Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Ram Krishna Singh BEYOND THE SHADOW A few notes and a mystery

Ram Krishna Singh
BEYOND THE SHADOW: A few notes and a mystery 

by  Dr Jacques COULARDEAU

To assess this poetry - and not the poet – we have to look at each poem and see what it brings since it is a collection, hence coming from different periods and with no connections among them. Then after examining the poems a few ideas may emerge. Here are some of these ideas emerging from the samsara of this collection.

What is surprising at once for that poetry written in English is that in its form itself I feel the Indo-Aryan syntax of the native language of the author that I assume to be Hindi though I have in mind the languages I know, Sinhala and Pali. The second poem is typical with its numerous present participles that give elements that have just been sort of fulfilled as if they were preterit participles: fulfilled circumstances from whose fulfillment a vision may emerge and in this poem what emerges is at the beginning: death of course that cannot be as long as these circumstances have not been fulfilled. That will lead us to another remark later.

At the same time his reference to haikus is true and false. These poems apart from one or two very short ones are not haikus. But it is also true because the poet uses standard concatenated static elements to build images that are at times striking and this is haiku-ish. We have thus chains of such concatenated static vignettes or cameos and the meaning can only come from the samsaric chain and not from each small tableau or any logical or rational stringing of them. This is true of many poems.

But poem 28 is a mixture of both techniques. It is a haiku by its shortness and its striking conclusion of “a ship on vacation” that sinks. But at the same time he transforms a negative preterit participle clause into an English negative causal explanation, which it hardly is. All the poems should be examined at that level of the intertwining of three syntaxes from three different linguistic traditions, the Indo-Aryan and Indo-European traditions that are quite close and yet quite different even though they have the same origin somewhere in the Middle East probably on the Iranian plateau. The third tradition is definitely different since the languages of the haiku are Japanese or Chinese, isolating languages based on the concatenation of invariable nominal and verbal elements.

The second remark is poetical. It is the very extensive use of oxymorons to the point of being able to qualify this poetry as oxymoronic. Consider the conclusion of the third poem:
“heaven is a mirage in human zoo”
The use of the copula “is” comes from the English language but is not necessary and the line without it would be a lot more striking in its appositive or concatenated style and closer to a Dhammapada verse:
“heaven a mirage in human zoo”
“Heaven” and “mirage” are of course oxymoronic, at least if we consider “heaven” to be a real concept for the poet and not a sarcastic or humoristic reference to something he does not believe in. That would be trite, not poetic. At the same time “mirage” and “human zoo” are oxymoronic since a “mirage” is what man sees that is not there. If the zoo is real, then the mirage is impossible. But associated to “heaven” it then gives to humanity a gullible and totally absurd reality. They cannot know, even heaven, because they can only see mirages. Finally “human” and “zoo” are oxymoronic because man generally keeps animals in a zoo. How can man keep himself in a zoo of his own making? It is this intricate oxymoronic use of what is basically metaphors that makes this poetry striking.
This second remark leads me to a third one. There is only one allusion to Buddha but the poems are deeply and pervasively inhabited by some Buddhists concepts.
The most obvious one is “dukkha,” that concepts that states that since everything is changing (anicca) life is a vast cycle of birth-growth/decay-death-rebirth. The author is obsessed by his own decay and death. Poem 8 lists his ailments:
“My shrinking body” . . . “devil in the spine” . . . “abusing tongue in sleep” . . .
“bleeding anus” . . . “oozing and stinking” . . .
He refers to that decaying process over and over again. His conclusive formula in Poem 8, “onanist excursion,” is perfect to describe the hypercondriac onanistic masturbation of his own self and body, ailments and evils. And this onanism is rightly identified in poem 29 as “wank without wad” which, beyond the trilogy of initial /w/, the dukkha cycle, the sterile attachment (tanha) of the poet makes that poet a wanker without wad hence a sterile wanker practicing sterile wanking producing nothing.
This absolute domination of this totally negative dukkha that brings no rebirth at all because of the poet’s excessive attachment (tanha) to his own decay (dukkha) is seen as an evil of the modern world in poem 14. The growth of concrete buildings makes flowers die, makes tree be felled and disappear, and leaves nothing but a world that produces its own full sterility and frigidity. A world that has the wank without the wad.

