Crayon-painting with words

Consider this paragraph.

Vermishank was not fat, but he was coated from his cheeks down in a slight excess layer, a swaddling of flesh. He wore a suit too small for him, and his skin was tight against his sleeves. His hair was brushed and styled with ardour. Vermishank was drinking cream soup. He dipped bread into it regularly and chewed at it, worrying as it dripped yellow onto his desk. His eyes took Isaac in.

Sound about so-so normal? Now let’s try painting a slightly more cheerful picture, by the careful addition of a few words and phrases here and there.

Vermishank was not quite rotund, but his fleshy jowls imparted a cheerful look. He wore a suit too small for him and he was bursting out of his seams. His hair was neatly brushed and styled prim and proper. Vermishank was drinking hearty cream soup. He dipped fresh bread into it regularly and slurped while worrying as it dripped yellow onto his desk. His bright eyes took Isaac in.

And what would we need to do make the original paragraph look like it came straight out of a period drama?

Vermishank, son of Larvashank, was not quite stout but possesed the fleshy jowls that was characteristic of his lineage. He wore garb that was too small for his immense size. His hair was brushed and styled according to the customs and traditions of his time. Vermishank was drinking soup prepared from vegetables that grew on his land. He dipped bread baked in the clay oven into the soup and ritually let a few drops fall onto his desk, as religious custom demanded. His incisive eyes took Isaac in.

And what about Chenglish, the hottest new dialect in town, whose absolute master is this guy. Read this for an introduction to this brilliant patois.

Vermishank was not romba overweight, but had lots of flesh hanging from his cheeks looking like a kozhi’s face. He wore one-size-less dress, and his body was appearing tight like MGR’s shirt in old movies. He brushed his hair like chamatthu boy and styled with parachute coconut oil also. Vermishank was drinking Mysore Rasam. He dipped Modern bread and was having full kavalai that it was sottufying on his desk. His kankutthippaambu eyes took Isaac in.

And finally, having essentially used up most of the attractive colours in the crayon box, we are only left with the dark and sinister black and grey. So here’s dark fantasy, courtesy China Mieville (my current favourite author), page 233, Perdido Street Station. Compare this one word for word with the first version of this paragraph.

Vermishank was not fat, but he was coated from his jowls down in a slight excess layer, a swaddling of dead flesh like a corpse’s. He wore a suit too small for him, and his necrotic white skin oozed from his sleeves. His thin hair was brushed and styled with neurotic fervour. Vermishank was drinking lumpy cream soup. He dipped doughy bread into it regularly and sucked at the resulting mess, chewing but not biting off, gnawing and worrying at the saliva-fouled bread that dipped wan yellow onto his desk. His colourless eyes took Isaac in.

With that image in your mind, I take leave.

18 Comments

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  1. Reminds me of when an English teacher asked her High Schoolers to render Sheikh Peer into modern English. And predictably, one of those long haired louts with a lot more vakram in his buddhi did so with his effort riddled with plenty of c and f words.

    When censured, he successfully argued that in the time of the bard, knave and other epithets were the equal of modern day profanities.

    Actually how we found out about it was when the boy, backed by his parent, took the case to the Education board Appeals Tribunal and it turned up in the papers.

  2. Reminds me of my B.Tech. exams when I used to write same thing in different paragraphs, in different styles and using different words 😀

  3. I remember reading in some Frederick Forsyth novel about a character who learns to change his appearance with very little work in a matter of minutes. What you’ve done is the literary equivalent.

    Brilliant stuff! Keep ’em coming!

  4. The last version of the text made me go “ugh”. Yikes, what an image you left in my mind while concluding your post!

    In other words, awesome “verbal costuming” work you did on these pieces!

  5. Clarissa,
    Strangely, it was my childish stubbornness about not speaking Hindi with schoolmates in Delhi that ended up improving my English. I was a little too conscious about being made fun of as a Madraasi 🙂

    Bikerdude,
    Xerox waala gave suspicious looks when I started taking off chappals after asking him “Oru Copy leg sir”.

    Everybody,
    Thank you

  6. Thanks for dropping by my blog. I hope you don’t mind that I bookmarked you! I found your blog while trying to google-research film-criticism of Indian films and I have been enjoying it ever since! My research is on Hausa language Nigerian films, which are extremely influenced by Indian films, including much singing and dancing, so much so that critics and censorship boards in Kano, Nigeria, have recently seen fit to ban the singing and dancing for supposedly “cultural” and “moral” reasons… Anyway, thanks for the comment.

    Cheers, T-C

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