Monday, November 29, 2004

Melvin Durai, humorist: Indian accents and airplane passengers

Via Sepiamutiny, I read a self-deprecating piece of satire by Melvin Durai about Indian accents. Certainly, Indian accents come in for a lot of ridicule. (Meanwhile, Colin Farrell's overrated incomprehensible mumbling is considered "sexy")


But I have two small objections. 1) Some of us actually like Indian accents! And, 2) there are different kinds of Indian accents, depending on what Indian language a person speaks primarily. Gujurati speakers speak English quite differently from Tamil speakers. Also, a person's class-background and education make a huge difference. The bottom line is, the  nasal/musical sounding Indian accent that many American comedians make fun of doesn't sound at all like most of the Indians-from-India I know.


You may or may not like Durai's piece on Indian accents (I'm not very fond of it). But at Durai's website you can find links to other columns he's written. Some are pretty funny. I like the following paragraph from this column on airplane security:


I'd like to draw your attention to the back of the plane, where you'll see that we have an Indian man flying with us today. Please do not panic. He has been through a special 16-hour security check. We even tested the oil in his hair. You'll be glad to know that it isn't flammable. Among the items we've confiscated from this man are two sharp pencils, one orange and a bottle of a caustic, tongue-burning substance that he claims is lemon pickle. Anyway, I just want you to know that this man will soon get up to use the restroom, escorted by three armed flight marshals. His activities in the restroom will be observed with 206 cameras, one for every bone in his body. He has been instructed to keep his hands raised above his head at all times, so you might not want to use the restroom after him.

Ah, the joys of Flying While Brown.


By the way, I met Melvin Durai a few years ago, when I gave a lecture on the history of Sikhs in America at a Sikh youth camp in Pennsylvania. (This was back in my "Sikh American pride" phase; I'm over it now.) He reported it for the local newspaper, and quoted me. I gave out a handout with information drawn from this UC Davis website.

No comments: