Sunday, 23 December 2012

India sings in Punjabi but comments in English

I just happen to notice something wonderful, the YouTube statistics for 2012 on the Google India blog. The numbers show us the most watched film trailers, songs and television programmes in India in 2012.

The most watched song on YouTube India in 2012 is Brown Rang (Brown colour). It's in Punjabi, which is spoken by less than 3 per cent Indians. As if that wasn't surprising enough, both the top comments for this video are in English. A quick glance at the first 30 comments shows English even rules here, with merely four-five in Portuguese and one comment in Punjabi.

The next one is Gangnam Style. I don't have anything to say here because the comments are appearing so fast that they would be gone before I finish writing this post.

The third is Mashallah. It's in Hindi/Urdu but most of the top 30 comments are in English. 

Now I won't go through each of them, here is a chart for reference: 

2012 YouTube India rank
Language (comments)
Percentage of people who speak the language
1 Brown Rang Full Song HD- International Villager Yo Yo Honey Singh Punjabi English < 3%
2 PSY - GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V Korean NA ~0%
3 Mashallah - Song - Ek Tha Tiger - Salman Khan & Katrina Kaif Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*
5 Jism 2 Yeh Jism Song | Sunny Leone, Arunnoday Singh, Randeep Hooda | Exclusive Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*
6 Saans - Song - Jab Tak Hai Jaan Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*
7 Chinta Ta Ta Chita Chita - Rowdy Rathore Official Full Song Video Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Mika Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*
8 "Abhi Abhi Jism 2" Official Song | Sunny Leone, Arunnoday Singh, Randeep Hooda Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*
9 Ishq Wala Love - Student Of The Year - The Official Song | HQ Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*
10 Challa - Song - Jab Tak Hai Jaan Hindi/Urdu English > 47%*

*The figure is a big underestimate and could be as high as 70 or 80 per cent. I am relying on the Government of India Census which was carried out in 2001. (The figures from the 2011 census have yet to publish.) I have counted both Hindi and Urdu speakers as at this level it's impossible to tell them apart.


(1) No English, no Tamil, no Telugu, no Bengali in the top 10.
(2) Irrespective of the language of a song, most comments are in English.

I had a casual look at the most watched film trailers and television programmes. All of them are in Hindi/Urdu but once again it's English that rules in the Comments arena.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Modi wins, addresses the nation in Hindi-Urdu

The results of recently held elections in Gujarat were announced today. Narendra Modi of the rightist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) wins for the third time. That's an achievement that doesn't come by easily in a democracy. That's an interesting story in itself, but for me what's more interesting is that after his win he is currently (at the time of writing) addressing the nation and his state Gujarat in Hindi/Urdu instead of English.

The news channels, including NDTV 24x7 and other English ones, are broadcasting his speech without any simultaneous translation or subtitles.

Here is a little background: 

I want to include his victory speech video but I can't as he is still speaking. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Colloquial Hindi/Urdu - still the most suitable lingua franca in South Asia (1)

There was a power cut here yesterday night. It lasted for 11 hours. When the electricity was back today morning, I immediately checked my mail. There was a link to a Google Docs file in there from my company. I immediately clicked on it but it wouldn't open. I was a little confused. So I phoned another and the only fellow Indian colleague in Bombay and we talked in Hindi; colloquial Hindi/Urdu to be exact.

His mother tongue is Marathi. He has been to the US and Germany and has worked for several English speaking clients. So it wasn't that his English was weak, still we chose Hindi over English.

This isn't the first time I have talked to fluent (at least for me) Indian English speakers and they invariably turn to Hindi. 

A year ago I met a boy from Himachal in a bus. We talked in English for an hour and then he said he was tired and switched to Hindi. I gladly followed. 

A couple of months ago I was in Chandigarh for an interview. While the whole interview was conducted in English, when it was over, the interviewer was joking, and talking to me about languages and culture and Asia in Hindi. 

My younger brother (cousin) works at a restaurant. There are several Nepalese immigrants working there. And they don't talk in Punjabi (local language), Nepalese or English, they almost always go for Hindi.

I can count several more incidents but the point is, colloquial Hindi/Urdu remains the best choice for a lingua franca in South Asia. 

I was so wrong in thinking that English has already established itself, and that it's already too late for Hindi.

Punjabi is my first language. So it's not that I am from a Hindi speaking area who is trying to convince others that his mother tongue is the most suitable language for this region of the world that's home to one-fifth of the world's population.

It's just common sense. I may be wrong again but at this point of time I really think that colloquial Hindi/Urdu is the best choice as the bridge language in South Asia.

First of all, the vocabulary (the biggest headache) is already similar to most Indian languages. Even Tamil, that claims to be the most distant from Hindi, shares at least 40-50% (a hunch) vocabulary with Hindi.

Secondly, the Hindi/Urdu grammar is certainly more intuitive and more familiar to the people here than the English grammar. 

Thirdly, even according to the most conservative estimates, at least 422 million people speak Hindi in India. Given the popularity of Bollywood in non-Hindi speaking states (including my own), it's not difficult to imagine at least as many people should understand Hindi.

Fourthly, the Indian Census counts Hindi and Urdu as two different languages. So that figure of 422 million doesn't include 51.3 million Urdu speakers in India. 

Add to that millions of Urdu speakers in Pakistan and hundreds of thousands of Hindi speakers in Nepal, and it becomes evident colloquial Hindi/Urdu is the nearest we currently have to a common language in South Asia.

I am making it too long. So I end here. In the next post, I will write on why Hindi/Urdu isn't the lingua franca it ought to be.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Arabic characters (Xiao'erjing) for Chinese

From Afrikaans, Swahili and a host of other languages in Africa to Chinese, Hindustani, Indonesian and others in Asia, there was a time when Arabic characters ruled the day. Even some European languages including Bosnian and perhaps Russian were once written in an Arabic based script. So bad that it's no longer true.

