Since my first visit to India Gate in 2014, I saw a lot of vendors selling handmade English letters bracelets. A letter of the material costs 2 rupees, and the bracelet line costs 10 rupees, so around 30 rupees you can get a bracelet that has your name or name of the person you love on it. The vendors usually do not speak very good English, so does the customers. Sometimes both the customer and the vendor couldn’t either read or write well in English. So there was a time I was stopped by a white lady dressed in Saree, asking me to help spelling her name in English: Morpheus.
Delhi is a city full of English signs. As a visitor, except the mixed languages conversation and bargain with the rickshaw drivers, I should have felt comfortable about living in a globalized city. But people from so many different cultural backgrounds use English differently, and this always reminds me of the misunderstanding from communication: those vendors weave the bracelets they don’t understand, on the other hand, the customers also need to try hard to get their ideal English bracelets.
In 2017, I went back to India Gate again, with a paper of the Indian National Song translated in English, I asked the vendor to weave the bracelet. For me, this is an exotic, hard-to-read poem; for the vendor, they didn’t understand how the meaning of this poem bracelet related to him. The text here is only a sellable product.
“what is this? G-N-J-A-R-A-T” the tanned vendor asked.
“Gujarat，G-U-J-A-R-A-T it’s a tribe of India”
(This is a rough translation of the original in Chinese)