The Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad (MICA) recently organized a popular conference on the phenomenon known as Hinglish. According to conference organizer Rita Kotharu, “Hinglish has been around for some time now, but it tends to be dismissed as the preserve of those who know neither English nor Hindi well. It now deserves its due as the popular idiom, one that has helped us shed our colonial hangover and appears to be emerging as a sort of link language.”
As a kid in Delhi, at home I was told to speak only in Bengali, my mother tongue; and at school, we went through a period of nationalistic fervor during which we were told only to speak in Hindi, and later, only to speak in English (both efforts at policing failed-miserably). What happened was that we code switched all the time: I would use a mixture of Bengali and English at home; a mixture of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, English at school (depending on the context)-not counting the Sanskrit period, where we mouthed words from ancient texts, though I am not sure we could be said to be speaking the language. Linguistic purity was an abstraction, an imposed rule we rarely followed. Growing up in as multilingual a setting as I did, we had at our disposal a vast repertoire of vocabulary to draw from, and we capitalized on the unique linguistic affordances and possibilities of different languages; no amount of policing could hold us at bay.
Hinglish was our most favorite “language” to converse in. Not only was it cool to use Hinglish, it was just so much more convenient. While many people are not fluent in English in Delhi, people are certainly fluent in core English vocabulary that has been appropriated into Hindi, forming an easily understood and, from my perspective, glorious bridge-like medium.
Here are some of my personal favorites from (imo) iconic Hinglish ad campaigns:
Pepsi: ‘यह दिल माँगे more’, [The heart wants more]
Leher salted snacks: ‘‘क्या करें control नही होता’, [What do I do, I cannot control it.]
Close Up: ‘क्या आप Close Up करते हैं’, [Do you do close up?]
Fevistick: ‘No झिक झिक, No चिप चिप,’ [No (untranslatable) No sticky-feeling.]
Rotomac Fighter (pen): ‘क्योंकि Fighter हमेशा जीतता है!!’ [Because "fighter" always wins.]
The first Hinglish ad I remember is for Leher (lit. “wave”) Pepsi, made in the early 90s, which went with the line, “यह ही है Right Choice Baby, a-ha” [This is the right choice baby, uh huh.] That’s not only the first ever Hinglish ad I recall, it’s also the first use of “a-ha” (“uh huh”) I can remember on the Indian TV screen. Enjoy below.
Happy Republic Day to my fellow countrymen!