Random Thoughts

None Blinder Than Those Unwilling to See

English unlike Spanish, is not a language in which pronunciation faithfully follows the spelling. The reason is English is derived from French and German from Norman and Saxon origins. Take the word “Nuclear”, an adjective derived from the noun nucleus, which in Latin means nut or kernel. For any ordinary English speaking person, it should be abundantly clear that the correct pronunciation should be an addition ofnu to clear

There is nothing to suggest that it be pronounced as “
nucular”. This is not a case of Bernard Shaw’s ridicule of spelling “fish” gh-o-ti to be pronounced like gh in enough, o as in women and ti as in motion, constituting f-i-sh. Yet President Carter who boasted of having served on a nuclear submarine started this erroneous fad. Many supposedly educated and even some non-Southern accented prominent persons still speak as though the word was spelled n-u-c-u-l-a-r. President “W’ (acko) pronounced it wrongly. He could be forgiven because of his retardation and lack of education, but what about the others?   

I don’t want you to think I am being too harsh on Republicans, though their categorical rejection of any healthcare reform is more charitably attributable to their captive financing by insurance companies and not to their lack of intellect or innate visceral and natural meanness and disregard for public welfare, traits shared by many Democrats. 

So let me move to India and its languages. While I know that many Indian fabricators of history, like similar Americans will object to my argument by stating that there were no migrations into India and Aryans were natives from the start. Why some such fools, liars and bigots take the position that there should be no migration between states in India and only native speakers of a state language should be eligible to reside and work in a given state. Even the founding hypocrites in America realized how unworkable and perishable such an union would be as a viable nation, and secretly engineered a federalist coup with the conspiratorial assistance from the two most upright Americans (Washington & Adams).

Let us move from my preamble to the actual example. There is enough evidence to claim that the Vedic migrants moved southwest from Punjab to Gujarat even without subscribing to Aryan migration across the Himalayan passes. There is a region and town named Gujarat in Punjab but no known town or region called Punjab in Gujarat. This resembles the fact that there is a Wyoming in Pennsylvania but no Pennsylvania in Wyoming, reflecting migration westwards of settlers from Pennsylvania. Both Punjabi and Gujarati are daughter languages of Sanskrit just as Italian, French, Spanish and Romanian are daughter languages of Latin. 

The Sanskrit word for a vessel is “Paatra”. There is good reason to assume that the Punjabi word for one kind of a container vessel “Patili” is a derivation of the Sanskrit word. So my hypothesis is that a prominent leader of Punjab migrants to Gujarat must have had dyslexia like the American presidents above and mispronounced the word patili as tapeli. He, more likely than she in a male chauvinistic culture like India switched phonemes as Carter perseverated with the vowel “U” and impressionable idiots who constitute the majority of all populations all over the world, out of fear, respect or to curry favor started calling a patili atapeli.

Speech and gestures are modes of behavior. Some behavior is acquired by imitation, but it can be acquired for its advantages per se and not only out of fear, respect or to curry favor. It may give an advantage in survival by opening new opportunity to thrive and prosper. The reason for identical behavior by two unrelated leaders of two different countries separated by geography and culture comes to mind. India’s current prime minister Manmohan Singh owes his position to the power of Sonia Gandhi and is willing to play second fiddle all the time. His success in life is based on being a non-independent sycophant to power. He behaves obsequiously to Sonia, Pakistan, the US and China. 

Lately Obama has been bowing to the Japanese emperor and kowtowing to the Chinese leader by making him the man in charge of Asia and particularly South Asian peace and prosperity. Gone are the days of the US president being the commanding leader. Ever since his predecessors made the US the largest world debtor, mainly to China and Japan, he has been compelled to become a subservient supplicant. Obama gravitated to the same behavior as Manmohan Singh for different reasons. As Tolstoy wrote at the beginning of his novel Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way".  This is also why Obama kept on Geithner, Summers and others who were the architects of the US economic tsunami. He was financed by Wall Street money and will need it again to be re-elected and only a fool would alienate his creditors. My worry is how the State dinner that Obama is hosting for Singh will go if they both keep bowing endlessly out of habit. It will be like two Iranians approaching a doorway and endlessly perseverating “After you”, or maybe Singh will do a “Sashtang Dandwat Pranaam” by crawling on the floor and bring the impasse to an end! 

As I emphasize again, similar behavior or even outward appearance can be from different causes and can be misleading. One example is that of land mammals migrating back to the water where their prior ancestors came from. Whales and Dolphins are mammals who returned to the water from land. Natural selection has sculpted them to look aerodynamically like fish but they are different in that they give birth to live offspring from a placenta within their uterus, suckle their young with milk from their breasts and need to come to the ocean surface to breathe oxygen from air through their lungs not from water through their gills. They have horizontal flukes and spin by vertical movements of their spine and not vertical fins like fish.

In similar fashion, insects, dinosaurs, birds and bats fly and squirrels glide. For that they need wings or body webs. The gliding squirrels’ membranes span their extended ribs. Insect wings are derived embryologically from their gills. Those of the dinosaur pterodactyl attach to the equivalent of their little finger on each side. Bird wings attach to their forearm bones radius and ulna predominantly, while bat wings attach to all fingers and the wrist. As they say there’s more than one way to skin a cat and all that glitters is not gold. 

It needs a discerning mind to analyze the differential basis of similar behaviors and similar basis of different behaviors. It is the ability to discern subtle differences and see common threads. To give a final example, in America almost half the population and many presidential candidates reject evolution, natural selection and Darwin, the latter group on national TV. The same disbelief pervades Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists. Some of the rejecting are supposedly highly educated. Others, experts in military matters have knowledge of the debacles of the Korean and Vietnam wars and yet are willing to blunder again in Afghanistan and Iraq because of ego, hubris or folly. 

I think there is no better “maqtaa” (finale) to my “ghazal” (dirge) then the apt words of the Nobel Prize winning Peter Medawar - “The spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education created a large population of people with well developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought”.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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