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An old email in a group I participate in, had this woman write something really wonderful, in less than perfect English. Frankly, I had no problem with it, but when people praised her, this is what she wrote:

Well I'm a bit shy and my english is also not so good and to add to it I get very little time for mails so I may not respond frequently but I do catch up whenever I get time.

And my response:

I can understand the time bit, but don't worry about language. Its communication that counts. I loved chatting with an Israeli, whose English was like "Chai possible baba?" and one of my favourite trekking guides was this guy who spoke with foreign trekking clients like "tommorrow breakfast ready 6am. no late"

I think Indians stress good English too much (and consider 'bad English' with contempt). Another hangover from the British Raj education. Language is about communication, not grammar and spellings. My standing invitation to all people worried about 'not good enough English' is to think of themselves as foreigners and exotic. After all, it IS true. English is not your main language. That is not inadequate. It is exotic 😉

These days, immersed in human rights and living conditions as I am, I invariably get "You should write about...." and I invite them to write what they think is needed and I will publish it. Most of them refuse saying that their English is not good enough.

A few brave it, and astound me and my readers with their words. Witness the Afghan Life series on this blog itself. Gity Yousafi, an utterly incredible woman, speaking up for women's rights in a place where she describes women as being traded like cattle in marriage.... you think anyone who matters cares about grammar and punctuation and spelling more than that?

Aware that I am, that this is a much silenced voice, I find it more important to let it shine through and love it as it is, rather than rephrase it in my words - as usual someone else speaking for them, even when they try to speak for themselves - not a chance I will do that. I would rather eat my keyboard.

Reminds me of a party conversation:

Confirmed Bachelor: Kids are these messy, stinky monsters who lack volume control and tact and live to contradict you.

Evangelist Mom: You mean you don't like them.

Confirmed Bachelor: Heck no! I respect them for it. I wish I could be exactly who I am.

Correction is a process of changing something unacceptable to something acceptable, or applying your own meanings to something someone said. I would never correct a voice speaking up with much courage, breaking through shrouds of silencing oppression. It doesn't get any more real than that. The woman was not educated at Oxford, she never picked up fancy HBO slang. It is what she was saying that was more important. As long as it was understood, language was just the tool, and it was working excellently.

One of my readers was aghast when I started this series. I used to put the article, and then below, mention the writer. Gauri thought I'd gone mad to write like that, but she loved it when she realized it was a real Afghan woman. Now, in the beginning of the post, I introduce the writer. That is all it takes for the writing to be recognized as the reality rather than careless language.

British english has its flavour. US english has its flavour. Indian Hinglish has its flavour. Similarly, Baloch and Afghan people do English in their own styles. Even people with good English have their eccentricities, and I know plenty of doctors who not only write illegibly, but type awful grammar. Just as I know many people who write gracefully, eloquently. In every case, I find that the writing tells me much about the person. Why discriminate and respect one kind of English and correct the other according to that?

That said, when I do chat interviews, I end up correcting a lot. Chat or SMS writing is often shortened to phrases and butchered words (one huge reason I've never done an interview on Twitter :D), which don't make sense in the article. Then, in the interest of communication, I string things together, fix grammar glitches that emerge, Capitalize, punctuate as needed so that the meaning comes across. But I still don't change the words. If the purpose of listening to someone is understanding what they say, then we must listen to them as they are, not as we would like them to be.


I got the opportunity to interview the filmmaker of the indie film InkLab that was released online yesterday
Watch Film>>

The filmmaker Dr. Gaurav Chhabra happens to be a good friend and a person I admire, so this was a great time to do an interview. I am inexperienced with doing interviews, so .... this is what it is, tidied up from a chat. It isn't edited as such, so its an informal conversation.

Lets do a proper interview Gaurav?
yeh would be fine... bolo jee

Where did you get the idea?
A few mnths ago, I was in Kabir kind of mood... writing short couplets and then the idea came about Potash ke puriya. Remember we used to collect masala from fuss bombs of Diwali? So I visualised a small pouch containing that and everything devloped on that in next few hours. The idea came from Potash ... I wanted to write a couplet on it ... about revolution and rebellious ideas, but idea grew on me within next half hour to take shape of a film outline.

The script? You wrote it?
Yeppo. I do have a similar black diary ... but dialouges of film were all fresh.. this month only

It was produced and directed quite fast
The newspapers have fukushima and all our latest scams... how did you manage it?
Yeah I started research and scripting on march first, started shoot on 20th and edit 3 days back. Zero budget, friends cameras, and frnds as actor for free. Actually if you see, this all is a daily talk these days, on chai shai... So shooting it wasn't a big problem. Though film is mostly scripted.

Among the characters in the film, who do you connect with most strongly?
The film has no characters but ideas. It shows how ideas travel across ages and times and across borders. Even the police guy has REBELLIOUS ideas in this ... so people in the system also want change ..

When you made the film, who did you imagine as the audience?
The film was supposed to be released on 2nd so as to gain viral audience and was supposed to be released as Bomb hoax! But comps are machines and men are not free from errors. The script i thought would make 12 min film came out to be 65.