I wonder what it would be like if from Indonesia to Central Asia and Africa, Arabic characters were still popular. They were used in many countries for almost half a millennium and then, there was a sudden switch to a Latin based script in the 20th century.

No, I don't hate the Roman characters. I merely wonder how different the world  would have been if only... 

Anyway, let's stop imaging an alternative history and read this: 

I haven't created an alternative, Arabic character based script for Chinese. It already exists and some, unfortunately their number is declining, use it in China. It's called Xiao'erjing. 

This is something damn interesting, isn't it?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mission Persian (1)

Have done four lessons. Here is all the new vocabulary. This is less than a quarter of the total vocabulary in the first four lessons. The remaining was either the same as in Punjabi, or too similar.

It's not a cakewalk. It's not too difficult either. I hope I can create a small (100-word?) article in Persian on 1 January, 2013.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Mission Persian

I always pick up a difficult language that takes a long time to learn. I have tried French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Swahili and a whole bunch of others. Every time I lose interest after a while. I am surprised at myself that I haven't given up Chinese even after more than ten-eleven months. I don't study Chinese everyday. I have slowed down to merely two lessons a week. I feel so bad. But I have an idea which I think will give me confidence and I will be able to learn Chinese with a renewed vigour.

I am going to put Chinese aside for a month and focus on the easiest language for Punjabi speakers. Hindi/Urdu is the easiest language for a Punjabi speaker. Both Hindi/Urdu and Punjabi share lot of vocabulary and the grammar is more or less identical. I already speak and read and write Hindi and Urdu. So I have to find the second easiest language!

The contenders for the second easiest language are:

(1) Bengali 
(2) Oriya
(3) Gujarati
(4) Nepali
(5) Persian

Of these five, the first four show a great deal of Sanskrit influence. An upside of this is that I will pick up vocabulary really fast, thanks to Hindi/Urdu. They are Indo-European so grammar will be familiar. There is but one problem: I am not interested in either of these

I can always find someone who speaks English or Hindi from these states or Nepal. I don't think there exist many books in these languages and they aren't even used in universities.

That leaves Persian as the sole candidate. Persian shares a lot of vocabulary with Punjabi. In fact, so much so that of all Persian words on this page only جا, بسلامت and مرسی should be foreign to an average Punjabi speaker. 

Persian is Indo-European so the grammar shouldn't pose much difficulty. It's used in universities in Iran and I will be able to read some of the greatest poets in the world in original. 

Until the middle of the 18th century, Persian had been India's official language for over five centuries. A lot of Indian writers and poets of that era wrote in Persian. The famous letter of Guru Gobind Singh, addressed to the Indian emperor Aurangzeb, is written in Persian. Even in the 20th century, Allama Iqbal was writing in Persian (in addition to English and Urdu). And to top it all, I am interested in Persian more than the remaining four.

To tell the truth, Punjabi food and culture still shows a lot of Persian influence. Thanks to Sikhism, the caste system is weak and people are liberal. Moreover, I want to see the look on my silly sister's face when she will shout "Ki farsi boli janda?" (What are you speaking? Greek?)

The Frenchies say 'It's Chinese to me.', the English say 'It's Greek to me' and Indians and Pakistanis show their astonishment on hearing a new language by 'It's Persian to me!'

Enough of the propaganda for Persian! Here is my plan: 

Plan: Focus only on Persian during December
Aim: To create a Wikipedia article or a blog post in Persian on 1 January, 2013
Current status: Did two lessons today

Friday, 23 November 2012

Trovis malnovajn fotojn

Tiujn ĉi fotografojn kunportis kun li hodiaŭ juna frato. La fotoj estas malnovaj. Mi ne scias kiom da jaroj mi havis tiam oni fotografis nin. Mi certas ke ĝi apartenas al tempo kiam la mondo ankoraŭ estis ĉirkaŭata de kupolo.

Mi, fratino (Urvaŝi), frato (Karan), frato (Gag'gi)

(de maldekstere al dekstere)
Mi, frato (Gag'gi), Urvaŝi (fratino)

(de maldekstere de dekstere)
fratino (Rupali), frato (Karan)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Indian English - use for 'only' for emphasis

Some time ago a friend on Lernu! asked if there wasn't an English based creole in India. I said no. Thinking about that now, it seems rather strange that even after 150 years (the English conquered the last powerful Indian state Punjab in 1849 after the Second Anglo-Sikh War and eight years later, in 1857, the country came under the direct rule of the British royal family) you don't see any creole taking birth here. Nonetheless, there are some constructions unique to the Indian (include Pakistani and other sub-continental versions too) English.

One of the most popular such Indian constructions is the use of 'only' as an emphatic particle so that instead of asking 'Did you really come today?', people say 'Did you come today only?' 

Here are a couple of sentences that will give you an idea of how 'only' is used in the Indian English: 

(1) I did do it. = I only did it. 
(2) He only speaks Punjabi. = He speaks Punjabi only.
(3) Isn't wasn't only me? = It wasn't me only.
(4) The exam is on Monday. = The exam is on Monday only.

There are more idiosyncrasies. I made a list of ten of them. That list is lost and what is wrote there is wiped out of my memory. What a pity! 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

就 and 才

I gave up Chinese for a few weeks but now I am back. First I have to revise all the 49 chapters that make up the Passive Wave in Assimil Chinese with Ease (Assimil Le Chinois sans peine). 

I have started with chapter fifteen. The first fourteen are relatively easier. Today I did chapter 26, 他們決定了 (They've decided). 