A last remark along that line is the evasiveness and lack of precise presence of the concepts of anicca, constant change, and of anatta, absence of soul or self. The latter is totally denied and never mentioned. The soul I even asserted here and there and the self is omnipresent. But the former can be found though not constantly. Poem 14 is typical of that constant change anicca but as a catastrophe, an irreversible evolution to destruction, what he calls “a calamity” and this calamity, this dukkha, in the absence of any rebirth, is the end of life, of the world. On the other hand poem 13 is a lot more balanced, probably due to the reference to Buddha. And he asserts that the “loss” due to this constant change and decay “returns to wholeness,” hence leads to some rebirth, though “returns” is not the proper word since it is not going back to what it used to be but a new wholeness reached beyond the destruction of the old wholeness. “Return” is too retrospective.
We could and should examine the many variations of that theme.
A final remark has to be done about the last poems: they tend to become political, ideological.
The theme was touched already in Poem 9
“politics of corruption.”
This corruption is like the rotten apple in a basket of apples. It makes the poet’s “face ugly.” “There is no beauty or holiness left in the naked nation.” “I weep for . . . the faces they deface with clay dreams.” And this clay is not coming from some messianic holy city, but it is the heavy and dirty clay that can be found in any field, in the ground and that turns into mud with some monsoon rain.
But the most powerful poem along that line is poem 24 entitled “Degeneration.” But this poem asserts the existence of gods. We are far from Buddhism and its godless world, its soulless man and its selfless (without self) human being.
“When gods are out to teach me a lesson
. . . my prophet friends . . . the palmists . . .
they seek money for rituals, stones or mantras
while God gives us the best in life gratis
. . . now or tomorrow they all delude
in the maze of expediency and curse”
His prophet friends and the psalmists are obviously exploiting the world and people. But I can hardly accept the idea that god gives anything gratis and it contradicts the first line, because with all we get from nature, and even from god if you want, there is always a lesson and the price of this lesson can be extremely expensive.
Poem 27 goes even farther and states:

“. . . a professional loser
. . . strays a preacher
to revolution”
It is clear for the poet there is no honest revolutionary man, there is no honest revolution which is nothing but a perversion. But this revolution can perverts a preacher, that is to say “a psalmist” or “a prophet friend” and we know what we have to think about such people. So a preacher does not need much convincing to be turned revolutionary if that provides him with the electoral and financial support he needs, he wants, he contemplates, he greedily craves for.

So, is this poetry worth reading?
Probably yes because it states clearly that if you do not have a spiritual inspiration you are reduced to your bleeding anus and exploitation by all kinds of fake prophets and greedy preachers.
One thing though is missing. It is quite obvious love is good but sex is a reduction to an instant of pleasure, to a wank with a wad, but it leads nowhere beyond that wad. What about though a sexual partner, a love mate of any sexual orientation imaginable? Let’s say there is nearly none except a woman a couple of times, particularly in poem 30, the last poem of the collection. But that evanescent woman is quite special.
“. . . she hates my face
. . . she questions why I think of Bangalore
for treatment of all my ailments
and takes me to Bannerghatta zoo
for animal viewing.”
We know what we can think of a zoo, a human zoo, a zoo that is for human beings more than for animals. This “she” is not particularly inspiring. She is not a soul mate. She is not mind mate. She probably is no love mate either, just a keeper and maybe a sex mate or even only a body mate that likes her men oblivious of their ailments and reduced to their admiration towards the animals who become an image in the mirror of the eyes of the voyeur audience of a zoo when the direction voyeur-voyee becomes blurred and the voyeur is the voyee and the voyee is the voyeur, when the ape is the watching man and the watching man is the ape.

Don’t tell me such women don’t exist. They might prefer museums or department stores instead of zoos but the project, the intention is the same: make their partners contemplative voyeurs as if they were mute mirrors of what they see in front of themselves and nothing else.




