To Vikram, an open Letter

Language is code, it is a tool – its purpose is to connect – and NOT cause people to drift apart. We must have a Common Language in India and make it stay COMMON in all sphere of our social and political lives.

There is no point in looking back at history and saying, we never should have been together in the first place, that Punjabis and Kannads are as different as the Brits and Italians (Vikram).

Fact is, we already have had sixty years time together – having decided to stay married and be a NATION. So it makes sense, if we do play along and stick to that tryst we had made with our combined Destiny.

Language is a resource. Yes. Most importantly – though – it is a TOOL. It is something to be USED for the larger, more important goals of living – safely, well and happily.

Staying together does help – history has proved it again and again.

It would perhaps be unwise to regress to the old ‘little worlds within a world’ of yore. Progress to the one world idea – would entail finding a Common Language – for one thing. People got to be able to talk to each other – share ideas, know-how, dispel fear, build trust and get working together.

There are ways to do this. Lets talk about those – oftener – instead of whining about all that is wrong. In fact, if we DO know what is wrong why not simply set down the rights – that needs be done? And start practising in our little worlds on our own, by ourselves, in class, with children, with blog mates, with our blogs, and more importantly staying TOGETHER – nurturing whatever strengthens the solidarity.

*As TOOL Language would evolve. A language would disappear as soon as it fails to serve it’s purpose (not cultural, but business, transactions, life enhancing, life-saving activities). We must accept that! Language isn’t an entity in itself. Do we ever regret the going of that great bog gen1 Computer that looked like an elephant?!

*Hindi isn’t killing any other language. Then Chinese might have killed English long back! One language doesn’t kill another. We give up using one in favour of the other as per our NEEDS.

*As for Culture, that totally depends on how it is passed on and nurtured. again it is hardly static and fixed. It is changing every minute of our active lives. What is valued today as an idea or practice, (say, knowing Bangla to remain Bengali) may not be tomorrow. If I didn’t speak Bangla, I would not be less of a Bengali! I could still access all the thoughts, ideas, practices related to Bong way of life through – people, media, mass media, education – albeit through the medium of a foreign language.

What do you say to that?

I do not want to be embroiled in the academic and political/administrative differences debate of what is National and what is Official. As long as I get to be me, an independent Indian citizen, am not rendered helpless in my own country, can negotiate my way through the streets of any Indian city, I would not bother, if I have to learn and accept and adopt a third or a second language.

Provided am taught that, when am small enough, and not be expected to learn it when, at age forty, I happen to enter your State and need to read the signs there. I like to be prepared. Simple. I do not want to have to learn languages every time I change State. It is a waste of time and resources I think.

“the culture of migration has a generalized effect upon the social atmosphere in which certain types of life choices and social interactions occur.””the choice of a course of study is made not on the basis of how interesting the individual finds it or even what the job opportunities (in India) are, but on the possibilities of future migration.” Also in your UP-TN post you mentioned migration, how it contributed to social value.

Migration and mobility is increasingly becoming a common way of life due to transfers, choice, defense forces mobility, business, politics, movement of resources. In this context, a COMMON language would have to be looked at seriously. To turn a blind eye to that reality is to regress.

The star-marked paras are mainly to address Odzer-‘s apprehensions expressed earlier, here, in comments. I, personally, completely stand by cultural conservation, provided it doesn’t slide into conservatism.

With every political, administrative and social measures adopted, I expect MY life as a citizen to get easier. I expect to be able to get wider choices, better access, more people in my life (philanthropically meaning of course) and more mobility. Thanks.

The Great Indian Language Barrier

Local is the New National Language?

Well, I love my country very much.  I mean to travel and work and live in all the states before I retire. I wish to be able to live for at least a year in every state before I finally decide where I wish to settle dwon, grow old and die.

However, to do that it looks like am going to have to learn all the 28 languages of my country. Just knowing English the lingua franca, or knowing the National language Hindi is not really  going to help.

All States have changed shop display boards, road signs, and boards at airports and railway stations to the local language. Every State insists that all public transaction be done in State Language.  Like writing an FIR or applying for an address proof or getting a house rent Agreement – it is all done in the local language.

All public utility signs have also been changed to local languages from Hindi, the common National language. Earlier all public signs used to be in Hindi all over India, or in English, so that anybody travelling from any part of India could easily find their way about in a different city, in a different State. Language was not a barrier.

However, the current scenario is that, the National language Hindi, is no longer used nationally. Local seems to be the new National Language now.

The three language formula was introduced in schools after Independence in order to make life easy for citizens functioning in a multi-language environment. It was understood that it is humanly not possible for everybody to learn all the languages to remain mobile and move from State to State.

Hence, a common language Hindi, was chosen and demarked as the National Language. And another – English – was universally recognized as the common official language for all – both Indian Nationals and Foreigners coming in.

Accordingly, Hindi was (and still is) compulsorily taught to every school going Indian child. Every Indian speaks at least three to four languages almost from birth – one is the mother tongue, the second is the local language of the place where the child might be growing up, and the third is Hindi, the Rashtra Bhasha, or the National Language. The fourth is English, a major subject in the school curriculum.