The 就 construction is a little confusing. Assimil says it has the opposite effect of 才; as if I really knew how to use 才! Anyway they are not to blame. I didn't study well. 

Okay! I did a little search on the internet and now I understand their most common use. While 就 emphasises something that happened before you were expecting it to occur, 才 shows a belated action.


Xiao Wang goes to school at six o'clock, today he left at five.


Xiao Wang goes to school at six o'clock, today he left at six.


Xiao Wang goes to school at six o'clock, today he left at seven.

小王 = Xiao Wang (Chinese name)
六點 = six o'clock
上學 = go to school
今天 = today
他 = he
五點 = five o'clock
去 = to go

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Punjabi Wikipedia - stupid administrators, no unification

Yes, the title tells it all. They are stupid and too entrenched in their comfort zone to even think that unification is possible. One of them says, 'Western Punjabi' is a different language because it has its own ISO code, another claims 'Kashmiri' and 'German' have the "same" grammar and those from Pakistan don't even care to respond! 

I wouldn't have minded had they given some well-thought reasons for not unifying the two Punjabi Wikipedia. It would have been a pleasure to know where I am wrong. But no! They wouldn't have a discussion. Instead, they would aim their guns at me and keep on asking who I was to order them to learn Shahmukhi. 

I tried hard but those fools won't even budge. When they didn't have a good reason (they are too dumb to think of even one good reason to not unify) they turned to saying: 'Wikipedia is no place for activism.', implying I should go away.

Article on Sikhism on the Shahmukhi Wikipedia is titled 'Sikh Mat' (Sikh Religion). The title on Gurmukhi Wikipedia reads, 'Sikhi.' (Sikhism). They are too foolish to realise that doesn't make them two different languages.

When everything failed, I challenged them to come up with a plan, other than unification, to increase the article count by at least 20,000 in the next six months without stretching Wikipedia finances. They didn't respond. Instead they found it easier to attack me, and turn the discussion to other subjects.

I don't know who made them administrators. I know the software isn't perfect, then aren't we here to make it better? Anyway, I am done with it. Let them massacre each other, create ten Punjabi Wikipedias and do as they please.

In case you are interested in the discussion, here is the link.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Unified Punjabi Wikipedia - glimmer of hope

Unification of two Punjabi Wikipedias is still a dream. I have been trying to learn Python for the past few days so that I can create a Shahmukhi<->Gurmukhi conversion program. 

Yesterday, I began to doubt my way of doing things. So I asked on Lernu! what programming language would suit this task the most. There were some helpful answers and it turns out, solution lies in PHP and not Python. I have installed PHP but I haven't yet been able to figure out how to run it. I have to install a mini-server and I don't know how to go about it. I will find out, I know that. 

I phoned Sangam developer Gurpreet Singh Lehal today evening to ask if he will be willing to let Wikipedia use his conversion software. A soft-spoken person, he gladly agreed. This is a great help. It makes things a lot easier.

I have posted two messages announcing this good news to both Wikipedias. On the Indian side, they have expressed their concerns on the efficacy of software and edit wars that will follow on several controversial topics; India and Pakistan are not the friendliest of nations. 

I have yet to receive a message from the Pakistani side. It is presumably because I posted the message there almost two hours later.

Here is an extremely simple image of what Wikipedia will look like after the conversion is complete:

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Collective dumbing down

I used to think Paṁjāb Kēsarī (पंजाब केसरी) was the most ridiculous newspaper in the world. Not any more. It is not the most ridiculous, it is merely one of many. I have seen Paṁjāb Kēsarī report some of the weirdest things in the world, but nothing tops this headline: 

我的松鼠朋友 天天換新帽
My squirrel friend changes its hat everyday

If you were to glance down the page, there is a news from India

96歲印度農民 世界最老父親
96-year-old Indian peasant is world's oldest father

Now this is absurd, this is insane and it convinces me of one thing: 'merely learning thousands of characters doesn't make you educated, you need much more than that.'

Thank goodness my newspaper The Indian EXPRESS isn't like that. It doesn't sell much, less than half-a-million copies a day, because it doesn't report about a pair of snakes dancing in rain but I love it.

I don't know what kind of newspaper Merit Times (人間福報) is, it certainly is not the one I will ever want to buy!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mageia 2 - Unuaj impresoj

Hoidaŭ estas dimanĉo. Mia buŝo estas plena da aftoj. Sed mi ne parolos pri tiuj, ĉar mi ne povas paroli pro dolorplenaj ulceretoj. Ha ha ha ! Nehumora ŝerco!

Estas matene ĉe mi. Hieraŭ mi ludis per Mageia 2 [ma'ĝe'ia du]. Ĝi estas malfermitkoda mastrumilo. Kvankam, naskiĝinte en jaro 2010, ĝi estas relative nova distribuo; ĝi jam estiĝis tre populara inter Linux-uzantoj. Almenaŭ, tio aspektas de Page Hit Ranking dum pasintaj ses monatoj de DistroWatch. Mageia okupas la duan rangon en la listo.

Mi ne komprenas, kial ĝi estiĝis tiom populara, tiom rapide. Hieraŭ, kiam mi komencis ludi per Viva KD, la unua problemo, kiun antaŭiris min, estis malsimpleco de kunigi mian komputilon al interreto. Kvankam la defaŭlta ĉirkaŭa labortablo estas Gnome [no'um], la maniero de konekti al interreto estas malsama ol Fedora Gnome. Post elspezi kelkjan minutojn provante kompreni funkciadon de la mastruma sistemo (MS), mi finfine sukcese kunigis la komputilon al interreto. Sed la problemoj ne finis tiam.

