Yes, I’m brown. Not one of Indian origin, but one who was born and brought up in India. And proudly one too. And one that accepts every stereotype with open arms. I talk loudly. I forget to say my P&Qs occasionally. I disappointed my parents by not being a doctor or an engineer or a chartered accountant. And of course, My kitchen smells like a spice bazaar in Morocco.
Oh, and I speak English. And I speak it well rather well, I’d say. My friends in India call me grammar nazi, and I love every single idiosyncrasy about the language.
But then I come to the west, and someone comes up to me and compliments me on how well I speak English. I know you probably don’t mean it otherwise, but you telling me that for someone whose ‘native’ language isn’t English, I manage quite well absolutely makes me cringe.
I cringe because I was taught the English alphabet at the age of 3, and my childhood walls had my name scribbled all over them, in English. And then I get reminded on how well I know a ‘foreign’ language.
I cringe because I grew up in a former British colony, and learnt the Queen’s English (I still have a genuine problem with colour being spelled color, and favour as favor… the list goes on). And then someone considers what I’ve been conditioned to for all my life (the English language in this case), a gifted talent.
I cringe because I can add immaculate grammar skills and almost always perfect spelling abilities to my resume. And then when you get astonished at me knowing the difference between their and they’re, I want to scream.
Oh, and if that weren’t enough,may I please take the opportunity to remind you that India today is the world’s second-largest English-speaking country(behind the US) – way more than the population of England!
I speak English, fluently. I understand English. And I think in English. Not exactly abandoning my love for the vernacular, but being very proud of the fact that I’m not American, or English, or Canadian or Australian, yet openly claim, embrace and engage in the language as mine, with a strong sense of pride, belonging and solidarity.
So, in conclusion, English is my language as much as as it is yours. Please come to terms with it.