octopus. It consists of a circular central part dedicated to the home for travelers, placed in the middle of tarmac, with eight satellites. It is in terminal one that our man lived. Here he became somebody, famous, a celebrity…and eventually a man lost…the man by the Bye-Bye bar, on the red bench with the five Lufthansa boxes….

Sir Alfred sits in the basement shopping mall area of the circular terminal One Charles De gaulle airport on a red bench with a white Formica table in front of him. Beside him are the 5 Lufthansa boxes filled with odds and ends (my news papers and Time magazines – says Mehran) and his briefcases. Mehran is worried about security and leaves his seat only briefly, he does not want to lose his belongings. He wakes up early at 5AM, showers and uses the bathrooms before they fill up. For food he usually has French fries from MacDonald’s, he likes them better than the ones from the Burger king, which used to be the first fast food restaurant nearby, the place where the French fry machine broke down often. Sometimes he has fish filet or the Mc Chicken, but he likes the fish. That is all he can afford and he has eaten the same kind of food for the last 16 years. Yes, my friend, believe it or not, Alfred has been at the same seat and same location in the airport for the last 16 years.

Many would feel I am fibbing, it is not practically possible, and the airport should have thrown him out into the street or sent him back to Iran. But then there would be no story right? Many would shudder, yuck eating fries and burgers for 16 years and drinking espresso? Well, that is also true and Mehran says that he is perhaps the best long standing and paying customer that McDonalds ever had. So what did he do at the airport? Just sit there? Where did he sleep? On the red bench? Yes,that is precisely what he did if not reading or talking to media. Come on, there must be a story to all this…what is it?

So let us follow the vein of the story as narrated by Mehran. Life is fine in Tehran till the day Mehran discovers that his father is terminally afflicted by cancer. Soon he dies and immediately thereafter, his mother and uncle call him to give him the worst news of his life. His mother says “You are not my son, your father is your father, but I am not your mother. Your mother was a Scottish Nurse where Karim worked and you are a result of their affair. To avoid disgrace and the repercussions of Sharia law, such as stoning an adulteress, the girl left back for Britain after delivering you and you are thus with us”.

Mehran is devastated. His mother and family have virtually disowned him after this event and he threatens to go to court. The family comes up with a compromise. Mehran has to go to Bradford in UK for studies and they would pay his bills. Mehran should not come back to Iran. Mehran leaves for Bradford, and takes up Yugoslav economic studies in Bradford. During this time, revolution is brewing in Tehran and people are disillusioned with the Shah. One day there is some kind of an anti Shah demonstration which Mehran strays into, but that day is quickly gone. In the meantime, the payments from home cease and Mehran has no money to continue his studies. He decides to go back to Tehran and find out what is choking the supply line. Soon after he lands in the airport, he is arrested by the dreaded secret police Savak and imprisoned for a long time and frequently tortured because the Savak has seen him and photographed his participation in the anti Shah demonstration.

As Mehran wallows in the cold Tehran jails, the revolution of the late 70’s is peaking. Late sometime in 1975, Mehran is bundled into a plane with exit papers (no passport) and sent off to Britain by the Iranians with a clear warning, never return to Iran. It appears that his family finally paid for his release. Obviously the British did not give him leave to remain and the next few years were spent wandering around Britain & Germany, stateless, document less, without friends and acquaintances and with no money. His trips took him to railway stations and bus stops and shelters in Berlin, Netherlands and Yugoslavia. All of them refuse asylum to the wandering nomad and finally in 1981, Brussels agrees to provide him a refugee status. There he lives for six years

The memory of his Scottish mother troubles him and he recalls that the area of Masjid Soleiman was actually British territory. So he was born in British soil and to a British parent. Why should he be a stateless refugee? Then Nasseri met a man who knew his real mother. He couldn't remember if her name was Simon or Simone, but he said she was a British nurse who lived in Glasgow'.” Nasseri decided to track her down. When he passed through customs at Ostende, he had his travel documents stamped. He thought he was on British soil and posted all his papers back to Belgium. It was an act of folly he was to regret for the rest of his life.

