How accent shaming topped Pranav Mistry launching Galaxy Gear

Yesterday at IFA in Berlin, Samsung showcased its new smartwatch called the Galaxy Gear. The launch of the watch was carried out by Pranav Mistry, who is also Samsung's Director of Research.

Pranav holds a degree from IIT, MIT and has been called as one of 'world's ten best inventors' on TedTalks.

Pranav's previous project during PhD at MIT include a pen that draws in 3D; and TaPuMa, a tangible public map that can act as Google of physical world. He's the inventor of SixthSense a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and the world of data. You can check out more details here.

But after the Samsung event the only thing that social media seems to be discussing is Pranav's accent.

As this piece on LiveMint by Aakar Patel points out: Mistry is from Palanpur in northern Gujarat, and to me his speech has the inflection of the western Gujarati, which is to say Kathiawari. 

An Indian speaking like a native before foreigners embarrasses us because the accent betrays a lack of sophistication that stigmatizes all Indians, he said. 


Pranav Mistry at the launch of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Reuters

For Twitter, however the point of interest was not that Pranav was presenting a futuristic watch, one that can make calls, play music, take photos but that his English accent was not suave enough. In fact, Pranav Mistry has been trending on Twitter all day.

Below are sample tweets mocking Pranav:



Of course many other users can out in support of Pranav and pointed out that those mocking him would do well to remember that he was perhaps one of the world's smartest people. Some even pointed out that it was only in India that instead of celebrating the success of Pranav, people resort to mocking his accent.


The fact that Pranav's accent is the subject of discussion only betrays the kind of arrogance that a section of people in India have where enunciation has been prized more than substance. 

The Pranav mocking is another case of convent school products feeling outraged and perhaps unable to understand that why a man whose English isn't perfect has taken centre-stage. His intelligence, his vision be damned, Pranav speaking English with a Gujju accent is the real worry. Their worry is that Indians won't be taken seriously by the West. That the world is going to judge us by Pranav's accent. In a globalised world, we'd like to appear as 'perfect' as possible when it comes to maintaining the garb of modernity.

Pranav's Samsung talk isn't first one he has given to a Western audience. He has been a regular speaker on TED. However, the Samsung event may have been the first time many non-tech enthusiasts heard him which might explain the mocking and the shock.

But as the inventor's supporters pointed out, his accent isn't relevant at all. His detractors should perhaps do a quick Google search and see what Pranav's all about before dissing him.

Published Date: Sep 05, 2013 07:02 pm | Updated Date: Sep 05, 2013 07:10 pm

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