For example, I speak Bengali(mother tongue)- Assamese(grew up there) – Hindi (National Language) – English (School).

Somehow things changed in between, in the last five years. Language is no longer a tool to be used to make life easy, to build community, to forge ties or to transact. It has acquired a new status – albeit a very political one. Now Language is a matter of Identity. I speak Gujarati so am a true Gujarati. In order to be a true Marathi, I must speak Marathi. I cannot love my State enough if Ido not speak Bengali.

Love of one’s State is measured in terms of whether we speak the State language or not! Cultural awareness, participation in the developmental activities of that State no longer signifies ‘love’ for some strange reason. If I speak the State language, even while sucking it dry and funneling all its resources to my own, it is still alright!

The point of this post is to raise this question: if the National Language no longer serves to unite or help, why not do away with it?  Let’s give up Hindi, and make all 28 languages compulsory in the school curriculum. I know it is difficult – a child would end up learning only languages if it was done. But there the alternative is being rejected at every step!

If Language is such an important identity issue, let us do this systematically? Let us start with the National Anthem. Then let us take up National Language. Then let us fix the school curriculum. And then let us change boards in our states to our beloved local languages.

1) Let us have the National Anthem translated into all the 28 State languages, first.  Let us sing it in Gujarati in Gujarat, in Marathi in Marathawada, in pure Kannad in Karnataka and in Ahomiya in Assam and so on.

2) Then, let there be no National Language. I mean, if I have to write an FIR in Gujarati (I had to, when I had lost my PAN recently) when am in Gujarat, in Marathi when am in Mumbai, let us teach all languages in school as “compulsory”.

3) Let us amend the THREE LANGUAGE FORMULA in schools and make it COMPULSORY 28 for all.  So that when we grow up and travel for work, or for change, we are not lost in our own country.

Let us at least give people a chance, before we take drastic steps – like suddenly changing all signs in local language expecting 20 crore Bhartiyas – to know my State Language! And as soon as they enter my State too. I mean changing public signs like Bus routes, numbers etc implies that, doesn’t it? Since some people think it is humanly possible for everybody to know everything, let us at least do it systematically.

Since knowing Hindi and English, is not enough when am in Gujarat or Maharashtra – or in Karnataka, I think it is time we found a new solution for the GREAT INDIAN LANGUAGE BARRIER.

bus-stop-at-cgr-c vada-pao-sign-infront-of-national-handloom edtd-bus-stop-sign

PS: I am not saying let us have Hindi, am saying let us have one COMMON language. Or let us teach all 28 and then change signs and documents. The census report here shows, 41% of Indian population speak Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi come next in that order.

Let’s Have The National Anthem Translated in All 28 Languages

Let’s have a 28-Compulsory-Language-Formula in Schools Instead of 3

Well, I love my country very much. And I mean to travel and work and live in all the states before I retire. I wish to be able to settle down in any State I please and choose to, without having to field surprised “Why did you leave WB?” from prospective employers and neighbours. Just because my parents are Bengalis everybody automatically assumes I belong to Kolkata or I should.

I was neither born in Kolkata, nor raised there, and I never studied Bangla, I picked it up.

Marathis expect everybody coming into their state to learn Marathi. So they write all their sign boards, bus routes, train routes, all public notices in Marathi. It is the same story in Gujarat.

I get lost all the time, having hopped into the wrong bus, as am unable to read the route on the approaching bus fast enough and nobody has the time to tell me. It was the same in Bangalore, all bus routes and bus numbers there are written in Kannad. In Kolkata State Buses still show signs written in Engish and Hindi plus Bangla. But in response to the other states, now even here, private bus owners have all had it written in Bangla.  In Orissa, Tamil Nadu – it is the same story – almost.

Language is a tool meant to serve the purpose of our lives, not to deter it! If Language is such an important identity issue, let us do this in a phased manner and with some consideration for people.

Let us have the National Anthem translated into all the 28 state languages, first.  Let us sing it in Gujarati in Gujarat, in Marathi in Marathawada, in pure Kannad in Karnataka and in Ahomiya in Assam and so on.

And then, let there be no National Language. I mean, if I have to write an FIR in Gujarati (I had to, when I had lost my PAN recently) when am in Gujarat, in Marathi when am in Mumbai, let us teach all languages in school as compulsory. Since Hindi is no longer a help in such matters.

Let us redo school syllabus and instead of the prevalent THREE LANGUAGE FORMULA, let us make it COMPULSORY 28 for all.  So that when we grow up and travel for work, or for change, we are not lost in our own country.

I am tired of being forced to learn a new language everytime I cross border into the next state. I am old and it is becoming increasingly  tedious. I already speak five and that includes the National Language. It still doesn’t help. Everybody wants me to learn their language and be able to speak to them in their tongue.

Is it humanly possible to learn all 28 languages? Do I have to pick up a new language everytime I venture into a new state in my own Country? Can there be no consensus about one Common Language for ALL Indians?