New times, new words please

IN Media Practice | 24/02/2015
Why do we continue using hoary words that either date back to the Raj or are out of tune with the character of our modern Republic?
SAMEER SINGH offers an alternative political lexicon.
The most exalted occasions of our country are fittingly held in Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Padma awards, sports awards, state banquets, and swearing-ins are all held inside this Raj-era mansion. 
Aptly, the British christened the large vice-regal ballroom the Durbar Hall because it is the perfecting setting for pomp and circumstance, where oriental splendour meets occidental civilisation.
The vexing question lies not in the original nomenclature but its perpetuation. As we celebrate 66 years of the Republic, why does the  world’s biggest democracy continue to carry the White Man’s Burden in its vocabulary? Durbar Hall in its etymology implies the Imperial Court and thus always reeks of Raj and Regency. It certainly does not sound remotely close to equality, inclusiveness, and diversity. 
Times are changing. The name of the newest political party on the scene, the Aam Aadmi Party, is a wonderful play on the folksiness of ‘aam’ and the culturally reverential ‘aap’ – like the French ‘vous’ – of the acronym. 
The point I’m trying to make is that we need to “democratise” the  descriptions of our democracy. If you think I’m being touchy, do peruse through the alternative politically corrected glossary below and nod in agreement or shake your head:  
Ruling Party: Almost always used to describe the party that has formed the government. May I suggest the humbler appellation of Serving Party. Remember Shaasak Nahin Sevak!
Regional Satrap: Given that almost all of them exert their political influence over a local region, particular caste or a concentrated minority, how about Local Heavy Weight? I mean, can you imagine a Jesse Jackson or an Alex Salmond being called a satrap?  
Mandarin/Czar: Usually reserved for diplomats, for some strange reason, the MEA has mandarins and security agencies have their czars. A descriptor such as peacenik or hawk is acceptable, but mandarin? Which Ming Vase did we pull this one from? So let’s just stick to good old diplomat. The word conveys exactly what diplomats do the world over - keep the national interest on life support till the politician decides to pull the plug or order corrective surgery. 
Liquor/Coal/Mining/Real Estate Baron: When it comes to anything remotely entrepreneurial, the title changes to baron. No dukes and earls, only baron. Consider this. Barons occupied a lowly third place in the peerage below dukes and earls. So how about entrepreneur or businessperson? Let’s stick to the facts. 
Interestingly, the higher ranks of peerage are reserved for more nefarious pursuits such as Matka King, Drug Lord, Extortion Kingpin. I would recommend the much more lovable and comprehensible Bhai. It says it all. 
Movies/Media Moghuls: I guess suckers for alliteration have reserved the moghul for the media and movies. But surely, by that logic, mining and manufacturing deserve their moghuls too? Again, why not stick to entrepreneur or businessperson. Udyogpati, like the good old Doordarshan days.
Regime: No Indira Regime, No Sonia Regime, no Modi Regime. Good old ‘government’ will do. 
Dynasty: Sadly, this is the only entrenched member of the old glossary, unchanged since Chandragupta set up the Mauryan dynasty. Its etymological meaning has remained unchanged. A line of rulers based on genealogy. 
So, as a participant in the biggest democracy of the world, may I suggest that the media resist using the old glossary? Respect the zeitgeist, if not the times. A chaiwallah has become the PM, a fact that even Obama mentioned three times.  

(Sameer Singh is a citizen-at-large and has just co-founded Nishthaa to campaign for more transparency in public matters. You can contact him at:
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