Which is your favourite part of the film?
The Citizen speech at the end. The toughest part was doing the tea cup breaking scene with the kid
secret would come out in the making of film...

Now, the circumstances planned for the release of the film have changed. Do you see it having an impact on how it is received?
Well no... I mean... now it would be received warmly. Earlier some people could have disliked it. Like i posted a promo of bomb hoax and people said they find it pukish and all. People r not used to hardcore activism... So now 8th april is gone. They r watching it as a film,  which is a cool slice of life out of two room mates. So its more comfy to watch it now. Earlier it would have immensly disturbed many ( intention was that ). But yeah, it will achieve its purpose to go beyond present perspectives of involvement of citizen in democracy.

About the involvement of citizen in democracy..... what do you think is the need of the hour?
To come out of comfort zone and think for comfort of not only your family and self, but people on mass scale.

The film hints at very Bhagat Singhish ideals.... and it is very immediate kind of feeling watching it.
No rebel stands by anything past... but ideas... which will always be fresh if the situation is same. In the whole film
the protagnist is discussing bomb case of past, but it appoears that they are planning to bomb Parliament. As I said, Megabyte is new dynamite... NOW one doesnt need to enter parliament to destroy the wrought

What do you think is the most powerful line in the film?... The message?
' its not about politics.. its about realisation...'
That everything depnds on them... the people. The realisation is missing as of now. In fact if you see [the] film runs on lines only because there are hardly any faces visible.

Okay, here is the real question.... after this warm up

What is the one question you wish I had asked?
Are you happy making such film? do u love the work you do ?
No and No

I mean.. I would have been happy making some happier art works, but situation is society is such that ... I would feel bad if [I] own a capcity to work out such films and I dont... I mean... if things were not like they presently are, I would have been working on different kind of films. But you know.. art is always influenced by politics and vice versa, so I'm kinda Ruined artist. A happy ruined artist.

What would those different films have been? Do you have something in mind?
lol. Yeah I have some beautiful concepts of films... Many commercial business ideas, products designs etc that always loose priority and I end up nourishing these non profit ideas and hence bankrupt.

Yet you chose to release this on the net
This is just a baby. I have its big dad coming ahead in a year or so.

You speak of ideas crossing time and boundaries... what are the ideas that reached you from another time and place to be in this film?
The name of thr film is Ink Lab - an experimental lab, which doesnt borrow ideas, but belives in its own experiments.

... or, which ideas inspired this film?
Those which one tries and applies and learns from them. The protagonist has been trying everything. The film is a kind of warning to govt.

Yeah, revolutionary influences...
That people are much sane
all through as of now. If they supresss peaceful rebellions something dangerous can take birth.

Like the film says, it is in finding the right questions. What question would you leave us with today?
The film highlights the power of books and ideas, but at the same time.. it points that oen shouldn't bind himself in one idea. Also it tells that rebellion or anarchism is dangerous if community is NOT enlightened. So first step has to be enlightenment.

Guess what ... I dont know abcd of politics. I'm not sure about any ideoolgy what it stands for. Whether its communism or imeperialism or any things and many many people dont even care to...

Does it matter?
No it doesnt. Thats the reason. I thought let it not be politically correct film, but correctly political.

The one about what question would you like to leave us with?
Oh the question would be... that do we KNOW that what we see..around us? On FB or TV is just a miniscule percentage of whole population. There is a huge percentage of population who doesnt have voice, even if we have. So there still is fear that the growing upper middle class shall exploit the lower classes. For example, when I posted a status on EQUAL SALARY for all vocations, people were baffled. Never ever as many comments came on any status. People not from my friend list also commented and never have been people in unison... all were agaisnt it!!

It was just an experimental status that showed me that we are in a dangerous situation actually and we see MONEY is the BIGG thing of life...

Haha no more shots

Only bombs

Done. Packup 😀
Non detectable bombs
This film is one such 😛

Thanks a ton for your time, and beautiful, transparent sharing of thoughts
yeppo chalo je I sleep . You too try to sleep now take care , huggs

..... And thus it was.... an encounter with an inspiring revolutionary in the land of ideas!

Dr Gaurav Chhabra is a Chandigarh based Health activist. After pursuing bachelors in Medicine & surgery, from Ahmedabad, he infused his childhood passion for Visual arts into the field of health and thus emerged the practice of Public Health Communications, which he presently is pursuing through his independent non-profit initiative, called Humlog,using video films as a major tool for positive social change on the local issues. Dr Chhabra in last two and a half years, has made the city of Chandigarh his Karmabhoomi and has made niche in the domain of development communications. His films have travelled most of the film festivals in the country. His zero budget Film 'The Mudcake' won 1st prize at WHO Global health film contest -07 leaving behind thousands of entries across the globe.

If you wish I had asked a few things, please don't hate me, ask them below, and I promise to get Gaurav answer them for you.


