Pranav Mistry and your accent anxiety3 min read . Updated: 05 Sep 2013, 04:09 PM IST
It’s time you got comfortable with an Indian speaking like a native before a global audience
There has been much amusement at the way Samsung’s Pranav Mistry spoke English on Wednesday night in Berlin, Germany. The 32-year-old was picked to release the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. This is a watch that connects to and displays the screen content of your mobile phone, which can stay in your pocket or bag.
He probably speaks Gujarati like Gandhi, who was from the southern part of western Gujarat, and like Jinnah. Even many Gujaratis from central and southern Gujarat—Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat—would find Mistry’s Palanpuri accent amusing, though in Gujarati, of course.
When I visited the diamond bourse in Tel Aviv, Israel, I was not surprised to observe that it was totally dominated by two communities. The Polish and other Eastern European Hasidics with their black coats, black hats and ringlets, and Palanpuri Jains with the singsong accent of Mistry.
It is usually in the field of business and enterprise that the Palanpuri shines and so it is unusual that young Mistry picked academia (he is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US) as his calling, then moving to a corporate job.
At another event, whose video is available on YouTube, he talks about fantasy and innovation. Mistry says his inspiration isn’t from science fiction, as is the case with many of the other technology masters around him. It is Hindu mythology that is the root and source of his creativity.
He finds ideas in the texts and in their stories. This shows him to be grounded in his culture, which is something the English-medium Indian usually discards, even though he makes the pretence of worshipping it.
Americans and Europeans don’t care about this and give no thought to it. They are accustomed to English coming at them in all shades. Of course, there are exceptions. Last week, seed fund firm Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham was criticized after he told Inc. magazine that having a “strong foreign accent" could be detrimental to a start-up founder’s success.