Eĉ kiam mi estis retumanta, la MS daŭrigis montri al mi tiajn ĉi mesaĝojn: Via komputilo ne estas konektata al interreto. Reprovas konekti. Unua provo malsukcesis. (Tiuj ĉi ne estas precizaj vortoj. Kvankam, la mesaĝo estis simila.)

La terminalo estas kaŝita sub Applications + Tools. Tion mi ne ŝatis. Post unu horo, mi elprenis la KDon kaj la nelonga eksperimento finiĝis tie.

ਮਾਜੀਆ 2 - ਪਹਿਲੀ ਨਜ਼ਰ 'ਤੇ

ਅੱਜ ਐਤਵਾਰ ਹੈ। ਮੇਰਾ ਮੂੰਹ ਛਾਲਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਭਰਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਪਰ ਮੈਂ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਬਾਰੇ ਗੱਲ ਨਹੀ ਕਰਾਂਗਾਂ, ਕਿਉਂ ਕਿ ਇਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਰਦ ਭਰੇ ਛਾਲਿਆਂ ਦੀ ਵਜਿਹ ਨਾਲ ਮੈਂ ਬੋਲ ਨਹੀ ਸਕਦਾ। ਹਾ ਹਾ ਹਾ ! ਹਾਸੀ ਨਹੀ ਆਈ।

ਇੱਥੇ ਸਵੇਰ ਹੈ। ਕਲ੍ਹ ਮੈਂ ਮਾਜੀਆ 2 (Mageia 2) ਨਾਲ ਖੇਡ ਰਿਹਾ ਸੀ। ਇਹ ਇੱਕ ਓਪਨ-ਸੋਰਸ ਆਪਰੇਟਿੰਗ ਸਿਸਟਮ ਹੈ। 2010 ਵਿਚ ਆਈ ਇਹ ਨਵੀਂ ਡਿਸਟ੍ਰੀਬੂਸ਼ਨ (distribution) ਲੀਨਕਸ ਵਰਤਣ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਵਿਚ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਹੀ ਕਾਫੀ ਮਸ਼ਹੂਰ ਹੋ ਗਈ ਹੈ। ਘੱਟੋ-ਘੱਟ ਡਿਸਟਰੋਵਾਚ (Distrowatch) ਦਾ ਪੇਜ ਹਿਟ ਰੈਨਕਿੰਗ (Page Hit Ranking) ਵੇਖ ਕੇ ਤਾਂ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਹੀ ਲਗਦਾ ਹੈ। ਇਸ ਲਿਸਟ ਵਿਚ ਮਾਜੀਆ ਹੁਣ ਦੂਸਰੇ ਨੰਬਰ 'ਤੇ ਹੈ।

ਮੈਨੂੰ ਇਹ ਸਮਝ ਨਹੀ ਆਉਂਦਾ ਕਿ ਇਹ ਇਨ੍ਹੀਂ ਜਲਦੀ, ਇਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਮਸ਼ਹੁਰ ਕਿੰਝ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ। ਕਲ੍ਹ ਜਦੋਂ ਮੈਂ ਲਾਇਵ ਸੀਡੀ (Live CD) ਨਾਲ ਖੇਡ ਰਿਹਾ ਸੀ, ਤਾਂ ਸਭ ਤੋਂ ਪਹਿਲੀ ਮੁਸ਼ਕਿਲ ਜੋ ਪੇਸ਼ ਆਈ, ਉਹ ਸੀ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੇ ਕੰਪਿਊਟਰ ਨੂੰ ਇੰਨਟਰਨੈੱਟ ਨਾਲ ਕਿਵੇਂ ਜੋੜਿਆ ਜਾਵੇ। ਭਾਵੇਂ ਮਾਜੀਆ ਦਾ ਡੀਫਾਲਟ (default) ਡੈਸਕਟਾਪ (desktop) ਨੋਮ (Gnome) ਹੀ ਹੈ, ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਇੰਨਟਰਨੈੱਟ ਨਾਲ ਜੋੜਨ ਦਾ ਤਰੀਕਾ ਫੇਦੋਰਾ ਨੋਮ (Fedora Gnome) ਨਾਲੋਂ ਵੱਖਰਾ ਹੈ। ਕਈ ਮਿੰਟ ਮਗਜ਼-ਖਪਾਈ ਕਰਦੇ ਅਤੇ ਇਹ ਸਮਝਣ ਦੀ ਕੋਸ਼ਿਸ਼ ਕਰਦੇ ਲੰਘ ਗਏ ਕਿ ਇਹ ਆਪਰੇਟਿੰਗ ਸਿਸਟਮ ਕੰਮ ਕਿਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ। ਆਖਿਰਕਾਰ ਮੈਂ ਇਸ ਮਸ਼ੀਨ ਨੂੰ ਇਨਟਰਨੈਟ ਨਾਲ ਜੋੜਨ ਵਿਚ ਕਾਮਯਾਬ ਹੋਇਆ। ਪਰ ਮੁਸ਼ਕਲਾਂ ਅਜੇ ਖਤਮ ਨਹੀ ਸੀ ਹੋਈਆਂ।

ਜੱਦ ਮੈਂ ਨੈੱਟ ਸਰਫੰਗ (net surfing) ਕਰ ਰਿਹਾ ਸੀ, ਇਹ ਆਪਰੇਟਿੰਗ ਸਿਸਟਮ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਵਾਰ-ਵਾਰ ਸਕਰੀਨ 'ਤੇ ਇਹ ਮੋਸਜ ਵਿਖਾਈ ਜਾ ਰਿਹਾ ਸੀ: ਤੁਹਾਡਾ ਕੰਪਿਊਟਰ ਇਨਟਰਨੈੱਟ ਨਾਲ ਜੁੜਿਆ ਨਹੀ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਜਾਂ ਜੋੜਨ ਦੀ ਦੁਬਾਰਾ ਤੋਂ ਕੋਸ਼ਿਸ਼ ਕਰ ਰਹੇ ਹਾਂ। ਪਹਿਲੀ ਕੋਸ਼ਿਸ਼ ਨਾਕਾਮ ਰਹੀ। (ਕੰਪਿਊਟਰ ਨੇ ਕੋਈ ਹੋਰ ਅਲਫਾਜ ਇਸਤੇਮਾਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਸਨ। ਪਰ ਮਤਲਬ ਇੱਕੋ ਹੀ ਸੀ।)