A Collection of Selected Poems

Ram Krishna Singh


The barber sees
a potential customer
in me but I pass

the tense faces
after the long walk sunshine
a fag in the car

short carnival:
neatly hide faded vests drying
in the balcony

helter skelter
afternoon windy rain
allergies again


Death hides in the body
but who cares? it’s obscure

living on the edge
seeking space into swamp

they all talk about the sun
swelling in the sky

and close eyes to the spider
spinning waves on the ceiling

all alone, but who cares?
suspicion and distance

like lovers they pretend
to leave yet stay longer

dishing out luxuries
showing off generosity

on the heart’s fancy table
waiting to welcome the guest


They say my birth was a heavenly event:
here I am suffering third-rate villains
that erect walls to stop the chariots
from Merkaba: the angels fume but who cares
heaven is a mirage in human zoo


The dates on calendar question
all my undone acts

and memories that haunt or fade
in nightly nakedness

stumbling toward the next day’s sun
without celebration

at 63 January jeers
my degenerating sex

a still itch: mantra and mirror
quiet God and drying petals


Late August:
clouded midnight, sneezing
restless in bed

all negative vibes
well up the mind

jackals yell outside
I read Hsu Chicheng
for a gleam of light


I’ve outlived
the winter’s allergies
and depressing rains
in a human zoo

I can live
my retirement too
without pension and medicine:

the wheelchair doesn’t frighten
I can live

uncared and unknown
survive broken home

the numbness of the arms
the pain in the neck
and inflation too


Time’s wrinkling fingers
trivialize the sun and snow
in a crooked land

I see history crippled
with midnight dyspnoea
the green umbrella

hosts disaster:
the avalanche waits on its shoulders
the wound opens


My shrinking body
even if I donate
what’s there for research:

devil in the spine
abusing tongue in sleep
or bleeding anus

defy all prayers
on bed or in temple—
the same heresy

oozing and stinking
onanist excursion
dead or alive


They make my face
ugly in my own sight

what shall I see in the mirror?

there is no beauty
or holiness left
in the naked nation:

the streams flow dark
and the hinges of doors moan
politics of corruption

I weep for its names
and the faces they deface
with clay dreams


The crack in the sky
is not the rosy cleavage
to rape the body

nor is the beast any free
to escape the bloody river
that reflects stony wrath
in doggy position

they all expect their reward
for burying the noise
of sunny fire wheeling
in frozen passion

turn beggars they all
search warmth with ash-smeared sadhus
at roadside tea stall
whistle and wash off sins

in sangam muddled
with privileged few soar high
but I’m glad I crawl on earth
my roots don’t wave in the air


If hand can meet hand
and embrace is not sin

if lip to lip kissing
or cheek to cheek hugging

is not forbidden
why do they question

meeting of thighs or breasts:
divine in action

it’s spring; the body’s love
itching to bloom with soul


I’ve lived 23000 days
awaiting a day that could become
god’s day in eden, earth or within

or even my grandson’s smile
on his first day in mother’s arms

now I sit an empty boat
on a still river
and shake with quail dreams


The body is precious
a vehicle for awakening
treat it with care, said Buddha

I love it’s stillness
beauty and sanctity
here and now

sink into its calm
to hear the whisper in all
its ebbs and flows

erect, penetrate
the edge of life and loss
return to wholeness


Flowers don’t bloom
in tribute to
builders’ apathy

the trees are dying:
they too know they’ll be felled
or the heat will kill

the concrete rises
calamity too will rise
none talk the ruins they bring


I don’t know where I lived
in my former existence
but the hell I’ve breathed
for three decades here
couldn’t adapt my soul:
I remain a stranger
to them and to the cold walls
that put out the candle-lights
in my roofless house