He is sent back by the British over and over again, and he goes to De Gaulle airport. And it was after all these futile attempts of entering Britain by sea that Mehran started working the airports. But that did not help either. All his money was gone, and after the British returned him finally, Mehran reached the Charles De Gaulle airport. The immigration officials of France deposited him in terminal one.

And there he remained for the next 16 years….eating French fries, fish o filet and drinking coffee. First it was the burger king, they moved to terminal two and their position was taken by the McDonalds. Mehran liked that, for their fries were better and he could get fish. In the meantime, he made little money as a Farsi translator in the airport, as a staff of the French secret service translating Farsi telephone interceptions during the gulf war. He also got food coupons from airport workers and aircraft staff. He was a simple man, leading a simple life and remaining a harmless fixture of the airport. His one friend was Dr Bargain, the airport doctor. People started noticing him, so also journalists and TV persona. In between he was arrested thrice and imprisoned, and each time he got back to Terminal one. A prominent human rights lawyer Mr. Christian Bourguet represented Mehran and got him free each time. The courts did not know what to do, France wanted a resolution, Belgium said that Mehran had to come and pick up his refugee papers (which he had mailed them so many years ago). France could not let him go because he had no papers. The stalemate continued for eight years. TV programs and articles were written, the fame of Mehran was growing and both Belgium and France resented the bad press.

Alfred became even more famous and he could now be seen at the same seat but often talking to even more journalists and TV anchors. By now he was Sir, Alfred and continued his frequent written salvos with the British immigration authorities. But they had no reason to accept him, for he could not prove his parentage. The French wanted to get the problem of terminal 1 resolved; it had been close to 10 years now after Alfred got to De Gaulle. The Belgians were seen as silly goats, not sending the original papers by courier to France to resolve the matter. Alfred had no interest in going back to Iran and being connected to Iran in anyway, they had thrown him out, and that he could not forgive. His family and country had disowned him. His mother’s country did not want him. So what was he? Who was he?

As the bureaucracies of the French, British and Belgian governments argued the case back and forth, the fragile mental state of the person leading his life in the noisy and bright airport, which was his home for the last 10 years, was becoming even more precarious. Barrister Bourguet continued the fight for his client. Finally good news was at hand. The exasperated Belgian authorities decided to deliver the old refugee papers to Alfred at Paris. With that Alfred could seek to stay in France and finally find a home.

But then, as we all know, life is never that simple. The papers reached Paris, and were ready for collection, but Alfred refused to accept to sign and accept them on two counts, one they were in the name of Mehran Karimi Nasseri of Iran. He maintained that he was not Iranian and that he was Sir Alfred Mehran, so it would not be legal to accept to continue life using the name on the refugee papers even if they were his old particulars.

It was during this time (1999-2004) that Steven Spielberg decided to make a movie based on this story. Tom Hanks was chosen and they filmed the story in JFK in a gigantic set. Spielberg also brought the rights of the Mehran story and paid Mehran an undisclosed amount, amounting to many hundreds of thousands of dollars Some said that they just remained un-encashed checks while other stated that these were deposited in the airport bank.

As Richard Johnson states - By refusing to sign, he was passing up his right to find a flat, find a job, and make a new life for himself in France. Bourguet does not understand Nasseri's reasoning. “Maybe he doesn't possess any reasoning. Maybe he really is going mad. I don't know.” But the money is starting to filter through from the Dreamworks option on Nasseri's story. The irony is that Nasseri, the man with no identity, has no bank account. So the rights cheques just sit in Bourguet's drawer.

Mr Bourguet and Dr Bargain continued to ask Mehran why he would not accept that he was from Iran even though everybody knew it. Mehran’s answer was even more astounding. He now said he was originally born in Sweden (the nurse delivered the baby surreptitiously outside the country?) and taken by submarine to Iran.

In the meanwhile, Terminal had been released; many people including myself enjoyed watching it though we had no clue that it was based on Sir, Alfred. Tom Hanks had by then got into the skin of his next character, Steven Spielberg had started his next research, the movie was well received, but Alfred Mehran was still in limbo. The Bye Bye bar outside which Alfred was parked had closed down and some other shop took its place. In the end, everybody left Sir Alfred to his plight, lost in his various theories. He continued to live in the airport until 2006, all of 18 years. He had a large amount of money but apparently used none of it. He kept hoping that Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg would send him a US green card so he could go and settle in USA. Britain ceased to interest him, but the fact that the legal system toyed with him or vice versa was the focal point of his fight with life.

