Monday, 31 January 2011

Kavita Kosh: A visionary marvel

Having a break from the series of Origin of English words today, I would like to post about an act of vision which not only deserves to be respected but it is also an act of adulation, admiration and our unscathed attention!!

Civilization began and man started to use language to communicate, to express himself and soon a need was felt that text needed to be conserved. There were stones, clay tablets, wax tablets, papyrus, silk and what not! All these were used before the technological innovation of books. All what was written came to be recorded in books. But with the passage of time, the methods and means to record and collect the documents too have undergone a drastic change. Present age is the age of internet and high tech devices. Hundreds and thousand of documents can be uploaded, saved and retrieved with just a click of the mouse.

Well versed in the attributes of this wonderful medium and being an expert in its application, an IT professional, Mr Lalit Kumar, in 2006 i.e. just four years back, conceptualized the idea of coming up with a website where poetry could be documented and saved. To be a visionary one does not need any specific qualification, a special degree or an accreditation from an academic institution. It is the thought that matters and the thought here was to develop an encyclopaedia of poetry where poetry lovers could find, read and satisfy their literary cravings The website, Kavita Kosh(, soon developed as a chest or we can say a treasure house of Hindi as well as Urdu poetry where one could find poems of all eras and varied genres.

From Vedas and Upnishads to the ghazals of Gulzar, from regional poems to folk songs, from creations of the great veteran poets to the contemporary works of budding poets, from complete anthologies to the songs written for children, we can find every kind of literary work here in this website.

This uphill task of making Kavita Kosh a literary repository could not be done by single person. Soon a team of voluntary contributors and intellectuals came together. The team of Kavita Kosh has been working relentlessly since then and that too without any commercial interest. An intrinsic motivation makes them work so hard and cooperate with each other in the best possible way. Kudos to their diligent work!

Kavita Kosh is a kind of boon for those engaged in research work in Hindi Literature and Hindi/Urdu poetry. It should also not go unnoticed that it is also filling the cultural chasm for those Indians who are living outside India holding them to their mother tongue and mother land. It is a blessing for all the poetry lovers!

The site allows room and opportunities for the readers and poets to edit the poems and add new ones. Being a kind of virtual library, Kavita Kosh is doing a fantabulous job of preserving and conserving our literature which otherwise is prone to get destroyed in the wake of the influence of western culture at present.

Literature, though not biological, is just like a living being. It breathes, expresses itself and can live beyond the lives of those who have created it if it is preserved appropriately. Whether prose or poetry, literature has transcendental properties. Kavita Kosh, in real sense is working towards conserving our literary heritage.

The present day concept of exhibiting success envisages the use of a whole lot of quantitative and statistical figures. Henceforth the popularity of Kavita Kosh too can be measured and represented in numbers. It goes like this.

There are: 1118 poets, 186 shayar, 135 female poets, 391 poets who have translated poems, 1225 books, 5305 Ghazals, 502 Nazm, 12790 poems…..

And the list goes on and on…!!!

Let me come up with another astounding figure here…Every day more than 65000 pages of this website are visited… Phew! Isn’t it astonishing?

It is growing day by day….its length; breadth and height are increasing dynamically. For example, the recently added Audio section here gives us the opportunity to listen to the timeless poetry in the voice of legendary poets themselves. New plans for its further growth and development regarding the compilation of poetry are being regularly formulated and implemented. We hope that the quality work continues for the times to come. What all is needed is the increase in number of contributors who would put in their efforts to fulfil its real objective of making it an asset for the generations to come.

Thanks to Kavita Kosh that our future generations would definitely have a rendezvous with our literary and poetic legacies otherwise there are chances that they would only be able to learn “my hips don’t lie” in the name of poetry. The contribution made by Kavita Kosh needs all applause and accolades. We all need to understand the importance, its uniqueness and the significance of Kavita Kosh can be summed up in one single sentence, “The past and the present are being saved here for the future!”

