One frequent grouse about the internet in India is that it does reach out in Indian languages, which is why print and TV are still dominant. Compare this to the internet in China, which has some 400 million users and most of its services (Baidu, QQ) are in the Chinese language. But that’s what the grouse is – just a grouse. Indian-language sites are fast proliferating. Many regional newspapers like Sakshi (Andhra Pradesh), Malayala Manorama (Kerala) or Anandabazar Patrika (Bengal) offer regularly updated sites, which are read by many subscribers. A quick, one-time installation of a site-specific font is called for, after which the site can be (and is) read regularly.
An increasing trend has been to use Unicode, so that no special font download is required. It also has the benefit of being supported on most browsers with little or no distortion. Loksatta and Lokmat (Maharashtra), Dinamalar and Dinakaran (Tamil Nadu) and Udayavani and Prajavani (Karnataka) follow this practice. Indeed the advent of Unicode has promoted a lot more than just one-way traffic on the net. Web2.0 sites with a huge amount of user-generated content are now possible (and happening) in Indian languages.
A fun example is the blog Puneri Patya. A tongue-in-cheek blog (and completely in Marathi) that records the tongue-in-cheek signboards of Pune. Pune is famous among Maharashtrians for its frank and irreverent (and sometimes rude) outlook on life, brought out best by the messages on signboards. (Puneri Patya means Puneite Boards.)
A rare example in English is the following, pasted at a fast food outlet that calls itself ‘Burger King’:
This sarcastic notice thanks viewers in a cinema hall for their loving treatment of the seats:
A curious side-effect of the site is that you will see instructions to do (or not do) things you wouldn’t have thought of doing (or thought you did not need instructions for). What effect it has on our natural instinct to disobey, I cannot say.
You don’t need to know Marathi to be able to enjoy the site, as several of the entries (called ‘pati’) have English translations provided. However, some familiarity with Pune and its particular irreverent culture would be required, so you can completely enjoy the site. A certain treat for Punekars and others who know the city. A unique feature is that the location of each pati is given on Google, so you can actually visit the place and see the board for yourself!
The site offers you patis categorized by where they are posted (homes, hospitals, offices etc), an opportunity to post your own pati, and a subscription, so you know when the latest ones are updated. And if you really have time on your hands (such as when you are busy with office work), you can watch all the patis in a slide show.
It is promoted by a tiny startup called Busybees Corporation.