ਟਰਮੀਨਲ ਐਪਲੀਕੇਸ਼ਨਾਂ (Application) + ਔਜ਼ਾਰਾਂ (Tools) ਵਿਚ ਕਿੱਧਰੇ ਛੁਪਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਇਹ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਪੰਸਦ ਨਹੀ ਆਇਆ। ਇੱਕ ਘੰਟੇ ਬਾਅਦ ਮੈਂ ਸੀਡੀ ਕੱਢ ਲਈ ਅਤੇ ਮੇਰਾ ਥੋੜ੍ਹਚਿਰਾ ਤਜਰਬਾ ਖਤਮ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ।

Mageia 2 - first impressions

It's Sunday today. My mouth is full of mouth ulcers. But I will not talk about that as I can't speak because of these painful little things. Ha ha ha ! A bad joke.

It's morning here. I tried Mageia 2 yesterday. It's an open-source operating system. Though relatively new, it forked off another popular distribution Mandriva in 2010, it has already become very popular among Linux users. At least that's the impression you get from the Page Hit Ranking of Distrowatch. This two-year-old distribution occupies the second place.

When I was playing with the live CD yesterday, the first issue to crop up was the difficulty of connecting to the internet. Although the default desktop is Gnome, it is different from Fedora Gnome, at least as far internet connectivity is concerned. After spending a few mintues trying to understand how the OS works, I finally successfully established a connection. But the problems didn't end there.

The OS continued to show me messages - Your computer is not connected with the internet. or Trying to connect again. First attempt failed. (These are not the exact words. Anyway, you get the essence.) - even when I was browsing the web.

The terminal is hidden well under Applications and Tools. I didn't like that. I took out the CD after an hour and there ended my short experiment.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Jambo! 拜拜漢語!Al Jazeera in French

Not again! I am making no progress in Chinese. Not because I am stuck in grammar or the vocabulary is huge or the writing system is different... I am no longer interested. It always happens like this. After a couple of months (this time it lasted for over six months) I give up the language. If I can't counter this tendency of mine, I will never ever be a polyglot. :(

But there is no need to brood about this. You can spend hours thinking about yourself, as if you were special, and still not comprehend a bit of it. Anyway, I am now focusing on Swahili. (Don't laugh!) I can already say: 

Jambo! Habari gani? Ninatumia Linux. Yangu distribution(?) Fedora. Unataka Ubuntu Linux? 
La, sitaki Linux. Ninataka Mac au Windows.

(Hi! How are you? I use Linux. My distribution is Fedora. Do you want [to try] Ubuntu Linux? 
No, I don't want Linux. I want either Mac or Windows.)

I have also deciphered the popular Swahili phrase 'Hakuna matata.'

ha- = negation prefix
kuna = there is / there are
matata = problem

So the literal translation is 'There are no problems.' and colloquially... well... you all know what it means! :D

Finally, I just came across something very interesting. Al Jazeera is going to launch a French service by the end of this year and it has chosen to set up its French language centre in Paris (oops!) Dakar, the Senegalese capital.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

How to type Punjabi on Fedora (Linux)?

Here is my guide in nine simple steps:

(1) Open Terminal

(2) Login as root


(3) iBus is an input system. It comes along with your Fedora. Our task is to add a Punjabi input method to this framework (iBus). You can do this through the following command: 

yum install ibus-m17n.i686

(4) It will ask for confirmation. Press 


Let it proceed and in under a minute you will see this message pop up in your terminal:

Congratulations! You have installed a Punjabi Input System on your Fedora. Our next task is to activate it. But before that do exit ENTER and exit ENTER to logout and get out of the terminal.

(5)  Activating iBus

Here's how you can do activate iBus: 

System Manager 
                     →Input Method Selector 

(6) Logout and login again.

(7) You will notice on your screen. Click on it. 

(8) Then: 

  →Input Method 
                    →Show All Input Methods 
        →Panjabi; Punjabi 
     →inscript (m17n) 

It would look something like this: 

(9)  You are done! Press CTRL+SPACE to toggle between Punjabi and English.

ਫੇਦੋਰਾ (ਲੀਨਕਸ) 'ਤੇ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਕਿੰਝ ਟਾਇਪ ਕਰੀਏ?

ਤੁਸੀ ਫੇਦੋਰਾ (ਲੀਨਕਸ) 'ਤੇ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਇਨ੍ਹਾਂ 9 ਆਸਾਨ ਕਦਮਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਟਾਇਪ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੇ ਹੋ:

(1) ਟਰਮੀਨਲ ਓਪਨ ਕਰੋ।
(2) ਰੂਟ ਬਣਨ ਲਈ ਇਹ ਕਮਾਂਡ ਦੇਵੋ:


