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Updated: July 18, 2012 09:20 IST

American who loves the lingo of royals

J. S. Ifthekhar
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Matthew B. Stannard, Vice Consul, U.S. Consulate General, in Hyderabad.
The Hindu Matthew B. Stannard, Vice Consul, U.S. Consulate General, in Hyderabad.

Matthew B. Stannard says Urdu is a very cultured and vibrant language

He doesn’t say ‘good morning’, but, instead, greets you with ‘Assalamu Alaikum’. As you do a double take, he gently asks “main aapki kya khidmat kar sakta hoon?”

Nothing wrong with that. Only the man in question is from the land of Uncle Sam. As you continue to bewilder, he tries to engage you in chaste Urdu conversation with a disarming smile.

Interview man

No prizes for guessing. He is the one who interviews you at the US Consulate in Hyderabad if you happen to have an Urdu background.

Well, Matthew B. Stannard loves to wax eloquent in Urdu not only at his workplace but just about everywhere. “It is a very cultured and vibrant language. I love to speak it,” he says.

Spontaneous flow

Of course his accent is heavily anglicised but the choice and flow of Urdu words is spontaneous and natural.

During the last two years that he has been here, Mr. Stannard has gained a good grip on the language and is fully conversant with Hyderabadi culture too.

“The people here are very friendly and politely put up with me when I falter in pronunciation,” he says.

Mr. Stannard takes pains to avoid words like ‘tu and tum’ and uses the more respectable ‘aap’ in his conversation. We have to address everyone with izzat ke saath, he explains.

Of course he has picked up the typical Deccani lingo peppered with ‘hau’ and ‘nakko’. To show his expertise he reels off the tongue twister – Chandu ke chacha ne Chandu ki chachi ko ….

Learning Urdu was not easy. Mr. Stannard had to undergo an intensive six-month course at the Foreign Services Institute in Virginia before his posting to Hyderabad as vice consul at the US Consulate here.

He continues to brush up his conversational skills and spends time learning new words. “I read the Siasat newspaper everyday to improve my language,” he says.

New assignment

In the next few months, Mr. Stannard will be moving to Brunei to take up a new assignment.

He hopes to keep in touch with Urdu by reading the Urdu blogs and tuning in to the BBC.

Cuisine and culture

Language apart, Hyderabadi cuisine and culture have left a mark on him.

Mr. Stannard couldn’t resist spicy biryani and haleem. Shahdab hotel is his favourite haunt for biryani. “This is my second Ramzan in Hyderabad and I am looking forward to the Pista House haleem,”he says.

The 40 something Stannard loves to drive his Bullet Enfield which he acquired in the old city.

He has covered 1,400 km on it zipping through Rajasthan along with a group of friends.

Burqa for wife

The sartorial excellence of Hyderabad has also rubbed off on him. He occasionally dons the ‘sherwani’ and plans to acquire a burqa for his wife, Kim. “Why not? It’s Hyderabadi style,” he says.

More In: Hyderabad

I had the privilege of working with Matthew Stannard's mother, Nathalie Guyol, for six years at the (now defunct) Superconducting Super Collider in Dallas, TX. From what I saw of Nathalie, Matthew is like his mother: kind, considerate, respectful of others, and always ready for a new experience to enrich his own life and that of others. I wish him all the best as he moves to Brunei, with the hope that he will return to India someday.

from:  Samir K. Dutt
Posted on: Jul 20, 2012 at 04:19 IST

My son, Matthew, that you so graciously write about, has told us about his
remarkable experiences in Hyderabad, and his wonderful travels throughout your
country. As you have been impressed with Matt, he has been deeply impressed
with the dynamic, fascinating, and welcoming country that has been his and his
wife Kim's home for the last two years. As he was growing up, we, as a family,
talked at the dinner table about the peoples and cultures of the world, and how
we, as an American family, found our roots in so many of them. Matt decided,
after more than ten years as a journalist, many of them covering international
news abroad, to become a diplomat for his country. We are very proud of him and
honored that India, his first assignment, embraced him and Kim with the warmth
and appreciation that you are so well known for.

from:  Don Stannard Friel
Posted on: Jul 19, 2012 at 06:16 IST
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