First, they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me
- Martin Niemoller
I remember having a discussion with a poor schoolgirl in port Harcourt, Nigeria. She used to sell dry fruits and international roaming cards to sailors and, in turn, gets lubricating oil or diesel from the ships. It was always a win-win deal for both since the sailors could always get away with a few litres of diesel and lubricant in their month-long journeys, and the one on the shore always had buyers for all kinds of ship's products. I am not sure if these phone cards are still in use, but they must have something equally important to keep their trade alive.
During my course of discussion with this girl about their county and their way of living, I was also curious to know what they thought of India. She told me that India is a place of snake charmers and women who instantly turn to snakes without second thoughts.
I was stunned. I didn't expect this, especially from a girl on the verge of completing her school in a year. On further discussion, she told me that it was all she knew about India through their television and other sources. This was 2005, and today I am sure she must have better things to speak about India.
I don't mean to say that there were only snake charmers in India in 2005, but the exposure India had then in outside countries was significantly less than what we are witnessing today. We were growing then and still growing now, but the stage where we stand now is something beyond comprehension at that point. Thanks to the internet and rampant social media, everyone is exposed to everything now.
I am here to say that one big reason why India holds its head high today is the English language. The English language was a leftover of the British, who taught us this language to enslave us better, and it ended up becoming a blessing in disguise. From Information Technology to every service industry possible, English knowledge has made Indians the preferred people to be employed worldwide.
Today even Indian YouTubers, with their English fluency, are making a significant mark across the globe. English today has been the single important thing that is integrating India not only into the world but also within itself, considering the number of languages every region of its country speaks.
Even after 75 years after Independence, India is left with many leftovers to remind us that the British were here. The names of the places, divisions in defence, divisions across geography, uniforms of varied professions, bribery in various forms, Churches and Monuments, Railways ( strictly for their convenience and not for the nation ), English language are some of the examples.
Now that India has found its own foothold, things are changing. The changes have begun with the changes in the names of the places, and slowly it is becoming a movement that nothing British should remain in this country. In this stride, the government is suddenly becoming adamant to gradually replacing English as well with something Indian, i.e., Hindi.
Unfortunately, the leaders who want to do that fail to notice that there was never a common language in India at any point in its History. In fact, its strength of unity in diversity and its beauty of multiple languages and cultures comes under a significant threat if a common language is enforced.
I remember watching a debate on making Hindi the common language in India. There was one young girl, most probably a college student in Delhi, who was unable to understand why there was so much fuss in accepting Hindi as the standard or national language of India and what prevents people from learning it. Considering her age and the exposure to language and cultures across India, her question was correct.
Thankfully there was another girl from Tamilnadu who participated in that debate. Her first question was, " But why?" and the second one was, " Why don't you learn Tamil and make it the common language?". Well, she wasn't wrong either.
Those who believe that Hindi must be made the common language have the following rationale.
1. Hindi is the largest spoken language in the country.
2. Having a common language enables uniformity in administration and also saves a lot of money.
3. It gives an upper hand to the English-deprived people of the country who are conversant in Hindi.
4. Hindi gives the county its identity, whereas English is a borrowed language.
5. Education in Hindi will give a common platform to evaluate students.
Not to be harsh to the Hindi patronisers, I have my reservations against these rationales. My viewpoints on the same are below.
1. Hindi is not even spoken by fifty per cent of the population. That means out of a population of approximately 140 crores, close to sixty per cent are non-Hindi speakers, which is more than the population of Europe.
2. With English already in use, it's enabling our country's internal communication and keeps our communication with the majority of the globe intact. Adding Hindi only messes this up, and adding Hindi alone will destroy all the advantages we have had so far.
3. Every state has its share of English-deprived people. Making Hindi the substitution is like a way of making everyone equally poor rather than addressing the need to improve their English and life.
4. Tamil, Hindi, or any language, for that matter, will thrive as long as people relate their identity and culture with it. There is no need to impose a single language as an identity which will only raise annoyance and anger among people having different mother tongues.
5. People think in their mother tongue. Testing someone out of his comfort zone with someone in their comfort zone is a crime.
It is interesting to note that although the blog is about whether to accept Hindi or not as a common language, I assume people of this generation, especially those starting from the middle class, are slowly migrating to English. They make sure their kids are conversant in English as well. Hindi, or their Mother tongue, remains as a compulsory paper in their school or college.
I have seen many state governments trying to gain political leverage by giving additional quotas for students studying in the local language. They also make sure job quotas are also given accordingly. The question one should ask is what is the State Government doing to enable research and development in the given language rather than fight for its sheer survival.
I believe in the open market, where the demand for anything will reach equilibrium if nothing is tampered with. The same holds true with Hindi as well. A person will learn Hindi if he needs it for his survival. If someone from Tamilnadu goes to Mumbai to start a business, he will learn Hindi. But why should a farmer in a rural south Indian village or even a person in Chennai need Hindi if all his requirements are met without the knowledge of Hindi?
Having said that, it is also true that if anyone from Mumbai or Delhi intends to start a business in Tamilnadu, he will learn Tamil if it's needed. On common ground, English is always there as a means of escape.
Forget India; even the world is becoming a smaller place with the advent of technology. It won't be far when we see English being spoken across every part of the globe to be recognised and rewarded. There is nothing we can do about this order of nature where demand determines everything, and the dominant ones will survive. It will be sad to see if we as a country don't participate in this but still end up fighting to establish a common language and a common structure for a country that is known for its rich diversity.
Today when India is getting a global audience, we as a country still fail to see the beauty of its rich heritage. There are still debates about the oldest language or the wealthiest state. What is the point of taking pride in something which one hasn't created? We are just the carriers of the language or the culture, not its creators. We only have the right to be happy about our roots, but we can't take pride in it since we are only the carriers, not its creators.
The country's leaders have been chosen to make the country powerful and prosperous. They should not waste their power to tinker with something which is beyond individuals' capacity. The protest in Chennai for the ban on Jallikattu clearly shows that people can go to any extent when someone tries to tamper with their identity and heritage. It's a small and beautiful life to be wasted on protest and revolution. It's time to grow by letting everyone grow. Hindi imposition will only be a walk away from the country's genuine progress.
For all said and done, Hindi will still be learned and loved by people for their sheer needs and desire. Anything imposed will lose its sheen over time. Let's take some time to sit back and see how lucky we are to live in a country with so many cultures and languages. It is a blessing that no other country can ever dream of.
Every language has its own charm and nuances. I assure you that It's like getting a new life when one truly learns a new language. Let's not mess up this paradise on earth while trying to prove a point with Hindi, which will be a crucial mistake in the country's path to becoming a developed nation.