Spoken in English Vinglish

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Pant left her job as a schoolteacher in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand, when she married a software engineer one-and-a-half years ago and came to live in Indirapuram, a middle-class residential suburb in Ghaziabad.

Why does Harshita Pant want to learn English?

Pant left her job as a schoolteacher in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand, when she married a software engineer one-and-a-half years ago and came to live in Indirapuram, a middle-class residential suburb in Ghaziabad. "Suddenly, I was thrown into this big city. The change was sort of a shock," she says. That shock comprised "seeing women in my housing society speak in English and myself being a mute spectator to their conversations". "Mujhe laga main peeche reh gayi (I felt I had been left behind)," says Pant, who insists on talking to us in English, but evidently expresses her feelings better in Hindi.

Like the protagonist of the new film English Vinglish, Pant is a housewife who has signed up for classes in "spoken" or conversational English, and is one among millions of Indians who have felt or been made to feel socially and professionally inept because they cannot speak the language fluently. "I have seen how salesmen in big retail outlets respond better to customers who speak English. I may be from a small town, but if I speak good English, I'd be no less than a big-city girl," she says.

For Pant's classmate at Vwin English Institute, Shweta Shrivastava, it was a more pressing issue — her son's nursery admission — that compelled her to sign up for a three-month course. This BTech in computer science from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, was a lecturer in a college, where the language of instruction was English. "But in Gwalior, one spoke enough English to get by basic work, like understanding what is written on a sheet of paper. Our books were in English, but the students and I spoke in Hindi," she says.

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