Being good
couldn’t make me know
any better

I was harmless
they sold my name
and became
what I couldn’t

in the middle of day light
I vanished like faces
from voters’ list

with no difference
to who wins
or who loses


Some fresh bones and designer dress
distorted hopes, cataract vision
hardly any better the faces of the body

and if there is a soul, the soul hears

the map guides the mind’s midnight
but the destination is different

deception is courage

they know the end of journey
and get down when the train stops

I too descend


Sleepy roads
with or without light
tear the sky

I watch the murmur
in the misty darkness
Tao of midnight

tranquil emptiness:
breathing deceptive cold
the echoes haunt


She trusts her reading of my horoscope
and predicts a comfortable future

even as I know my toothache
now means the fall of my teeth
and anal bleeding means sure surgery

my dying libido is as uncomfortable
as the dream of humans sleeping on the ceiling:

their flattened naked back amuses me
who knows who’ll fall first?

before I wake up I try to gauge the selvage
of restless lines, moon, saturn, and venus
conspiring new challenges
for the quakes in my elements

it’s already mid-november
and the bouts of bronchial allergy
tell of the cycle of incarceration
her moving lips are no soporific


The coiled divine
renews eternity
in the body’s cells
fed on sensuous sweetness
and moment’s littleness

for years fleshly reign
seemed spirit’s radiance
in the deep pit
now suddenly sparks the itch
for heaven’s nude delight


Before the bananas ripe
let’s meet at least once

lest the fog dampen passion
let’s water our love

the sun is bright this morning
and night’s promising

let’s meet and unfreeze winter
of years, drink some wine

restore warmth of faith and hope
and heal the breaches

without black goggles for seeing
let’s meet at least once


Teary eyes
with sparks and lightning
dried vision

caged existence
seek deliverance
muttering old prayers


Unpruned roses
and unknown grasses
make me aware
of the emptiness
the dusk in her room sounds

she searches out
her shadow in
the rising moon

I feel the season’s prick


When gods are out to teach me a lesson
where to go to pray or find relief?

my prophet friends predict each day good
and the future fulfilling, the palmists find
the sun, saturn, venus and rahu hostile:

they seek money for rituals, stones or mantras
while God gives us the best in life gratis

I can’t change man or nature, nor the karmas
now or tomorrow they all delude
in the maze of expediency and curse
stars, fate, destiny, or life before and after
degenerating the mind, body, thought and divine


The cracks on the parapet
have widened for the peepal
to stay green for once
rains too want us to drench
our heads and feel one
with cool wind
in a dark corner
shed fears and enjoy love


Each night a challenge:
suffocative restlessness
sleepless spirits’ noise
sexual starvation
anal menstruation
dingy subcounscious

conspire behind closed eyes
absent healing and
wishful miracles

a clueless sun rises
bugging time and life


With scheming mind
and crafty heart
loud and rebellious
a professional loser
perfumes the room
with flattering lips
and strays a preacher
to revolution


Because I had no STD code to dial Heaven
I walked into Hell measuring happiness
in buried lines on palms and shrinking head:
I couldn’t know when love sieved and sank
like a ship on vacation


In the poems I write
you can read my mind
even know when I’m blue

before the mirror
when I stand in the dark
you can’t scent me

nor will words comfort
in chilly December
when alone in candle light

empty coffee cups
deride the syllables
I spin to make haiku

my hairs in air
reveal the baldness:
wank without wad


After a day’s labor
they lie on a sand pile
in the basement of
a new shopping complex
rising slowly next door
like the waves at Nellore beach
that broke before wiping
my name on the sand

I take a snap at sunset:
they play with plastic bottles in water
or eat fried fish in the huts

I’m warned against placing it on Facebook
she hates my face

nor am I allowed to speak
to the drug addict picked up
from the door steps of
Varsha Apartments

his father questions
if there’s law in the country
only a street dog wags its tail

I wheeze and take a seroflo puff
and wonder if I should visit
Nimhans and get checked
to manage my sleep

she questions why I think of Bangalore
for treatment of all my ailments
and takes me to Bannerghatta zoo
for animal viewing


Sunday, April 12, 2015

A haiku translated into Russian

R K Singh

too many gods
and so few flowers
whom to please?