The legendary maker of this site, Lalit Kumar has recently come up with a hindi blog aggregator by the name of “Lalitya”…And what my strong conviction is that this new project of his, would also grow exponentially as I feel that The Man has been blessed with “Midas Touch”

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Origin of English Words- "Spoonerism"

The words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped are known as Spoonerisms. These linguistic flip flops or accidental transposition of letters and syllables often produce rhyming sounds along with making sense. English language has provided rich and fertile soil to their growth. There are around 616,500 words in English and are growing at a rate of 450-500 per year. All this offers a great scope for such a ludicrous swapping. Such swapping happens mainly due to slip of tongue.

The word “Spoonerism” owes its existence to Rev William A Spooner. Born in 1844 in London, Spooner was an albino with poor eyesight. He was a Dean in Oxford University. He died at the age of 88.

With his “Tinglish errors” or may say “English terrors" he has left a legacy of laughter and smiles apart from providing a new entry in English dictionary i.e. the word “spoonerism”

Spooner had a nimble mind; it worked so fast that his tongue could not match the speed with which his brain processed the thoughts which led to the crossing up of words and sounds. This especially happened when he was angry or anxious.

Some of his famous “Spoonerisms” were:

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes" when he meant to say "Drink is the curse of the working classes".

"Noble tons of soil" for "noble sons of toil",

"You have hissed my mystery lectures; you have tasted the whole worm" for "you have missed my history lectures; you have wasted the whole term"

"Queer old dean" when referring to “Dear old Queen Victoria”.

There is a psychoanalytical point of view when one produces these verbal somersaults.

The words are substituted in which the two words--intended and spoken--are not related in meaning but are similar in their sounds such as 'persecuted' for 'prosecuted'. It gives us the account of structure and organization of our mental dictionary. Words are stored in our mental dictionary in semantic classes (according to their related meanings) and also by their sounds (similar to the spelling sequences in a printed dictionary). Speech errors like that of spoonerisms, show the mental representation and processing of what we know about the language we speak. Such errors also sometimes reveal our repressed thoughts.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Origin of English Words-A series!

I have been motivated to write this series by the series of 'Famous Photographs' by Lalit in his blog “Writely Expressed” So I owe this idea of penning down a series of small articles entirely to him. Though I may not be as good as him, I would try my best to sustain the interest of the readers.
When we study phonetics we also study about the history of origin of words. Initially here in this series I would be writing on Eponymous words, i.e. how some “proper nouns” became “common nouns” and “adjectives”. How some people have managed to leave their impact and have influenced the society that their names have become an integral part of the language and are now lavishly and extensively spoken, written and heard of in day to day usage of the language without even our being aware of their origin!
So those who are interested to know about how some words have been coined in English, would now be able to satisfy their curiosity with this little endeavor of mine.

The first word which I am taking up is “boycott”

The dictionary meaning of the word boycott is “to abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion.” Many people take part in a boycott at some stage of their lives but almost no one knows how the word came into usage

It was in 1880’s that word “boycott" entered the English language at the time of Irish Land War.

There was an estate agent of Earl of Erne by name of Captain Charles Boycott in the 19th century. He was a former officer in English army. By nature he was harsh, insensitive and unfair even to genuine demands of the poor tenants as they were demanding the reduction in rent. He even went to the extent of evicting the tenants.

Charles Stewart Parnell, of Irish Land League encouraged the people to oppose Charles Boycott by non violent means. He made local businessmen and tenants to refuse to work for him. Boycott and his family had to remain without servants or farmhands and even there was no mail delivery or service in stores for him. He was farming at Loughmask in County Mayo and had to hire 50 Orangeman who were the volunteers from the north of the country for carrying out his harvest and that too under the protection of 900 soldiers. Ultimately he had to flee to England with his family. Or we may say Captain Charles Boycott was “Boycotted”.

Boycott became the “boycottee”, not the “boycotter”. He was ostracized, expulsed, or opposed because of his behaviour and actions.

Soon the word “boycott” became a byword and began to be used. It was used by the press for the first time.

The Times of London on November 20, 1880 said: "The people of New Pallas have resolved to 'boycott' them and refused to supply them with food or drink."

The Daily News on 13th December 1880 wrote: "Already the stoutest-hearted are yielding on every side to the dread of being 'Boycotted'.

Within few weeks, Le Figaro in Paris said: "The lively Irish have invented a new word; they are saying now to 'boycott' someone, meaning to ostracize him."