In this long fight he lost his moorings, save the red seat of Terminal one, outside the Bye Bye bar. After all these years, that was the only constant, only reliable part of life for him and so he remained there, not understanding the vagaries of the cruel world outside any longer. He did not want freedom, he needed security and so he remained a fixture of terminal one till 2006. In the meantime his autobiography and many other books were published. One of those was ‘The terminal Man’ which I read in one sitting.

His life after 2006 is not too clear, for he fell ill in 2006 and was hospitalized. After his departure to the hospital, the authorities dismantled his sitting place, and he became a ward of the French Red Cross. Later he moved to a Paris shelter and he continues to live there. His bank account at the airport post office perhaps still has the money that Spielberg or DreamWorks paid him. Perhaps he never cashed the checks.

As BBC puts it - Eleven years after his journey began, Nasseri was showing all the signs of having become institutionalized like a long-term prisoner. Nasseri obviously felt secure in Terminal One and built up a unique relationship with staff. He was visited regularly by the onsite doctor and relied on the good wishes of staff and fellow travelers for food and drink. He did not, however, like to accept 'charity' and returned donated clothing to its source with a 'thanks, but no thanks'.

And so what is this? A story? A fable? A legend? A travesty to justice? A case of an institutionalized person? Whatever said, it is a remarkable story set in our times, unknown to many. I myself had transited Terminal One at De Gaulle a few times, but did not chance on the person.

But this was the story from the horse’s mouth. This is the oft stated legend of Mehran. What could be the cold reality behind the story that you read above? All the events that happened in the 18 years and thence are true, but what about the reasons that Alfred attributed to his sorry state? What happened in Iran? What about his Scottish mother? What about his studies in England and the torture by Savak? How come nobody from his past including his Scottish mother, contacted him during his stay in De Gaulle? To figure it all out, you have to read a marvelous article by Paul Berzceller in The Guardian. He spent a long time with Alfred filming another movie on him and many days tracking down the real story, behind the story. And this friends, is perhaps a gist of the real story of the man who lost his past.

He lived the present as Berzceller states - Despite outward appearances, Alfred lived a life of total self-sufficiency and order. He kept himself meticulously clean and groomed, using a nearby airport bathroom. He hung his freshly dry-cleaned clothes from the handle of a suitcase next to his bench. He always ate a MacDonald's egg and bacon croissant for breakfast and a McDonald's fish sandwich for dinner. (Perhaps one day McDonald's will have the wit to sign Alfred up for a celebrity endorsement.) He always left a tip. Alfred was not, to put it bluntly, a bum………..but what about his past?

It appears that he did have a real Iranian family and they knew about his travails. But they let him be..Ah, why? Was he always a bit of a crank? Perhaps…In fact his brother Cyrus was the one who took him to Bradford and paid for his studies, but Alfred dropped out one fine day. It also seems that Alfred’s encounter with the Savak was actually when he was a student in Tehran where he was simply questioned. All the stuff about jailing, the trip to Tehran from UK, the loss of his Iranian passport and the torture was imaginary. But the Savak incident perhaps tripped his mind, for he refers to this imaginary Savak imprisonment incident often. Later he took to wandering around Europe and finally landed up at De Gaulle, according to Cyrus. Why did he take this route? His mother confirmed that she was his mother and so the Scottish mother story was perhaps not quite right. So what is all this? Did he consider himself a failure and concoct a special form of protest with his remaining life? Why did an intelligent man decide to become homeless? Perhaps there is yet another story behind the story which was behind yet another story of Sir, Alfred Mehran… we will hear about another day…

Christian Bourguet continues to represent asylum cases. Dr Philippe Bargain continues as doctor at the De Gaulle airport. Before he left Alfred answered thus to a question. "Many things have changed." "But you're still here, Alfred, right? You're still at the airport." "Yes," he replied, carefully grooming his moustache. "One of the airport's passengers, I'm always a passenger. If I go, I come back again. I'm not wandering. I don't wander adding "I am famous now". Others opine thus - Sir Alfred, you understand, is ashamed to be Iranian. All Iranian refugees, on some level, share this guilt. Sir Alfred wants to be someone else, and of any other nationality, never an Iranian refugee. Why did Alfred always think that the British were responsible for his plight? He states that since the British conferred statelessness on him (the immigration department called him apatride in official correspondence), it is their responsibility to correct it. This is the reason why he never accepted Belgian or French residence during his stay in the airport. But the British as you can see never bought the argument.

