01 November 2008

Hindustani for British Royalty, 1921

From Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008), pp. 58-59:
On 26 October 1921, Dickie [Mountbatten] and David [Windsor] left Portsmouth on the battle cruiser HMS Renown. On 12 November, they came ashore at Aden on the south coast of Arabia, the westernmost British colony ruled from Delhi. The pair of them drove past large gatherings of black spectators hemmed in by the occasional white man in a pith helmet. Union Jacks fluttered in the sky, and a huge banner was unfurled. It addressed the Prince of Wales with a loyal exhortation: "Tell Daddy we are all happy under British rule." And it was from this acceptably loyal outpost of his future empire that David embarked finally for the Jewel itself....

The prince's itinerary had been planned according to long-established royal tradition. He was to progress around India attending interminable parties, opening buildings, killing as much wildlife as possible and only interacting with the common people by waving at them from a parade. The sentiments of the royal party were made plain in the booklet of Hindustani phrases produced by Dickie and Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency and circulated on board HMS Renown. It comprised a list of basic numbers and verbs, plus a few everyday expressions. These included:
    Ghoosul teeyar kurro—Make ready the bath
    Yeh boot sarf kurro—Make clean these boots
    Peg do—Give me a whisky and soda
    Ghora lao—Bring round the horse
    Yeh miler hai; leyjao—This is dirty; take it away
    Tum Kootch Angrezi bolte hai?—Do you speak any English?
    Mai neigh sumujhta—I don't understand
The words for please and thank you are nowhere to be found.

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