The word is now invariably used in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Croatian, Polish, and Japanese!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A symbol of disability---but an only option for our liberation!!

Having contracted polio as a small child or baby, one has to undergo a wide range of treatments and long and seemingly unending hospitalization. One would have to use braces, crutches or many other orthotic devices, which at that time are the only options that can keep the person mobile. These can also be removed with time as and when deemed fit by the doctors. We may start walking unaided. One almost forgets the entire psychological trauma suffered at the time of contracting the disease. But a day may come after some 25-30 years, that we might start having a feeling of exhaustion, fatigue and weakness in muscles. Post Polio Syndrome comes now to stay there in one's life. Life now becomes all the difficult. We may face declining activities with reduced energy levels. Unwantingly we have to sit back at home and show reluctance to go out. We tend to become isolated due to decreased mobility as one has to stay indoors all the time.

The doctors at this point recommend using a wheelchair. It is quite understandable that the decision of transitioning to wheelchair is difficult, painful and angst-ridden.

I can relate very well and understand all these experiences since I too am a polio patient.

Patients with Post Polio Syndrome or any other debilitating illness might have to use a wheelchair for their mobility as some point of time.. There can also be an acquired disability like spinal cord injury, due to an accident or some chronic illness, that may leave no other choice than using a wheelchair for the rest of the life. Let us see the example of Christopher Reeve, who after his spinal cord injury, became Man in Wheelchair from a Superman. Nobody knows what is in there store for him.

Physicians may recommend us using a wheelchair. There can be some initial hesitation and we may think a lot before deciding in favour of a wheelchair. It would help us in conserving our limited energy apart from preventing us from falling and tripping, saving us from further agonies.

Although it can make our lives easier, yet the decision is very agonizing, complex and emotionally disturbing. Why is it so?? Why is that the very thought of using a wheelchair is mentally so upsetting? Why do people dread to be seen using a wheelchair in public? Why the phrases “wheelchair bound” or “confined to wheelchair” are used?

Rational needs of using the wheelchair is now overpowered by the irrational negative attitude towards it. The last option available for mobility is seen with so much repulsion!! There are negative emotional overtones towards that object which is the only means of “Our Liberation”. The whole credit of our being mobile and our outings should solely can be laid on a wheelchair.

The factors contributing to this resistance not only depend on our psyche but also on the reactions and attitudes of the people around us, our family and our society.

We may have got much praise for “walking” with the help or braces and crutches or sometimes unaided after our rehabilitation. So we may not want to let those praises turn into comments like “you have now become lazy and so don’t want to move!!”

Society gives “special and inordinate value” to walking. Sitting on a wheelchair we look different! No one can ignore us or I may say no one can resist from “staring” at us. So it becomes virtually impossible to be a “passer”. We then tend to see ourselves from the eyes of others.

All this is due to the fact that a wheelchair is the universal symbol of disability! So the thought of sitting on a wheelchair becomes one with idea of getting marginalized or stigmatized. It divides the world in two groups “have’s and “have not’s”. That the equation becomes unbalanced now….on one side there are able-bodied people and on the other there is a disabled person! We then are not part of the “popular crowd” Again the reason behind this is that since ages, persons with disabilities are regarded as burdensome without any dreams and desires of their own.

So our view of ourselves becomes unwanted. We become the victims of age old prejudices. Rather than thinking in a positive and rational manner we find ourselves tied in the shackles of our own thinking. We then prefer to be “walking” even if there is 90% risk of falling down and hurting ourselves sometimes fatally rather than moving around in a wheelchair and enjoying almost 90% mobility.

There is no harm in accepting that “I am person with disability”. I am using a leg brace or a pair of crutches doesn’t make me an able-bodied person. Wheelchair too is an assistive device like a brace. All that we need is mobility…which may sometimes be provided by a leg brace and with the changing conditions of health it can be provided by a wheelchair!

There needs to be a trade off between negative irrational beliefs and positive rational thoughts. We were paralyzed by polio…let the attitudes of society not paralyze us more and more each day!

We need to be moving and for that we need to be liberated, though not physically but mentally!