How about the comma? Well, the coma after the sir is not a typo, but is part of the title adopted by Nassiri from a letter received from British immigration. I guess the comma after the sir also keeps it legal for he was never knighted. 


The terminal man – Sir Alfred Mehran by Andrew Donkin
Man in a suitcase – Richard Johnson
The man who lost his past – Paul Berczeller
Waiting for an identity – John Menick
Sleeping with the terminal man – Greg Lindsay

Update: Nov 13th 2022 - BBC reports - Despite being granted refugee status and the right to remain in France in 1999, he stayed at the airport until 2006, when he was taken to hospital to be treated for an illness. He then spent time living in a hostel using the money he had received for the film, French newspaper Libération reports. Mr Nasseri returned to the airport a few weeks ago, where he lived until he died, an airport official said. He was found with several thousand euros in his possession, the official added.

May his soul RIP

For those who want to see a video of the real Sir, Alfred Mehran and his place of stay, click play or this


Hinglish – a Biryani of sorts

I am afraid that I can never be as critical as Farrukh Dhondy and Binoo K John as they were in putting their points on Hinglish across in their fine writings, but then they are the established experts and I the novice, so I can perhaps get away with some latitude with this flippant penning of some thoughts. After a long stint abroad, when you go home on vacation you are naturally transported to a new literary world and as you listen to the very special Indian English, you marvel at its adaptation in India while at the same time, you listen to cranky desi judges tell aspiring singers that they must be true to their Hindi, Urdu or Malayalam diction while singing songs. But then we are a land of contradictions anyway.

Nothing like Bangalore or Bombay for Hinglish, for that is where the new ‘wordly’ inventions come up on a regular pace..though these days it is as fast as Yadav’s bowling…each year we hear something new, not to mention the abbreviations used in SMS..Which I have completely given up on. We now have a sizeable Indian group at office and we get together every Friday afternoon and go to eat at some non desi place; I enjoy those outings where we become somewhat uninhibited after a rough week. But the best is to sit back and listen and hear how our English changes to the Desi version, a lit bit of non grammatical pidgin here and there…

It is something like the mixture of spices in a good Biryani, I had written some on those matters a while back, (check here - those interested) and it is said that in one version - Mumtaz, wife of Shah Jahan, not happy with the nutrition level of what was served to the army invented this dish with rice, meat and spices as a "complete meal", a mixture of sorts, to feed them, as a kind of fast food with Persian, Arabic and Indian flavors. But let us not hover on this aspect too long, or the taste buds will protest..
All this talk about biryani reminded me of our visit the other day at Cholanadu, a new restaurant in town, great food and ambience, this hot place in town served us a wicked Madurai mutton biryani. I wanted to give the others a lecture on Mutton there, but the ambience was not right for my rather long winded explanations, so I saved it for today. I was also reminded of Dhondy’s reference to Mutton – Now we all know that Mutton in India means goat meat and Indians generally stay away from sheep and lamb meat. But many do not know that Mutton in reality has nothing to do with goat. The definition goes as follows - meat of a sheep in its first year is lamb; that of a juvenile sheep older than one year is hogget; and the meat of an adult sheep is mutton. For a slightly more gory definition - Mutton is a female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear.The real word for goat meat is chevon, but how come it was never used in the SE Asia? Well, they never got sheep in India and Brits of course created the make believe world of theirs in India where they called Chevon as mutton. But then I was wondering – Madurai Chevon Biryani?? I am not sure if it would be a hit. So here the word origin can be attributed to the people who used it wrongly, not the hapless desi coolie or desi cook at the bungalow. But then again if in England you hear somebody say ‘that is a ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ ‘ it has nothing to do with sheep, but is all about a woman who tries to make herself look younger by wearing clothes designed for young people..Here it is perhaps what a cougar on the prowl does…

Getting back to those funny words, rubber is king. This ever popular rubber usage still comes often to my lips – ‘hey, pass the rubber man’ and the guys gives you a look and wonders what I am planning in the middle of office hours. A classic case of using the correct usage for eraser but the listener in this case thinks colloquial and feels you are wrong. Well did you know that people used bread chunks to erase or lighten pencil marks till Ed Naime tried out a piece of rubber and shouted ‘eureka’..

