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  • Writer's pictureL.J. Singh

My Interview in English

King's English Vs Singh's English

Before or even after Partition for some years, English subject was taught from Class V in High Schools, starting with ABC, one can understand how a matriculate fares in an interview in English. Years back I had read Khushwant Singh's article, King's English Vs Singh's English, this reminded me of my interview in English. In 1952, after matriculation, when in college, I got an interview call for a Marine Engineering course at Bombay, for which I had taken a written test earlier.

Naval Dockyard Apprentice School, Mumbai
Naval Dockyard Apprentice School, Mumbai

My interview was held at Jullundur, interview board chairman was an Englishman, a Commander Jeffry in Navy uniform, with other members from Army and Defence ministry, when called in, I was introduced to all of them. Being my first interview in English, I was nervous when I saw so many eyes on me. My first questions were from other members, whose English, I could comprehend and was prompt in answering. But when Englishman asked me a question, I replied in halting English, because Commander Jeffry's diction was difficult to understand. He whispered something to the member sitting next to him, who then addressed me in Punjabi 'commander Sahib says though I answered his questions correctly, he has some difficulty in following my English'. I don't know how I gathered the courage to blurt, Sir, Commander Sahib is speaking in Kings's English, but I am replying in Queen's English as now Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England.

At this, there was pin-drop silence for some moments in the interview hall, but then there were peels of laughter from all members, most loudly was of Commander Jeffry's. Before I could realize the gravity of my spontaneous reply and sure failure at the interview, Mr Jeffry, assured my selection for the Course at Bombay. Commander Jeffry was Principal of Naval Dockyard Apprentice School, where theory our classes were held. Whenever I had to see him, his first query was about whether I can now follow his English, my response was a nod in affirmative, with a blush on my face. When I topped my batch in the final year, Commander Jeffry called me to his office, and after congratulating me he added King's or Queen's English, his decision for my selection at the interview, stands vindicated. I was so elated, I left his office without thanking or even saluting him. After completing my course, I cleared the qualifying examination held by the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) under the Ministry of Transport and joined the Indian Merchant Navy. In due course, and after passing the required MMD exams, I rose to the top rank of chief engineer of a ship.

In 1969, during my ship's call at Liverpool, a UK port, I went ashore for some sightseeing in my winter uniform, I chanced upon an older Englishman staring at me from a distance. When we were closer, I recognized him, he was my NDAS Principal Commander Jeffery, before I could pay my respects, he saluted me and shook my hand, addressing me Captain Singh, when he noticed four stripes on my jacket sleeves. He had left the Navy as a commander, with three stripes, and the next higher rank of a Naval Captain has four stripes. (In Merchant Navy, both chief engineer and captain wear 4 stripes). We both exchanged pleasantries and even had a cuppa tea, as the Britishers called a 'cup of tea'. In a parting shot, he asked me with a glint in his eyes whether our conversation was in King's English or Queen's English? Amused, I left just short of saying, "Sir mine is now in Singh's English".

Written By-

L. J. Singh

Retd. Chief Engineer( IMS)

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Aug 08, 2023


By Singh

With Singh's English.

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