Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Phonetic Bee

So there is a lot of news about how Indians excel in spelling-bee contests, remembering and recollecting words that will be used exactly once in every yuga. While I am all for the hardwork put by the kids and really appreciate their dedication, I feel there is something fundamentally missed.

The arbitrary phonetics of English is its weakest link and that has been exploited by every culture that speaks English, giving their own twists to the phonetics, which on the whole entails that all pronunciations are correct by their own standards. If the judge were from Arab country, he would ask to spell 'guedabans', if the judge were from Bengal, all a-s would be o-s and if he were from south india, you would have to spell his 'madam' as 'mmadamm'. And we could argue until the next solar eclipse who is correct. .

Meanwhile, a lot of American/British prime-time game shows are faithfully aped by Indian TV media, with a bit of cultural twist and a phenomenally generous dose of local accent. American Idol? There is an Indian idol (and even a Carnatic Idol!). Who wants to be millionaire? There is KBC. Daily show? Several desi versions exist. Stand-up comedies have become so popular which weren't a rage 20 years ago.

So here we imagine a group of game show producers discussing about 'inventing' the next big game show program for the fortunate Indian TV viewers.

(All conversations happen in desi accent)

Producer #1: Why don't we do a game show for spelling-bee?
Producer #2: Holy Eagle! That is a cool idea!
Producer #3: (critic voice) Really? And so what spelling we will use? British or American?
Producer #1: Why British, of course!
Producer #3: Are you sure? Actually, we are more like Americans. Shouldn't we use American spelling?
Producer #2: Basically, we can give both options - students can spell either American or British spelling.
Producer #1: What about Indian English spelling? That will give a desi twist to the game...
Producer #3: (thinking)... Yeah! thats a good idea too...

A waiter-boy enters.

Producer #2: Hey waiter boy, bring chai for all of us...

Waiter-boy goes to bring chai. Producers keep discussing various ideas from whom to cast to who will be the sponsors. Waiter-boy enters with chai.

Producer #1: I have an idea.. How about we do spelling bee in Sanskrit? That will give an uniqueness to our show and increase our TRP ratings...
Producer #3: But people would not understand...
Producer #1: That is not a real problem, people just want to sit in front of tv, no matter what... do you mean to say you understand all those English movies?
Producer #2: I agree that is a really cool idea, we should do spelling-bee in Sanskrit
Producer #3: Ok I give in, Sanskrit spelling-bee it is....

Waiter-boy: Sirs, if you dont mind me saying something, spelling-bee contests does not make sense in Sanskrit, because the announcer would have already spelled the word by uttering it. D-uh!

All producers blink at each other for a few moments. Uneasiness in the room.

Producer #1: What do you suggest?
Waiter-boy: I suggest instead of spelling bee, do a samAsa contest in Sanskrit.
Producer #3: What is a samAsa contest?
Waiter-boy: Instead of remembering words as-is, students would be challenged to analyze the relationship between the words. This is not just about memorizing anymore, but to develop analytical thinking during the contest.

They tip the waiter-boy, he goes away.

And so here is presenting you samAsa-bhramari, a unique TV show from the futuristic Indian TV!

Rules of the Game

  • Amitabh Bacchan (or Rajinikanth for the South version) provides a samAsa and the student will break the word into constituent words, analyzing the relationship between the words.
  • Vibhakti must be mentioned for answer acceptance.
  • Bonus points for figuring out the dhaatu/ganaa, if any
  • Extra bonus points for quoting the relevant Paninian sutra.
  • If samasa-s have multiple answers, student can ask for a usage and the announcer will provide it.

So here goes the samAsA-s

maasapUrvaH - maasaat pUrvaH (a month before, 5th vibhakti)
chorabhayam - choraat bhayam (fear from thieves, 5th vibhakti)
vRukShamUlam - vRukShasya mUlam (root of the tree, 6th vibhakti)
rameshvaraH - multiple answers: (rAmasya IshvaraH, ramaH iva IshvaraH, ramaH yasya IshvaraH saH)
dIpaavalI - dIpaanaam aavaLIH (row of lights, 6th vibhakti, plural)

So as the students progress to higher levels, the complexity of samAsa increases too. The student is tested with the word sarasijanavadalavikasitanayanaH.

sarasi jaataa - sarasijA (lotus)
sarasijaayaaH nava dalaH - sarasijanavadala (new leaf of the lotus born in pond)
sarasijanavadalavikasita - vikasitA sarasijA (new leaf of the lotus that has just flowered in the pond)
sarasijanavadalavikasita iva nayana (the eyes which resemble the leaf of the flowered lotus in the pond)
sarasijanavadalavikasitanayanaH - (one who has the eyes which resemble the leaf of the newly bloomed lotus in the pond)

Answer: Krishna

Mr. Bacchan: Is that your final answer?


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