слишком много богов
да цветов маловато
кого бы порадовать?

      2015-04-08 17:26:13


Wednesday, April 08, 2015


Text of the inaugural session address of Professor R.K.Singh in the National Conference on Sustainability and Development: Implications of ELT for Individual,  Society a Ecology  organized by School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology , Patna on April 3, 2015

                                                                                  --Professor Ram Krishna Singh

I feel greatly flattered by your invitation to address the inaugural session as a key-note speaker. I am no expert in Sustainable Development even if I  had association with the cause as a functionary of theDhanbad Chapter of Society for International Development (SID), Rome way back in the 1990s. Nor am I here to talk about  saving Earth’s resources, environmental protection, green management, or social impact of development. But I  do understand its fundamentals that seek to provide for “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The concept encourages us to make better decisions on the issues that affect all our lives.
The themes for discussion in the Conference, thus, make us think, in the context of language teaching and learning practices, how to balance different, and often competing, needs vis-à-vis our socioeconomic limitations, lack of infrastructure, and mediating manpower.
Before I proceed I must admit I have reservations about what is sustainable in the environment of English Language Teaching (ELT) in India, and specially in a privileged technical institution like the IIT or ISM where, like it or not, studying English is viewed as unnecessary obligation both by a larger section of engineering students and subject teachers, irrespective of their support for English in public. There is hardly any pressure on students from technical subject teachers for writing well. As I have observed, the subject teachers’ attitude towards students’ shortcomings or difficulties in English varies from tolerance to indifference to  helplessness. According to a recent study conducted in a Swedish university, where the entire programme is in English (‘Supporting Language Learning in the English Medium University Classroom? Teacher Attitude, Beliefs and Practices’, Ibolya Maricic, Diane Pecorari, Charlotte Hommerberg), with pressure from the central government to internationalize,as in our situation,  Computer Science teachers take it for granted that their students already have the mastery of English. Similarly, teachers of Earth Sciences, which is an international subject, teach with the presumption that their students have no difficulty in following the textbooks written in English, while students of Natural Sciences and  Medical Sciences consider competency in English essential for a career.  As English teachers, most of us must have noticed science and Engineering subject teachers acknowledging that English is important for international publication and job,  but they hardly care about the students’ performance in their subjects, using English.   Ironically perhaps, their presumption is that there is already so much material in English that the students learn enough English. So, as English teachers we need to teach what they don’t know or don’t learn.
If we leave aside the elite institutions, it becomes a challenge to us English teachers to manage with our own widely differing linguistic competence the large classes of mixed ability students, non-availability or high cost of books and instructional material, tests and exams becoming the only goal in themselves, lack of students’ (and even teachers’) motivation, administrative apathy, inaccessibility to electronic media, journals and books, balance between the  use of mother tongue and English to ensure developing (or fine-tuning) communication skills, or perhaps, a better teaching-learning situation in the mother tongue and other languages, and dissemination of best ELT practices internationally, with an e-culture interface.
Digital Culture
We  all understand that most of the students’ productive skills— speaking and writing—are not good or satisfactory. Nor is there much formal feedback regarding the standard of their English for publication in scholarly or professional journals. Their ‘reading’ the printed page is now reduced to ‘viewing’ on the computer screen, and finding  ‘key words’ have changed the nature of the ‘old’ skimming, scanning, and skipping. Easily available artificially intelligent software check the spelling and grammar errors and facilitate academic discourse, in howsoever a limited way.  It is reshaping the traditional teaching materials, but it’s not clear what the new technology will take away from the learning experience, even if  a UN document on sustainable development promises, “Information Technology based chiefly on advances in micro-electronics and computer science is of particular importance. Coupled with rapidly advancing means of communication, it can help improve the productivity, energy and resource efficiency, and organizational structure of industry.”
            Against such a background, and relegated to the margin, the English teachers are now obliged to seek, perhaps in their own professional interests, to maximize the students’ potential as English learners and  as human beings, and understand and teach with technology integration, discourse sense, and locally relevant and culturally appropriate ways.
New Technologies
            The changes over the last two decades have been so rapid that “it makes a completely different linguistic world to live in,” as David Crystal says. The internet has already altered all our previous concepts to do with language. For the generation born after 1985, the internet and mobile phones, for example, are not just media; they have become a social environment in which one settles and lets out one’s energies. It is a parallel world, with a lot of virtual alternatives.
            We, in India, have yet to understand how technologies such as smart phones, social media, video conferencing, wikis, open online courses, etc are changing the relationship between teacher and student, and how the old concepts of ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ are now challenged. The vernacular of technology is shaping our language at an incredible rate. To speak and understand English today, students may need to know what ‘google’ or ‘twitter’ is, and how these are used as verbs, just as we have to be sensitive to the needs of the average rural students most of whom do not have a computer or internet access at home.  Even if they may not be fluent speakers, they do use English words in the course of Hindi, Tamil, or Bengali etc. They may also use English swear words where one would least expect them. One is able to use the odd word frequently, perhaps to sound confident, modern, educated, or impress the neighbor. One can hear words like “miss call”, “tension”, “time pass”, “backing”, “adjust”, “VIP”, “shit”, “mobile” and scores of others.
