'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sixty Five Minutes...

... and ten kilometers passed in a blur, like the trailer of a movie. It began at Deccan, then flashed past a few celebrities who stood somewhere high up, waving and across the river, up Laxmi Road and thru the core city (somewhere there was a huge hoarding for a film(?),'French Kamasutra') onto Swargate in the morning sunshine and then down MG road and up and over the Garware Flyover and down a stretch of the concreted Bund Garden road which felt painfully long until being told by a cluster of folks who stood by that it was all over and finally a familiar One, waiting...

Thru all those telescoping visuals, a very familiarly distant city felt oddly intimate - roads with near zero traffic, bands at regular intervals playing patriotic songs, kids in school dress waving the tricolor (and several reaching out their hands for a quick pat - this felt electrifying), volunteers manning the 'watering stations' and yes, a huge mass of deep-pink clad strangers who bobbed up and down all around, and then some smoothly gliding past, some trailing off, the steady, heavy pounding of feet on the hard tarred road, the breath increasingly heavy heavy, legs increasingly leaden, shoulders scorched by the sun, eyes burning from sweat...

- Impressions of the Pune International (quarter) Marathon of Nov 26th 2006.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

'Maharashtrian' - Some Guesswork

Note: Maharashtra is an Indian state (it is where I live). The official language of Maharashtra is Marathi (it is a language I have been trying to learn for nearly a decade).

The word 'Maharashtrian' is often used as an adjective meaning 'pertaining to Maharashtra'; it is used even more often to mean 'a person from Maharashtra' or 'a speaker of Marathi language'.

If one goes by the conventions in the Aryan languages of India, 'Maharashtra' would yield the adjective 'Maharashtreeya'. And by the normal rules of English language, the noun 'Maharashtra' would lead to an adjective 'Maharashtran' (no 'i' in it). So how does one explain this 'Maharashtrian'?

Guess: Perhaps in the earlier days of English domination, 'Maharashtra' might have got spelt 'Maharashter' or 'Maharashtar' in English. Then, just as 'Lancaster' led to 'Lancastrian' and 'Manchester' to 'Manchestrian' (and closer to home, like 'Zoroaster' yielding 'Zoroastrian'), 'Maharashtrian' came into being as a valid English adjective (valid as long as 'Maharashter/ar' was current).

Implication: The word which most speakers of Marathi use to categorize themselves geographically and linguistically is a purely foreign fabrication resulting from an outdated transliteration of the name of their homeland into a foreign language.

Indeed, in Marathi language, the word 'Marathi' itself can be an adjective meaning 'concerning Marathi' or even 'speaking Marathi'. However most present day Marathi people (at least in Pune) seem rather uncomfortable with saying 'I am (a) Marathi' (even when speaking in Marathi); they prefer 'I am (a) Maharashtrian'.

Note added on 29th Nov. 2006:

Found another word which has a similar ending to 'Maharashtrian: 'Dravidian'. This is clearly an English word (an adjective which functions as a noun too, like 'Indian') which is derived from 'Dravida'. The 'i' in 'Dravidian' cannot be explained away on the lines of 'Lancastrian' and so somewhat weakens the guess made above (hmm, well, not necessarily! 'Dravidian' might have evolved by the following path: in English, 'David' leads to the adjective 'Davidian'. So, 'Dravida', which might well have got written 'Dravid' in English, naturally yielded 'Dravidian'. Howzzatt?!).

And 'Aryan', the word which is in someway the 'antonym' of 'Dravidian', is equally interesting - in a different way. 'Aryan' is an English adjective (and noun) derived from the Hindi 'Arya' (the first 'a' is extended and the last, very short) or the Sanskrit 'Arya:'. The English derivation of 'Aryan' is quite similar to that of 'Indian' - no mysteries there. The rather curious thing is that the English word 'Aryan' is now often used as a proper name in north India instead of 'Arya'.

Note added on August 11th, 2008:
Today I saw a board "Maharashtreeya Charmakar Sangh" ('Leather Workers' Union of Maharashtra'). That was the first time I saw the 'correct' adjective 'Maharashtreeya' used in public!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Strangely Diverging Inheritance

Several Sanskrit words have widely different meanings in different languages which inherited those words. Often, the divergence of meanings lead into different semantic categories - the same word ends up having rather distant meanings in different languages.

Let me list some such Sanskrit words - and their meanings in Hindi and Malayalam.

'Apeksha' - means 'expectation' in Hindi, 'humble request' in Malayalam
'Upanyas'/'Upanyasam' - 'novel' in Hindi, 'essay' in Malayalam
'Shraddha' - 'reverence' in Hindi, 'attention' in Malayalam
'Itihas'/'Itihasam' - 'history' in Hindi, 'epic' in Malayalam
'Charitra'/'Charitram' - 'character' in Hindi, 'history' in Malayalam
'Sambhaavana' - 'possibility/expectation' in Hindi, 'contribution' in Malayalam

My guess is that the Hindi meanings are in general, closer to the Sanskrit original (of course, words like 'novel' are unlikely to have a specific Sanskrit word - that literary form is, to a good approximation, a western import). From what I know, in the other Dravidian languages of India, the meanings of these and such words lean closer to those in Malayalam.

Note: Words changing their meanings on adoption into different languages is not restricted to Sanskrit. To give another example closer to (my) home, the Tamil word 'pazhi', meaning 'revenge' has come to be a verb meaning 'to blame' in Malayalam.

At the same time, I don't know of Latin or Greek words having such divergent meanings in the European languages (well, 'vulgar' originally was a Latin word meaning 'common' and has come to have a different meaning in English. Donno about what it means in say, Italian. 'Stranger', the equivalent of which means 'foreigner' in French and Italian also comes close to qualifying, I feel).