Saturday, May 30, 2009


Lessons in communication - the Indian style

I have struggled in the past making my clients understand the difference between communication skills and spoken English programs. I am sure I will not struggle any more in the future. 

Thanks be to a certain Mr. Khushwant Singh whose enlightening write up on the need to communicate well irrigated my parched need for doing this well. Well I would have loved to plagiarise the contents and put it for all to see and appreciate good communication skills. But morality forbids me from doing so!! (Someone somewhere told me - "If you want to tom-tom your integrity - make sure you make a hell of a noise about it - else be ready to get a kick and you know where!!).

Getting back to the communication story - this was about the need to communicate well sans the complexity of language or how floral it can get. Any communication skills trainer worth his salt will tell you how important it is to make the language simple so that "what you say is what is heard is what is understood". How often is that implemented is a question that is debatable. The least that can be expected is for the state run public announcements to be made as simplistic as possible.

And here is where I go a full circle - back to Mr. Khushwant Singh's article. He describes vividly the story of wording the governments success in establishing public toilets in Palampur in Himachal Pradesh (India).

The agencies displayed a loud notice claiming the newly built structure as a 'shauchalya' (a sanskritised version of the humble loo) and the poor hill folks went around liberating their natural juices around the hills of Himachal. (I wonder if they thought it was a natural extension of the sachivalay - the secretariat). Realising their folly the agencies quickly replaced the board with a lesser complicated and more cultured version featuring 'sandaas'.  However correct the intention, the message failed to hit home. Actually, as I see, the poor folks would have been confused more.

Failing to attract the desired audience into the portals of the humble public toilet and yet realising the complexity of the language, the authorities this time rechristened it in layman terms. It was magic!! The audience came, performed and (maybe) applauded the good work of the government.

This time it was called "TATTIYAN" (slang for shit / loo / toilets !!!)

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