How not to speak English..!

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION -

SOME three decades ago, I of ten heard the sound of laugh ter surg­ing up my stair­case in quick stac­cato bursts and knew friend Vinay Sethi had not just cracked a joke but was laugh­ing at it him­self!

He had to laugh be­cause like canned laugh­ter dur­ing a TV com­edy, most did not know when to laugh. Be­ing poker faced and crack­ing a joke in our coun­try doesn’t work. The joke doesn’t crack! No­body laughs, its of­ten mis­un­der­stood and so to get peo­ple to know it’s a joke you got to laugh your­self, and this I think my friend Vinay had per­fected. His laugh­ter was in­fec­tious and within a few sec­onds I heard oth­ers laugh too.

But you can’t keep pro­vok­ing oth­ers to laugh all the time, and so I wasn’t too sur­prised to find Vinay at my doorstep, invit­ing me over for the re­lease of his book, “How Not to speak English!”

It was one of the best books I’ve read on how English should not be spo­ken! Mr Sethi did not start by telling us mor­tals from some lofty height about the grandeur of the language he’d adopted and now mas­tered but in­stead sim­ply and ef­fec­tively moved the reader through his pages by speak­ing about mis­takes we so com­monly make while us­ing the language.

Nowhere did I hear him preach­ing, nor chid­ing, but gen­tly lead­ing, ex­plain­ing not cor­rect­ing, show­ing simple meth­ods he’d found worked for him.

I went for the book re­lease at a stately book­shop near Foun­tain in the city and found the venue of the launch packed, scores of them class­mates of Vinay and oth­ers he’d made as friends at col­lege in Xavier’s or his teach­ing years.

I won­dered whether they’d all read the book be­fore com­ing, be­cause this time as he held the au­di­ence spell­bound with his talk, I found them laugh­ing be­fore he did! I re­al­ize now af­ter three decades Vinay had found a so­lu­tion for his jokes, anec­dotes and very amus­ing con­ver­sa­tions, he’d writ­ten a book which made English­men out of ‘English is our sec­ond language’ In­di­ans and had lifted us into be­com­ing Gen­tle­men, Lords and Ladies of what was once the Queen’s fief­dom!

Very clever of you Vinay Sethi: In­stead of low­er­ing the qual­ity of your jokes, you raised us up, through yon book to un­der­stand your asides and mis­siles of laugh­ter you fire pok­er­faced!

Pick up a copy, ‘How Not to Speak English’ and you’ll never need canned laugh­ter again..! —Email:bob­s­ban­

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