How about the classic word ‘flat’ mixed up with the words condominium and apartment – For us it is very simple to understand the difference between the typical Indian dwellings, it is hut, flat and house…of course there are other alternatives like chawl, bungalow, row house and so on, but let us stick to the flat. The definitions are interesting for the uninitiated -you own a condominium which is a flat in a building, whereas you rent an apartment in an apartment complex. An apartment is always rented, never owned. But for the person who lives in one of these multi unit buildings, both are flats, howdya like that? Try asking a realtor in USA (a broker as we say in Hinglish) for a flat and you will see a look akin to an Arab's expression seeing a glacier..

The other day my colleague was telling me about his friend’s daughter “are yaar, pass kiya? Of course, Cent percent mila”. Don’t try saying that to an American, they will not have a clue. Well, the origins are interesting, You see, percent is per 100 and cent means 100th of a pound. So 100/100 became Cent percent. But then, perhaps when you are in US, you should say penny per penny or penny’s percent. Now here is when my fertile brain got thinking and I decided, perhaps not a good idea, the heavy accented desi saying penny would evoke even more problems. Just imagine an Indian in shop saying ‘I want rubber, have 10 pennies’, definitely better to stick to ‘cent percent’.

I met a new engineer during lunch the other Friday, she had passed out in 2002 (what happened? Was she sick?) aha! what a usage! It is so understandable for us, ‘you are which batch? 82 yah, I passed out in 82 from NIT’…the American who strays to the table must be thinking, and how did they revive him? With cold water? Time-pass, time waste, interesting usages I suppose. You know, when I first hit Bombay and had to endure the daily suburban train rides, I would see this little boy – the peanut vendor shouting ‘time pass… time pass …singana….’and I would wonder, what a usage ‘time pass’ for peanuts…but then this is used in many circumstances by us..hey what’s your plan? Have to go for a picture, time pass karna hai…similarly if it is a bad picture or bad party, it is ‘time waste’…explains the situation pretty well in two words, if you ask me.

Sometimes, you come across the term Himalayan blunder on the front pages relating to some decisions by the government. It is not heard so often, and as one can imagine, it is used to explain a colossal error or mistake. Perhaps this became popular after the India China 62 debacle and the story came out in Dalvi’s book ‘Himalayan blunder’, it is typically used in connection with Indian politics and is understood only by Indians. But nothing like Specs – this is indeed tricky for specs are spectacles or eyewear or glasses for Indians, but is also specifications when used in the office. So one has to be careful in its usage today, I suppose. Like pants means trousers in India and trousers could be shorts whereas shorts in Kerala is knickers!!.

You fondly remember the Boss usage from India, typically a form of address for your friend, “Boss what’s up?”…try using that here, it would be a shocker. But then again we come from a place where everybody a decade older to you is your uncle (ungil) or aunty (aandie), though the aunty has different connotations these days (refer cougar previously mentioned).

Every time I have to mention the spare tire of the car, I remember both Stepney & Dickie – not people as we know. Always brings a smile to my face…no, Stepney is not Stephanie misspelled, but the usage for a spare tire, just like Dickie means boot or trunk of the car. So when somebody says Stepney is in the Dickie…don’t start trying to make the wrong sense out of it. But then again did you know that the spare tire got its name Stepney after the English company that started offering spare tires? The company was Stepney iron mongers in Wales!! I better not explain dickey in more detail here.

There are so many of those words and usages signifying bodily acts. Look at the oft mentioned ‘Loose motion’. You will hear it all the time in India and it has nothing to do with the movement that you feel when in vehicles and the such, but it is what you would have after an upset stomach…motion and loose motion…though the former is not so common after the introduction of the very popular sh%*t, further popularized by some film actors. A fast desi group conversation can bring up interesting usages like ‘What is your Good name?’ or ‘Give me a ring yaar’…can your name be bad? And the latter does not have anything to do with Valentines and wedding rings, but deals with keeping in touch over the telephone…remember the term ‘First class’ – yes, the food was first class..Now can there be second class and third class food?