            In fact they use English without any interference from those whose native language it has been. Knowingly or unknowingly, they nurture the Indian variety of English just as we notice the world varieties of English diversified with a variety of political, economic, and cultural consequences. The patterns of the past linguistic history, as John Algeo noted twenty years ago, may not be repeated. “New factors of electronic communication and air travel are likely to prevent the fracturing of English into mutually incomprehensible languages. Locally divergent forms of English may drift off into separate languages,  but the core of English is likely to remain a varied, diversified, but recognizably ‘same’ language.” (Preface, More Englishes: New Studies in Varieties of English: 1988-1994 by Manfred Gorlach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995).
            For teaching English in such a situation, we would need to know more about, and understand well, the various connections between language use and successful communication, about lexical tools of communication, about the potential of various Englishes in the present age, and the selective information needs in today’s society.  We also need to think, individually and collectively, the strengths and weaknesses of the digital learning material and its prospective impact on how humans learn. Many digital learning materials completely overhaul how classes are conducted, how students are tested on knowledge, and how teachers fit into the picture.
Cultural Fluency
            There is also  a distinct cultural aspect to the use of English today. Cultural fluency is important in effective English learning. Students need to become active and culturally aware communicators. Which means they must be good not only in their mother tongue but also intangible aspects of communication, including body language, cultural fluency, and diplomacy. Social scientists estimate that over 90 percent of what we communicate is non-verbal, so if the body language is giving wrong message, it won’t matter how well you   speak a language,  people may still not get a positive impression of you. They might even feel uncomfortable talking to you. By becoming aware of and working on your body language, you will experience an immediate impact on how you feel about yourself, how others perceive you, and your overall communication. So how you hold not only yourself, but also  your posture, your openness, and your self-awareness matters a lot.
            The teacher’s success, thus, lies in managing the learning strategies and promoting practice and use, or what the linguists have mentioned as pragmatic function (language as doing) and mathetic function (language as learning).
            Even as we talk about globalization, tertiary education in every discipline needs scholars and researchers who have good international perspective and ability to work in diverse settings. The common concern  facing us is: cultivating globally-minded graduates, with abilities across cultures and boundaries, and sensibility to put up with, what the organizers of the conference view as “widespread metaphor of growth.”
            Needless to say, language competence is basic to acquiring global perspective via the graduation courses. It helps to learn a couple of regional or foreign languages for expanding professional networks and gaining cultural experiences which are vital for global learning. As far as English is concerned, teaching the pragmatic, interactional and creative uses of English in our academic and professional context is important.
Multiple Englishes
In his stimulating exposition of the spread of English, Braj B. Kachru emphasizes that English has not only acquired multiple identities but also “a broad spectrum of cross-cultural contexts of use.” During the last twenty five years or so, scholars have progressively acknowledged the reality of multicultural aspects of English a la linguistic interactions of three types of participants: native speaker and native speaker; native speaker and non-native speaker; and non-native speaker and non-native speaker. Resultantly, as Kachru points out, there has been “a multiplicity of semiotic systems, several non-shared linguistic conventions, and numerous underlying cultural traditions,” paving way for English as an International Language (EIL), which provides access across cultures and boundaries. The focus has shifted to the diverse users and language activities within a sociolinguistic context which is often localized  rather than native-speaker oriented as far as aspects such as communicative teaching or communicative competence are concerned.
Taking cue from international diffusion of English, we should recognize the institutionalized non-native varieties of English such as Indian English, and concentrate on English used in South Asian and South East Asian countries for reviewing the pedagogic developments in language teaching with an ESP bias as also for trying to integrate  language and culture teaching.  This is significant in that despite decades of activities in the name of communicative teaching or communicative competence, not much has been achieved in terms of methods and materials for international competence in English.  The European parochialism continues to dominate the academics’ reasoning even as discourse organization, both literary and spoken, reflects a certain regionalism.
Negotiating Differences
With sensitivity for the language (to me, language use is more a matter of pleasure and beauty than of rules and structure), I would like to assert that the yardsticks of the British or American native speakers, or their standards as reflected in GRE, TOEFL or IELTS etc, or their kind of tongue twisting,  are simply damaging to the interests of non-native speakers.  We have to develop our own standards, instead of teaching to sound like Londoners or North Americans. Pronunciation must be intelligible and not detract from the understanding of a message. But for this nobody needs to speak the so called standardized English (that makes inter- and intranational communication difficult).  David Crystal too appreciates this reality and favours ‘local taste’ of English in India and elsewhere.  The problems of teaching, say spoken English, relate to lack of intercultural communicative competence.