(3) iBus ਇੱਕ ਇਨਪੁਟ ਸਿਸਟਮ ਹੈ। ਇਹ ਤੁਹਾਡੇ ਫੇਦੋਰਾ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਹੀ ਆਉਂਦਾ ਹੈ। ਸਾਡਾ ਮਕਸਦ ਹੈ ਇਸ ਢਾਂਚੇ (iBus) ਵਿਚ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ  ਇਨਪੁਟ ਸਿਸਟਮ ਜੋਨਾ। ਇਸ ਕੰਮ ਨੂੰ ਹੇਠ ਲਿਖੀ ਕਮਾਂਡ ਦੇ ਜ਼ਰੀਏ ਅੰਜਾਮ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਾ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ।

yum install ibus-m17n.i686

(4) ਇਹ ਤੁਹਾਡੀ ਮਨਜ਼ੂਰੀ ਮੰਗੇਗਾ। y  ਦਬਾਓ।

ਲਗਭਗ ਇੱਕ ਮਿੰਟ ਤਕ ਇਸਨੂੰ ਚੱਲਣ ਦੇਵੋ। ਖਤਮ ਹੋਣ 'ਤੇ ਇਹ ਕੁਝ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਨਜ਼ਰ ਆਵੇਗਾ।

ਮੁਬਾਰਕਾਂ! ਤੁਸੀ ਫੇਦੋਰਾ 'ਤੇ  ਪੰਜਾਬੀ  ਇਨਪੁਟ ਸਿਸਟਮ ਇੰਸਟਾਲ ਕਰ ਲਿਆ ਹੈ। ਸਾਡਾ ਅੱਗਲਾ ਮਕਸਦ ਹੈ ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਐਕਟੀਵੇਟ ਕਰਨਾ। ਪਰ ਉਸ ਤੋਂ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਲਾਗਆਉਟ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਅਤੇ ਟਰਮੀਨਲ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਹਰ ਆਉਣ ਲਈ  exit ENTER ਅਤੇ exit ENTER ਦਬਾਓ।

(5) ibus ਐਕਟੀਵੇਟ ਕਰਨਾ।

iBus ਐਕਟੀਵੇਟ ਕਰਨ ਦਾ ਇਹ ਤਰੀਕਾ ਹੈ:

System Manager  (ਸਿਸਟਮ ਮੈਨੇਜਰ)

                           →Input Method Selector (ਇਨਪੁਟ ਮੈਥਡ ਚੁਣਨ ਵਾਲਾ)
 →iBus (ਆਈ ਬਸ)

(6) ਲਾਗਆਉਟ ਕਰੋ, ਅਤੇ ਫਿਰ ਤੋਂ ਲਾਗਇਨ ਕਰੋ।

(7) ਤੁਸੀ ਆਪਣੀ ਸਕਰੀਨ 'ਤੇ  ਵੇਖੋਗੇ।

(8) ਫਿਰ:

Preferences (ਤਰਜੀਹਾਂ)

  →Input Method (ਇਨਪੁਟ ਮੈਥਡ)
                    →Show All Input Methods (ਸਾਰੇ ਇਨਪੂਟ ਮੈਥਡ ਵਿਖਾਓ) 
        →Panjabi; Punjabi  (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ)
     →inscript (m17n) 
→Add (ਜੋੜੋ)
   →Close (ਬੰਦ ਕਰੋ)

ਇਹ ਕੁਝ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਵਿਖੇਗਾ।

(9) ਕੰਮ ਖਤਮ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ। ਆਪਣੇ ਕੀ-ਬੋਰਡ ਨੂੰ ਅੰਗ੍ਰੇਜ਼ੀ ਤੋਂ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ (ਅਤੇ ਦੁਬਾਰਾ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਤੋਂ ਅੰਗ੍ਰੇਜ਼ੀ) ਵਿਚ ਬਦਲਣ ਲਈ CTRL+SPACE ਦਬਾਓ।

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Canjie + Mozc = a new Japanese input system

I finally figured out how to use Cangjie to type Japanese! No, it's not the best way to input Japanese. It's slow and I won't recommend it to you unless you have plenty of time in your hands and little typing to do.

NOTE: It's not as slow as it looks in the video. My screen recorder consumes so much memory that it makes every other process crawl. 

Cangjie and MOZC for Japanese

NOTEThe video quality is shabby. Blame Blogger for that! (~_^)

What I have done is no brainer. I have used two input systems - MOZC and Cangjie - simultaneously and I constantly toggle between them. A downside of this arrangement is that you are stuck if you have to type Roman characters.

I didn't do it out of laziness. I was trying to create my own ibus-table in the morning. After a couple of hours I had accomplished nothing. But, I had completely messed up my iBus so that all the input methods using tables just vanished. I had to reinstall.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Problems in General Physics

It finally arrived on Wednesday. I was in Chandigarh for an interview. Returned late that night but on Thursday morning my hands were on Irodov's book! I wasn't hoping to solve even the first problem, I solved three! I know that's not impressive. Nonetheless I am glad that I did better than I was expecting to! 

The first problem reads: 

A motorboat going downstream overcame a raft at a point A; τ = 60 min later it turned back and after some time passed the raft at a distance l = 6 km from the point A. Find the flow velocity assuming the duty of the engine to be constant. 

Here is my solution: 

Here is the same solution is more legible form: 

I know it's not Quantum Physics or Relativity. It's just elementary high school stuff. Still I am relieved to discover I haven't forgotten everything. Moreover, Problems is General Physics is considered the best book at high school level. I took between 30-45 min and five pages to solve the very first problem! I feel proud! 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

How come my world has become so small

How come my world has become so small
that now I can't see beyond finding work and earning money
I remember when sky was the limit!

