When “wukla”, “masail” and “bohran” were still alien words for us, our news updates were courtesy the only English TV channel then available in Pakistan. But it wasn’t exactly easy to follow the heavy Brit-American accent or whatever spurious combinations that hit our hearing apparatus.
My husband, being the perfect mimic, would do a “pohh, pohh, pohh” imitation of the anchor when it was time for us to watch a prime time programme on the channel. We soon realised we weren’t the only ones who had difficulty following the anchor’s accent. We would often hear guests and correspondents ask (read complain to) the anchor: “Can you please repeat the question?” And repeat the anchor did, sometimes not just once, but twice and even thrice.
The sudden jump from the Brit-American to very Punjabised/Pushtuised accents of correspondents and guests was equally hilarious. On the one hand, the correspondent in Swat struggled with his English and explained how he had heard “the voice of the helicopters”, and on the other, the anchor did “pohh, pohh, pohh” with a flourish to put the day’s news in perspective. There’s no denying the fact that the anchor is a good journalist, but the accent was just so out of place.
We’ve seen several anchors come and go on the channel since, suffered some smart alecks too (one smarty mistaking the PML-N spokesman for the channel’s correspondent; and another insisting on asking “Yes but how many were injured” when news broke on the channel that former premier Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated in December 2007.
We’d thought we’d seen it all till Miss Venus was unleashed on us. Hard news wasn’t exactly her forte (she did a good job reporting on a fashion event once) and it was terribly difficult to follow her accent. In fact, had her name not been flashed on the screen we would never have figured that out either.
She fumbled almost every time she opened her mouth when there was “breaking news” (read terrorist attacks), tossed her hair back and smiled her smile. So while my husband sat glued to the TV waiting for the story to unfurl, I did the next best thing – watch her colourful danglers, fuschia lip colour to match her coat, her broad rimmed glasses which she wore sometimes to make up, perhaps, for her lack of intellect…
To be fair, the same channel also had some of the best anchors – those who didn’t have accents. Sadly, some of them have had to leave after the channel faced financial hardship.
In the meantime, another English channel was launched, with some anchors sans accents, but we never took to it; because by then we had figured out that it’s far easier to follow news in Urdu than decode English accents.