I guess one of the best mediums where Hinglish is used beautifully is in those Amul ad’s. Now not many other than desis would appreciate that lovely little Amul butter girl, the utterly butterly (new word!) girl and her English blurbs that have become so famous in Bombay, I still remember the billboard where they would first come up, on Marine drive in Bombay..For those who would like to see samples, check this site out..

One can come up with so many, like eve teasing, line maroing (flirting), thrice (means third time in India, not usually used but correct archaic English), prepone (logically created opposite of postpone). An interesting Hinglish letter written by a train passenger was presented in one of my earliest blogs, take a look at that if you want a good laugh. But today we have so many non desi usages coming up which are quickly getting assimilated into desi lingo, like -----like…anyways… loser…dude…….and so many more…It is a changing world, a changing language…The other day I was watching a movie Quarantine 2, a macabre movie and learn a new word - smother meaning stepmother – did u know that?…

But then Jack Straw did not think or consider the mobility and development of languages when he decided that all Asian women coming to UK should be proficient in British English. Now what is standard British English? How many people speak it in the first place? I still remember, during my time there I found only a rare few Brits in office who could put together a good sentence in proper English without slang usages and using good grammar. I picked this interesting tidbit from the web - Demos, a think-tank that can justly claim to have wielded considerable influence on the early thinking and policy priorities of the 10-year-old Labour government soon after Tony Blair took power in 1997, says that Britain's attitude to English "is better suited to the days of the British Empire than the modern world."

Interesting right? Well, this development in languages is being studied in many universities. Harvard University terms this “code mixing,” a phenomenon in which distinct codes are combined within the sentence itself to create a hybrid languages such as “Spanglish” or “Hinglish.”The phenomenon of “Hinglish” has received a lot of attention lately from the Western media. A college curriculum explains - Media spotlight on “Hinglish” is itself an interesting phenomenon since the media in India has played a crucial role in popularizing this way of talking. Youth culture is also widely understood as a driving force, as is globalization itself in the form of consumerism. These factors converge in Indian print and TV advertising, which often uses Hinglish to construct Indians as youthful, happy consumers.

It is all pukka, actually and people have to learn the new and spicier additions compared to the old and staid versions. That is progression, I suppose. In India the very reason why we add these Indian bits to the English phrase is perhaps like adding tadka (seasoning) to curry, to give it that oomph..Without the tadka, the curry is OK, but not a great curry…

Binoo’s book ‘Entry from Backside only’ - is certainly a good read on Indian English, he introduces it thus

“Backsides have a frontal position in Indian-English. In cluttered, crowded alleys there can be seen the notice “Entry from the backside”, a usage not exactly meant as a come-hither line….’ From the early days of the Raj, the Indian version of English has been on a growth trajectory that has led to the evolution of what is, for all practical purposes, a language of its own. A hybrid form of English stalks the land, flaunting its illegitimacy, brashness and popularity. There can be no social advancement without the glittering sword of English in your hands. The rise of Indian-English runs parallel to tectonic changes in social aspirations. English, says the author, is the Porsche on the porch of the arriviste.

Chalo, OK then , I have hazaar things to do this Sunday, so am off… in conclusion, I am not sure if we can reach Dhondy’s and Cambridge university’s projection that in under 50 years the whole world will speak Indian English ( but there are over 350 million of them already) …but it would be fun to listen, I guess, none the less.. and I will enjoy the Tadka if I am around… But Farukh shares my point on Urdu, he must have also heard Javed Akhtar castigating the hapless singers of the music show, for his slightly ‘off’ Urdu pronunciation.

Other related articles and recommended reading
Urdu and its origins
Entry from backside only - Binoo K John
English and its Indian make over
The Ahmedpur train story
Those with higher literary interests can read a fine article by Bhaya Nair, Language and youth culture.
Apropos to Farrukh Dhondy’s article Cabbages & kings from Deccan Chronicle Nov12th 2011
One of these days I have to read Chutnifying English…