In the digital age where Megabyte is the new dynamite and power of ideas and connectivity cannot be ignored, this is an experiment in the Lab of thoughts - Ink lab.

Set in the sociopolitical scenario when India is fighting against corruption and a successful mass movement has already build up all across the nation, this 65 min. guerilla film on the issue of Corruption explores how the power of idea and thoughts of a common man shape up the destiny of the whole nation.

On 8th April 1929, it was bomb explosion in the Central Assembly that was used by freedom fighters ‘to make the deaf hear’, today, after more than 80 years , on same date, millions of citizens with a common dream of a better India have proved as explosive and have shaken the empire in a Gandhian way. Central to both the revolutions is the strong idea and belief to bring about positive change in the lives of common man, however both violence of Bhagat Singh and Non-violence of Gandhi have remained misunderstood by many. The film tries to make a point that mere silence is not peace..and nor does..’Long live revolution’ mean constant unrest.

The protagonist of the film is a young PhD student, a rational thinker who believes in experiments and is not bound by any political ideology. Being inquisitive and experimental in nature, he keeps on exploring various ways of bringing about change, weather it is joining social group or student political party…but to his disappointment he could not connect well with any of these groups with stagnant mindsets. Inspired by the martyar Shaheed Bhagat Singh, he also makes and tests homemade bombs for himself to satisfy his curiosity. This man, who has some plans for April, has gone missing ..may be to explore his way further. What is his way to bring about change? Explosives..or Ideas??? Or Explosive Ideas?? Was he a danger to society…or may be he was one among the thousands of Citizens..who came ahead to support the fight against corruption..this 8th April. The man guided by peace and love is on his way to discovery..a rebellion that has arisen from within.

Awesome, Isn't it? How much of a fool can the media make of themselves? The whole Mumbai nightmare has been faithfully punctuated by bad reporting by the media.

One terrorist killed at Taj. Seven. uh, it was two. Two! Which two? I thought four.... but that wasn't at Taj! That was at Oberoi......... If you look at my post that takes a look at how many terrorists were reported dead by the media, you wouldn't worry about rumors saying 16 terrorists, because you could account for them then and there.

Which floor of the Taj was the fire on? 8th or the 13th? Were shots fired at CST on the next day or not? To me, it looks like there was very little reporting. What was, was a day and night National Level test match between different media. In a struggle to provide the most information, all boundaries of insignificant hassles like confidentiality needs in an ongoing operation, facts, verifications of rumors were simply wished away out of existence.

If the terrorists were actually able to sift information from crap by following the media, they shouldn't be in LeT. Mensa is where they should be.

Yet, in the face of all the nonsense, there actually were completely irresponsible details broadcasted for all to hear - who all are coming to the location, how many commandos, live telecast of the helicopter dropping commandos on Nariman House..... I remember thinking that these terrorists were really incompetent. If I were a terrorist, with all the information I could get from the TV, I'd rig the terrace with bombs the minute I came to know there was a helicopter drop, and then sit happily on a lower floor watching TV to plan the exact moment to detonate it. Good it didn't occur to these guys, but no thanks to the media for it.

I found it totally insane that "rumors" of a blast at CST were broadcast the next day in between announcements not to spread rumors. With all the fancy gadgets on location, apparently no one had a phone to call up the station and find out before throwing Mumbai in a panic.

And now finally this. It really takes the cake. The media guessed at the contents of the demarche!!!???!!! What's more, the stupid government instead of throwing them into jail, played along with it, and we have spent a day arguing with Pakistan about how we want the wanted men deported and how they wouldn't, and the scenario is heating up.

By the way, no apologies for misrepresenting situations, misleading people, misinforming them, etc have been seen. So basically, as long as the TRPs rise, just talk whatever crap you can.

I'm really puzzled about what all seems to pass for journalism in Indian Media. Honestly, this seems outright criminal to me. Definitely against the interests of the country. How can the media speculate about the contents of a confidential document between countries? What the hell is going on?

The sources also clarified that contrary to media reports in India and Pakistan, the demarche which was handed over to the Pakistani side earlier this week did not contain the list of 20 most wanted terrorists that had first been given to Islamabad in 2000. Once the media started saying India was demanding the immediate handing over of the 20 fugitives, of course, the Government could hardly contradict these reports since their return has been a long-standing Indian demand, the sources added. The demarche made only a pro forma reference to the return of unnamed fugitives but was otherwise exclusively focused on the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its leader Hafiz Saeed, whom New Delhi regards as the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes.

Worse, the government is covering up for the media because they mention something they want? Hello boss! At this moment, what we want most is a less volatile situation.

Really folks. GROW UP!!!

We are trying to catch some terrorists here and avoid a war. Those 20 men have been a major hostile point which was introduced between two countries because some journalist as usual didn't bother to verify what they were writing.

So of course, as a country, we pressurized another country and created anger and misunderstanding over something we hadn't even planned to ask for just yet.

Disillusioned doesn't begin to cover what I feel. I'm not even certain what's true and what's a journalists' version of how things could be in all the news on the terror attack investigations.