Long Live The Queen’s English

Speaking Accent


After having spent more than 23 years in the desert haven of Bahrain, I have decided to adopt an accent.

And why shouldn’t I? It is my right now. There are so many people who have flown out of the Indian airspace just once and returned with some sort of an accent.

It could be American, British, Arabic or African mixed with a touch of Tamil or a dash of Marathi. They do it all the time.

Just the other day I was watching the US Open late at night when Sania Mirza popped up on the screen to discuss her prospects in the doubles event.

Now Sania is a great sportsperson, wonderful looking, intelligent and ambitious. I never switch off the TV when she is on unlike when politicians, obnoxious newsreaders and some film star jerks fill up the space. You could stare at her even if you don’t want to pay heed to her comments. But that day after a thorough inspection of her bodily gifts, I listened to her.

Then it struck me. This Hyderabad girl has an accent, American drawl and all. She didn’t have it then but she has one now.

But what struck me most that though she used the American accent, she did it with perfection. And thank the Lord for that. Imagine if she had linked the Hyderabadi accent with the American. That would have sounded the death knell to the ears.

Being an avid follower of tennis, I have concluded that tennis players are more wont to changing their accents. It could be blamed on long periods abroad on the ATP Tour.

But I must confess I am amazed that there are many whose accents change after one visit to the US or the UK or for that matter anywhere. For example, a US returned Punekar lets go of a zey (J) amidst the drawl. Or changes football into phootball with the falsified tone.

A Tamil will add another dimension to the drawl, a Bengali and Malayali constricting some of the words.

So coming back to my dilemma, I had a difficult choice to make. Having been an avid follower of Hollywood films, I considered the accent American first. So every day with great sincerity I tried to copy Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise or whoever’s movies I could lay my hands on. Then I tried Robert De Nero and Al Pacino to mix Italian with the English.

This entailed standing in front of the mirror and repeating dialogues of these stars. It didn’t work.

I tried the French, interspersing sentences with a “Voila, Mon Cherie, Merci Beaucoup or a Bonjour/Bonsoir. Must thank Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot for that. I must say it sounded rather sophisticated but I couldn’t keep up. French words are complicated and you probably need to eat frog legs to perfect the pronunciation.

I mean who other than a pervert will pronounce Jean as John with a soft ‘J’ and no ‘n’ or whatever. Bah!

The Far Eastern, East European, African and Afro-American were too tough. Finally I decided the British accent was the best. But it had to the prim and proper variety, not the Cockney accent or the Northumbrians burr.

The Queen’s English it had to be as spoken by the BBC.

Having worked with the Brits, I had picked up loads of expressions from them. It was child’s play really then. Hear the BBC, watch British historical films and polish the accent.

Today, my dear ladies and gentlemen, I now speak in a clipped tone. If you hear me today, who will probably furtively look for my mobile which may have the BBC Radio turned on.

I say old chap, you are getting the drift then aren’t you?  So long, have a good one. Cheers.

Babu Kalyanpur

Babu Kalyanpur, ( Consulting Editor) has rich experience in both sports and business journalism. Babu has led news desks in Pune and Bahrain and writes extensively on his passion, sports and business besides current affairs and matters of importance to Pune.

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