July 09, 2006

Building walls

The other day, during journalism class, we had an interesting discussion on the difference between being a melting pot and being multi-cultural. One of the issues that came up was - Is it right to have Hindi as our national language ?

The argument against it being - Hindi is basically a language used in the 'cowbelt'. In south India, the language is neither prevalent nor is it spoken on a large scale. In Tamil Nadu, and also in Karnataka to some extent, some people just refuse to speak to you in anything but the local language.

This debate went on about whether it is pragmatic to be familiar with the local language rather than just depending on the national one. Also, people questioned the use of English, that is not Indian in origin, as a unifying medium.

There was also someone who emphatically stated that 'India' is a very Aryan name since it originates from 'Indus'.

With everyone standing up for either Hindi or her / his local language, I began to wonder whether it is necessary to divide goegraphical expanses on the basis of linguistic differences. And when people kept reiterating things on the lines of ' English has usurped India, our great country', and spoke in a terribly anti-Pakistan manner, I was even more amused. Sixty years ago, there was no Pakistan, and the people in Lahore were as Indian as you or I am. Two thousand years ago, there was no India and we were all a part of Jambhudweepa, the great expanse of land that encompassed Europe and Asia. When, then, did these impenetrable walls of dialect arise ?

1 comment:

Karthik Rao Cavale said...

I don't know whether Hindi as a national language is necessary or not. But I do feel that people in an place where a language other than Hindi is spoken, must learn and speak the local language alone. This sentiment that you attribute to Chennaiites and Bangaloreans is not limited to these people alone. I have seen people from Calcutta, Nagpur and Mumbai too express similar sentiments, and I totally empathise with them. Using Hindi in these towns as a medium of conversing will destroy the local language, so the locals must refuse to speak other languages.

What if an outsider comes to Calcutta for a day? Yes, he will have to put up with great hardship. But think, what will happen if the same person comes to Calcutta and finds that he can speak in Hindi with everyone? Even if he stays there for 10 years he will not bother to learn Bengali. I personally know people who have stayed in Hyderabad but don't know telugu.

As far as English goes, one has to accept that it is the lingua franca. Not that this is such a good thing. But it is reality.