Friday, April 09, 2010

Two Dogs & Hindi

I am generally seen as someone who has been made out of anger. Though it surprises me personally, I don’t think the belief is too far from truth. The only editing liberty I would take in that statement is to rephrase it as ‘I am someone who is afflicted by righteous indignation all the time’. Being a hardcore fan of Amitabh Bacchan, this angry young man image pleases me; despite I am now an ‘Angry Not So Young Man’. But then so is Big B!

I will get displeased at the drop of the hat but still I claim that I am not made out of anger because if I was one, I would have put the Charles Mansons and the Ted Bundy’s of the world to shame. By this time my victim account would have been in thousands if not millions. The reason I am not a serial killer is because I got enlightened pretty soon in my life. I realized the fact that I deal with a world full of ignoramuses and I can’t punish them for that. So the anger or displeasure is euphemistically transformed into righteous indignation.

Having set the platform right, I should tell about my latest inglorious tryst with language chauvinists. I use the term Chauvinist because they are so. Who else will find a guy like me who bats for his mother tongue as a Chauvinist? A fundamental thing like me slipping into Tamizh while I speak or arguing against the fact that Hindi is our national language makes me appear so to them. Well didn’t I tell that I deal with ignoramuses!!!

In one of my earlier posts I have accepted myself as a chauvinist and that was 2 years before. And when in 2 years I see nothing has changed and I see more and more of such actions, it dawned on me that, it is they who are chauvinists and not me. Well the driver in that episode was a certified ignoramus, but the latest episode was with some of the best minds that work with me. It was a meeting between 5 of us, all at the level of Directors. One out of them doesn’t understand Tamizh and the rest of us were original Agmark TamBrams. I as usual slipped into Tamizh and I was pointed out that there was one member who didn’t understand the language. I promptly apologized and switched to English. And inadvertently I repeated the mistake and there was another reminder. Then came a wise suggestion by one of the senior members. He said ‘Irrespective of who is present in the meeting, we should stick to English as a language and not talk in Tamizh’. That triggered the famous rage in me.

I told you I am not Charles Manson, so obviously I controlled the anger and merely pointed out that we guys are never returned this favor when there are Hindi speaking people in the meeting. In fact it has even become fashionable to speak in Hindi deliberately in a feigned ignorance about everyone would know Hindi anyway. This is what I call as Chauvinism!! The assumption that all of us Indians would and should know Hindi! And looking down upon people who don’t know Hindi like illiterates! What can one talk about such kind of ignorance?

About people who display jingoism & fanaticism without knowing the facts? The fact is that Hindi is not the national language of India. I could bet that 90% of the population doesn’t know this fact. There are only 10 states in this country of 28 states where Hindi is an official language.

Of course Hindi is the official language of the Union of India along with English, but then the constitution has also said that any language that is recognized as an official language in any state of India would be given the status of National Language. And there are 18 languages that are recognized as Official Languages by the Constitution. Approximately 40+ % of India’s population has Hindi as mother tongue and that is the argument the Hindi fanatics place for making Hindi as the National Language. The late DMK leader Annadurai famously quipped that if that is the case, our national animal should be Rat and not Tiger. On hindsight, watching the national animal becoming extinct, we should have accepted Hindi as a national language and killed it completely like the tigers.

As a matter of fact, Tamil Nadu even opposed to Hindi becoming an official language in 1950, leave alone that being National Language. Once again Annadurai gave the famous two dogs & Hindi story. It goes like this. A man had two dogs. One was a large breed and the other one was a tiny breed. He wanted to create doors for these dogs in the main entrance, so he stupidly built one large door and another small door when even the tiny breed could very well use the large door. Like that when English was functioning very well as the Official language to cater to a select part of the population (just about 40%), Hindi was also added as Official Language. Graciously providing 15 years for the non-Hindi speaking population to learn Hindi so that in 1965, Hindi could become the sole official language! If this was not imposition what else could be? Why should a new federal state that was a combination of million princely provinces not long ago, should force a fanatic law onto its population to learn a new language.

That was the first act of systematic annihilation of other languages and races in India. A race is decimated when its language & culture is destroyed. At Sri Lanka, during the peak of Sinhala-Tamizh struggle the Sinhala fascists burnt down the largest Tamizh library in the world at Jaffna. Since Hindi became the official language, the advantage of Government jobs went to Hindi speaking people because the UPSC was given in English & Hindi, so one group replied in its mother tongue and the other in a foreign tongue. So in your own country, you become a loser because you don’t know a language which is not your mother tongue. Because of higher job opportunities, these days people make their children learn Hindi also and in most schools in place of Tamizh. This would mean, Tamizh cannot be read by a generation and when a language cannot be read it doesn’t grow because it will not be written either.

Everywhere through central government machinery and stealthy by laws Hindi is being imposed upon the non-Hindi population. For example, if you are flying out of Chennai, if you don’t know Hindi or English your safety is compromised because the announcements would only be in those languages. Even the private airlines are copying this pattern and I suspect that there could be a clause governing this. And to think that the first language to have been accorded the Classical Language status was Tamizh and was later followed by Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada! Hindi is nowhere to be seen here.

The government in a reply to a RTI query has stated that “there is no provision in the Constitution to declare Hindi as the national language’, yet many of us believe Hindi is already one. That is because of plain hegemony. They have slowly occupied many domains through the central government propaganda sidelining rich languages like Bengali and the other Dravidian languages (the CBSE 10th std Social Studies book carries just one single mention about Tamizh in its lesson about Literature in India, while there are pages about Hindi. That is when, after Premchand I haven’t heard of a single Hindi author!!!)

I can go on and on. But it is of no avail. As long as I have fellow Tamizh’s who think less of talking in the language they called their mother first. Unless people wake up to realize the slow imposition and help the country evolve a 3 language policy, we will continue to face discrimination.

And I will stay a fool for now knowing Hindi! Would it not be a coup? Someone with my IQ, becoming a fool for refusing to learn a language which 40 of my distant neighbors in a 100 member colony speak?? !!!