Many of the misunderstandings that occur in multicultural or multinational workplace are traceable to intergroup differences in how language is used in interpersonal communication rather than to lack of fluency in English.  In fact native speakers need as much help as non-natives when using English to interact internationally and interculturally.  It is understanding the how of  negotiation, mediation, or interaction.  We need to teach with positive attitude to intercultural communication, negotiating linguistic and cultural differences.  The focus has to be on developing cultural and intercultural competence, tolerance (the spread and development of various Englishes is an instance of grammatical and lexical tolerance), and mutual understanding. Rules of language use are culturally determined.  I doubt all those who talk about spoken English, or communication skills, care to teach or develop intercultural communicative abilities.  This presupposes a good grasp of one’s own culture or way of communication, or the language etiquettes, gestures and postures, space, silence, cultural influences, verbal style etc. 

Understanding and awareness of non-verbal behavior, cues and information  is an integral part of interpersonal communication in many real-life situations, including business and commerce. Though research is needed to understand the role of visual support in our situations, it does seem relevant in making students aware of the context, discourse, paralinguistic features and culture. This can be advantageous in teaching soft skills which are basically life skills, or abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour, so necessary for successful living.
            If one has to work abroad and use English with others there, one has to be sensitive to the culturally governed ways of speaking  or talking to each other. The speech community’s (the language culture of the group of people) ways of communication cannot be taken for granted, when one seeks to learn or teach spoken English. People fail or suffer discomfort or embarrassment in negotiations in business or political affairs, or achievement of personal goals due to incompetence in persuasion, negotiation, mediation, or interaction. It is their performance, their intercultural interactional competence which matters; it lies in managing social interaction, and not just communication, in the narrow sense of the word,  or use of right grammatical form, syntax, vocabulary, or even certain polite phrases. The goal is to enable one to express what one wishes to convey and make the impression that one wishes to make, using language with a sense of interaction and mutuality. Sensitivity for intercultural business environment, or being aware of each culture’s symbols, how they are the same, and how they are different, is important.
            I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for bearing with my random thoughts on ELT, digital culture, and intercultural abilities necessary to sustain relevant teaching-learning practices now and in the years ahead.

Dr R.K.Singh, Professor (Higher Academic Grade) and Ex-Head, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004