How come my world has become so small
that now I am ready to spend decades paying for a tiny patch of land
I remember when the whole universe was mine

How come my world has become so small
that now I can't think of anything but fame, money and sex
I remember when my imagination knew no bounds

How come my world has become so small
that I don't even get out of this room
I remember when for hours everynight I looked at the stars

How come my world has become so small
that I can't find a purpose in life
I remember when the purpose was to build a spaceship and fly as fas as I could

How come my world has become so small
that I spend hours learning how other people say "Hello!"
I remember when I didn't even care about aliens

How come my world has become so small
that instead of reading a physics book
I am seeking solace in poetry!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A shape based input method for Japanese

After learning Cangjie, I asked several people if they were aware of any shape based input method for Japanese. Always they replied it didn't exist. I asked a couple of Japanese too; same response. Then to my great surprise, I was trying Boshiamy a couple of days ago and accidentally discovered it could type Japanese! 

I haven't been able to locate any Boshiamy tutorials in English so far. So I don't really know how efficient a method it is. Nonetheless, I could type both the Kana and Kanji! What a pity that Cangjie doesn't offer a version for Japanese. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Off to Delhi

Good morning aliens! 

It's about six in the morning and within a few minutes we (I with my family) will leave off to New Delhi to attend a Satyanarayana Pooja at my sister's. I will also meet my bhanja (son of the daughter of my father's sister) for the first time. He is probably a month old! 

In other news, the infection on my right foot remains. But it's less swollen now than it was on the day before yesterday.

Time to divulge in self-pity: It was a fateful day for my foot. It was pouring like it wouldn't cease until the end of the world. I was lured into leaving the safety of my house and take a leisurely walk outside. I couldn't resist. In fact I was so enchanted I didn't even notice when a satanic insect bit me! 

Let's not overdo it! 

Finally, I am struggling not to give up Chinese.  

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

六百十二 - 612


It says, I know 612 Chinese characters. 

I just did a test on NCIKU and based on my scores their estimate is 612. Here are the results: 

What do I think about it? They're generous! 

I am trying to read texts aimed at beginners who know at least 500 characters and every second or third sentence there crops up an unknown Hanji. No, I am not complaining. I love it. Perhaps I didn't know readers also include some new vocabulary.

Now I know how to say: 明天我跟外星人一起去看電影。(I am going to watch a film with an alien tomorrow.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Chinese studies continue

It's a miracle! I am still studying Chinese. Otherwise what usually happens is I give up a language after a couple of months at most.

Today I read another short text in the language. Here it is if you are interested: 

Beautiful, isn't it?

It isn't some old manuscript. I have used GIMP (Linux equivalent of PhotoShop) and other tools to create this image. This helps me learn more about my OS and in the process I can revise Chinese.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

WW2 propaganda in Roman Hindustani

Found an interesting webpage a few days ago. It tells a fascinating account of the propaganda war between the British Colonial Government on the one side and the Axis powers (Germany and Japan) and a group of Indian freedom fighters on the other.

I have yet to read the whole thing. But skimming through it I noticed something damn interesting. The British, Germans, Japanese and Indians were using Romanised Hindi/Urdu to reach the masses. 

The title of a leaflet from the Indian National Army of the Provisional Indian Government reads: 

Burma par dobara qabza karna ger-munkin hai.

(It's impossible to conquer Burma again.)

The leaflet refers to the British attempts to recapture the territory from the INA and its Japanese allies.

A German propaganda pamphlet asks Indians if they were aware of what was happening in the world. 

It reads:

Hindustánio! Tum ko kuchh khabar haí kih dunyá men kyá ho ráhá haí?

Another example of German efficiency. They mark long vowels! It makes the text easier to read.

That was more than 60 years ago. What makes it so fascinating is that the people writing them were no scientists experimenting on a new script. They were propagandists of desperate regimes trying to woo Indians. And this makes me wonder, why would they chose to put forward their side in Roman script. I don't have the faintest idea.

Aside from the script, the propaganda is chiefly in four languages: English, Hindi/Urdu, Bengali and Tamil. English probably for the educated urban populace, Hindi/Urdu for the North and the West, Bengali for the Eastern parts and Tamil for the South.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Largest online encyclopaedias

Wikipedia is the largest encyclopaedia ever written. There are more than 22 million (23 July, 2012) articles on it in more than 100 hundred languages. With a little more than four million articles, the English encylopaedia is the largest. Next comes the German Wikipedia with its approximately one and a half million (1.44 million) articles. The French version will soon cross the 1.3 million mark. Currently these are the only Wikipedias (Dutch too, with its more than 100,000 bot generated articles)  to have more than a million articles. The Italian, Spanish and Polish versions are set to join the club before the end of this year.

Compared to this, the Chinese Wikipedia's performance is dismal. Despite having more than a billion speakers, the article count is barely above half-a-million. Even Japanese (with much less speakers) boasts of close to 900,000 articles.

So are the Chinese (just like the Arabs and Indians) disinterested, or are we missing something?

It turns out, they are just as excited about voluntarily contributing online as anyone else in the world. The Chinese Wikipedia may not have an article count comparable to English, German or French, but then it's not the only Chinese collaborative encyclopaedia online.

Baike Baidu (百科百度) and Hudong (互動) are two such giants. There is also Soso (搜搜). Of these, with its 6.4 million (1 July, 2012) articles, Hudong is the largest. Then comes Baike (5 million). It's followed by Soso (900,000).

I got the numbers from this table. This is an article on Baike Baidu on the Chinese Wikipedia.

Here is a screenshot: 

And here are the numbers:

Translation help:

First row from second column onward:

中文維碁百科:Chinese Wikipedia
百度百科:Baike Baidu

First column, third row from top:

條目數:Article count

So, it turns out the largest online encylopaedia is Hudong. The second largest is Baike Baidu, followed by the English, German and French Wikipedias.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Saanjo - a script for Punjabi

Yesterday I found this. It is a script created by Ejaz Mahmood to write Punjabi. What I like about Saanjo? Unlike Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi, it does represent tones. Though the creator doesn't call them tone markers, my understanding is that the "Supportive Signs" are indeed there to show tone. However, I may be wrong. 

