True! Some of us do pronounce ‘cough’ as ‘cuff’
(And it strangles our throats a wee bit),
While others rhyme ‘god’ with ‘ode’
(But no, we really don’t find it odd).
We sometimes ‘ban’ such things as ‘vans’,
And round out the words ‘love’ and ‘dove’,
Cajoling ‘V’ to become the ‘W’ in we!
We also ‘yescape’ boring ‘filims’,
Exiting well before the ‘inter-well’;
And reply with a firm ‘es’,
When someone ‘aks’ us if that’s what we did!
Down South, we love our consonants hard
(And our summer-given spices hot),
So ‘three’ is seldom mistaken for ‘free’
(Unless our fricatives wish to pay, as they do at times,
Counterfeit homage to colonial claustrophobia).
Up North and elsewhere,
Some of us like an extra vowel –
So you might hear us complain
About our children’s ‘ischools’–
And dislike silent consonants,
So ‘Iron Man’ becomes ‘I-run-Man’!
In the West
(Where the resilience of the country’s trade
Mingles with the resonant romances of the Arabian Sea)
You may hear some of us making ‘deci-juns’,
‘Be-kiss’ it is fun
(And not because it rhymes with ‘sons’).
In the North-East
(Where clouds and the snow-clad peaks of mountains
Make silent, plaintive music)
We speak English-us pulsating with the tonal rhythms
Pulsing through the winds of the Orient;
Our words at times spoken quicker
Than a misty veil is drawn over the Kanchenjunga.
Many of us speak in more than one tongue,
And our English is – our Englishes are –
But an adopted and unapologetic expression
Of our hearts’ songs:
It sings – they hum – of the climes we inhabit
(Hark! The breath in our English vowels
From the winds of our long coasts);
Has borrowed from our kitchens
(‘Chutney’ auto-corrects to ‘gurney’ no more);
And remains yet clear, for the most part,
Within and beyond the bounds of home.
What is there to regret then, what to change,
As English recompenses us with its mind;
While we renew it with our hearts
And every new pair of lungs
That takes it in and breathes it out?