Vote for an Indian English word

Narendra Modi may seek to prepone the elections to the 18th Lok Sabha

English is a shameless language; it borrows from any language to get its vocabulary bloated. Several dozen words have been ‘looted’ from Indian tongues and paraded before the world as English—chappal, pyjamas, ginger, jungle, juggernaut, loot, bandicoot, curry and mulagatawny, to name a few. Then there are phrases like koi hai, which was once heard in planters’ clubs and officers’ messes and got morphed into a noun, but has gone out of use along with the Somerset Light Infantry.

Noun, yes; it’s mostly nouns that have been accepted into the king’s tongue. When it comes to verbs, English purists act snooty. Why else are they still not accepting ‘prepone’, a fine verb we thought could be administered as an antidote to the ‘postponing’ poison that has entered our babu-ruled lives? We developed the word in our great middle-class laboratory so to avoid the delays of our postponement culture in the government and the bureaucracy. We offered it free to the English-speaking world, but they have been spurning it as an ‘ugly Indianism’.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

Indeed, the Thiruvananthapuram MP, our knight in shining English armour, made a strong case for it four years ago. In the end, he was assured by the makers of the Oxford English Dictionary that the word had long been admitted into its hallowed portals. But it remains there, as an Indian artefact in the museum portal, and hardly used in Blighty or elsewhere in the English-speaking world. Why am I saying all this? Simple! Of late we have been hearing this Indian English word in our corridors of power and intrigue—that, boosted by the tailwind that thrust the BJP to power in the recent three assembly polls, Narendra Modi may seek to prepone the elections to the 18th Lok Sabha.

The last general election was notified on March 10, 2019, the polls held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, and the results announced on May 23. That leaves another nearly two months for the whole rigmarole to start. But birds from Deendayal Upadhyay Marg say that Modi might advance—oops, prepone—the whole process by a month. He would have the two houses summoned on January 31 and get the president to address the houses, the interim budget presented on February 1, get all of the stuff voted before February 9, and tell the MPs to go back to their ‘seats’.

Look at the pluses of going a month early. The triumphal ride of the Modi chariot in the three Hindi-speaking states, from where the party has to win 65 seats, is still fresh in voter memory. Two, so is the Vishwa Guru image that he projected during the G20 jamboree. Three, J.P. Nadda’s party machinery is ready for battle with all systems in place, the pivot corps in the northern states ready to defend, and the strike corps in other theatres ready to shock and awe the enemy. Four, the Jai Shri Ram chants that are casting a spell of devotion across Bharatvarsh could be rendered into slogans for votes in the next few weeks. Five, the INDIAns are still haggling over seats and why should they get time to settle their bargains and firm up their seats?

Six, and most important—the principal enemy commander is still on a cross-country jodo drive from the distant marches. Last heard, the gent is planning to get back by March 20 by which time, the whole country would have gone half way into the campaign.

But why should Modi do it at all, if he thinks he can win even one month later? As Harold Wilson said, “a week is a long time in politics;” a month is still longer. You never know, whether the tailwind could turn into a headwind in a month.