Also unlike Gurmukhi, which is an Abugida, and Shahmukhi, an Abjad, Saanjo is an alphabetic script. There is a guide to the script on the website for those who wish to learn.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

How do Indians eat with their hands

While practising Chinese on Yahoo! Taiwan on Saturday, I typed 為什麼印度人 (why do the Indians) and the top suggestion was 用手吃飯? (use their hands to eat?) 

Here is a screenshot: 


I even found this newspaper column. Its title is 揭秘:印度人吃飯為何用手抓。It roughly translates as: "Unearthed: How do Indians eat with their hands?" This will make an interesting reading when my Chinese is good enough to read newspaper columns.

And it doesn't end here. One of the other suggestions reads: 為什麼印度人用手吃飯咖哩?(Why do the Indians eat curry with their hands?)

Wow! So they are specific about curry! Interesting! I confess I have never seen anyone eating curry with their hands. Perhaps they do it in the South. But I have no idea how they will hold curry in their hands! Anyway I will find out in the next few months! 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Back to traditional characters

It turns out giving up traditional characters isn't easy. I didn't do any lessons for two days. And I am now returning to traditional characters. 

There is nothing wrong with the simplified script. It's simply that when you are used to the traditional writing system, you find the simplified a little incomplete.

I remember perfectly how I didn't even care about traditional characters only a few months ago. I knew they existed, a few people used them but they were not mend for me! Then for some reason which I don't even remember I started learning traditional characters. Initially I grumbled about 國 (国) and 個 (个), thinking they were too complicated. Now I just can't get out of the trap which makes me visualise these characters as complete and thus more beautiful.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Chinese Reading, Goodbye to traditional characters

Today ends the fourth week of Assimil Chinese with Ease. I had been successfully doing a lesson a day until only a couple of days ago. A sluggishness has crept in in the past two days now. I didn't do today's lesson. Instead I found this. It is a short story aimed at beginners. The title is 问问题 which roughly translates as "Ask a question."

Here is how it goes:



wen wen ti

xiao wang wen xiao li yi ge wen ti. ta wen xiao li zai che shen me. xiao li shuo ta zai che ping guo, ta qing xiao wang ye che yi ge ping guo. xiao wang hen ke qi, ta xie xie xiao li. xiao li shuo bu ke qi.

Ask a question

Xiao Wang asks Xiao Li what he is eating. Xiao li replies he is eating an apple. He offers Xiao Wang an apple. This makes Xiao Wang blush. He thanks Xiao Li. Xiao Li replies you are welcome.

Finally, I am no longer learning Traditional Characters. Albeit I still use Cangjie to write Chinese. I could have gone with Wubi but then I decided to stick with Cangjie. I don't want to spend another month learning a new Input System and Pinyin based IMEs are not for me. 我受仓颉。

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Is Cangjie (or Wubi) worth learning?

YES, it is! And that's been my experience so far.


1. I have been learning Chinese for the past few months, and Cangjie for a little more than six weeks. I don't know many characters, my grammar is poor but when I see an unknown character online, I can look it up in a dictionary without having to copy it which is anyways impossible when the unfamiliar character is part of an image or shows up in video. So that's an advantage of learning Cangjie (or Wubi): you can type unknown characters.

2. You can't use Cangjie (or Wubi) if you don't know what 漢語 looks like. So the system compels you to remember the shapes of characters. This gives you extra practice when you are learning Chinese. With Pinyin-IME (or Bopomofo), you tend to forget the details and after some time only a vague form remains in your mind. At least that was happening to me.

3. They say Cangjie (or Wubi) is faster. I confess I still type faster in Pinyin. But then I have been used to Qwerty layout for the past so many years. I believe after a few months, I will be able to type faster using Cangjie.

But they say...

They say it takes a long time to learn Cangjie (or Wubi). 

Switch to Dvorak and I bet you can't match your current typing speed on the new layout for at least a month. And that's normal. It takes time to learn anything new. Cangjie is no exception. You will have to spend a month, or in a few cases two, before you can grasp its principles and feel comfortable with the new layout.

They say you have to memorise a lot of codes.

This shows ignorance on part of those who makes such ludicrous claims. It's just not true. Do you think I learnt to type 漢語 by learning this code etli yrmmr? Of course, not! That's impossible! ? You only have to learn 24 + 1 letters and their auxiliary shapes. Together they don't amount to more than 100. This may sound a lot, but at the rate of ten-a-day you can have them all under your belt in less than ten days.

There doesn't exist a tutorial in English.

That's partly true. If you are ready to spend a few rupees, there does exit a book in English to teach Cangjie. I am not sure about Wubi. If for any reason you don't want the book, these links may be helpful: 

In case you are learning Chinese through simplified characters, these links may prove useful:

Are there any downsides? 

One of the downsides that I have noticed so far is that I sometimes forget how to pronounce characters, even though I remember how to write them and what they mean. Today I learnt the word for bicycle. It's 自行車. I have forgotten how to pronounce the first character but I remember the remaining two are 行 (xing) and 車 (che).

Do people use them?

Cangjie and Wubi are not as popular as Pinyin-IMEs. Perhaps there are ten (or more) Pinyin-IME users for each Cangjie or Wubi user. But then Macs aren't as popular as PCs, and there aren't as many Ferraris sold here as Maruti Suzuki Altos.

How to install Cangjie or Wubi?

Linux (Fedora)

Go to Add/Remove Software, type Cangjie (or Wubi). There will be several options. I use Smart Cangjie. For Wubi, you can choose Wubi-Jidian86. After that click on Apply. The system will ask for Root password, type in that and you are done.

Windows and Mac

I don't know. It's been quite long since I last used Windows and I have never used a Mac.