In one of the recent book fairs, I saw a book that was about how people were able to preserve their local languages and how gloriously they fought against Hindi. In one of my official visits I found an Indian proudly telling the foreign nationals that Indians can’t understand each other due to the variety of languages we have in India.
On another instance I found a person at the airport proudly telling a foreigner, “I can’t speak Hindi without using English phrases, words and sentences in between.” The foreigner exclaimed, “Really!”, and that person kept on explaining his inability to speak his mother tongue.
Last year while I was traveling with two foreign nationals, one of them was telling the other, “India is very rich in terms of number of languages spoken and the Indian rupee note will tell you how many official languages they have but they still don’t have one common language. They use English to communicate with each other”. He laughed and quickly changed the topic to movies but the point was made.
English is one language we have started loving the most. At several common places (and particularly at the airport) I can observe children speaking English with their parents. And not only the language but also the accent. Why? If you only wanted to teach them English why are you sending them to such highly expensive private schools?
People fight for culture. They protest. They come on roads. But when it comes to corporate culture, no one cares. In the offices everyone is ready to follow what the organization wants them to do. Whichever language they want them to speak.
In one of the organizations where I went, wearing a blazer was compulsory for it's staff. Okay, but why in summers would you want a person (and that too an engineer) to wear a blazer. No one will protest against such things but you say something against the culture (which no one actually follows) they will go angry.
British left India long ago but English did not leave India. It is still there and getting stronger and stronger. It is a common belief (or a myth) that English speaking people are better educated possessing more knowledge than an Indian who speaks just his local language.
"English is just a language like many others". This is what I was told by an Italian guy who told me that his parents can’t speak English but that is not their problem.
Recently I met a Swiss person who found me talking to the hotel staff in English. It was his first time in India and he asked me, “Why you were talking to that guy in English, why not in your local language”.
When I was in USA, I met an Indian during the meeting and we started talking English. The US national said that we should talk in some Indian language so that he could also get a feel of how it sounds like. He had never been to India and was excited to know about how India is.
People are really excited to know about India. They are amused by the fact that most Indians can speak more than one language but they are also observing that Indians take pride in how good they are at English speaking. Communication skills programs are also generally focused on how correct you are grammatically and how good your English vocabulary is.
Someone from USA told me, “You fought so many years to get rid of the British rule and now you all are going English.” And he was true. English is everywhere - English movies, English news channels, English news papers, English books, and even abusing each other in English.
When the great leaders of their times were trying to introduce one common language to India which could be called a national language it was not equally accepted across the nation. Everyone thought their language to be superior to others. English and Hindi were finally decided to be the official languages and States were free to choose their official language.
For some years the local languages continued to be used in offices but with the growing corporate culture and the rise of private schools (which are mostly English Medium) local languages suffered badly. The language that has suffered the most is Hindi. Other local languages are still preserved better but Hindi is getting lost somewhere.
I went to the inspection of a five star hotel some 5-6 years ago where I started in English but the chief Engineer recognized from my surname that my mother tongue is Marathi. He asked me to speak Marathi. People are glad to talk in their local language but the Hindi speaking states are suffering the most.
Nevertheless, Hindi is still the most commonly used medium among those who don’t know English. I was in an auto-rickshaw finding hard to describe in English where I wanted to go when suddenly the driver said, “Hindi aata hai kya”.
English has been so glamorized that even those who can’t speak one good English sentence have started replacing their normally used words with English counterparts. Instead of saying ‘Joote’ they would say Shoes, shop instead of ‘dukan’, fruits instead of ‘phal’, flowers instead of ‘phool’, etc.
They want to give a message that we are no less than English speaking Indians. Although they studied in Hindi medium but they want their children to go to English medium schools so that no one thinks they are uneducated.
The meaning of Hindi words is often explained in English. Names of the flowers, fruits, colors, clothing, insects, utensils, grocery and whatever you can think of; the usage is shifting from Hindi (or the local language) to English. For example, many people don’t know what you call Coffee in Hindi or what you can call Strawberry in Hindi. Many people can’t write properly in Hindi. They say that writing in Hindi not required anymore.
The fever is so high that the words like Damn, Shit, etc. are not objectionable to the parents.
You see the Hindi news channels. They use so difficult English words sometimes that it feels why we’re watching Hindi news channel. Movies and television shows have already started replacing Hindi words with English words.
Other than some government offices, the work in offices is mostly in English; which is a major reason why everyone wants to learn English. Ultimately you want to earn for your family and if English gives you the earning, who cares. A needy man doesn’t think about language and heritage. He thinks about the need.
Another reason for demand of English language is that we don’t have higher education in local language. If you want to do Engineering, the best colleges in India will teach you only in English. If you want MBBS or MBA degree, the best colleges are only in English. Why? Why no local language course by a best institute?
At the same time Hindi is being projected as a very tough language. They say “Rail” means “Lauhpathgamini” in Hindi. Why do you want to say, “Lauhpathgamini”? Say “Patri” instead, because “rail” actually means “patri”. Hindi is not a tough language. Even Sanskrit words used in Hindi language are not that tough. “Khel” is also a Sanskrit word. You don’t need to use “Kreeda” every time to prove that you are speaking pure language.
There is nothing wrong with knowing English. It is an international language and is of much use. Even the Russians speak English but they value their language equally. Many other countries speak English but they value their local languages equally and that is why they have their own identity. That is why they stand stronger than us many times.
Do we want a person dressed as an Englishman to represent India? Do we want an English speaking Indian to represent India? A person who can’t speak his mother tongue fluently or with least use of English words? Is this why we became Independent?
Author - Archit
लाभस्तेषां जयस्तेषां कुतस्तेषां पराजयः I येषामिन्दीवरश्यामो हृदयस्थो जनार्दनः II