Hindi, Patriotism and other such things

 

In connection with the Hindi Week that was observed in an institution last week, a lot of speeches were delivered asserting the greatness of Hindi as a language and its worthiness to be not only the national language of India but also to be studied, if not mastered, by every Indian who loves his country.  “One who does not love Hindi does not deserve to be an Indian,” one of the speakers asserted passionately.  Another speaker, who held the audience spellbound with his rhetoric that eloquently combined passion with personal conviction, sought to project those Indians who do not care to learn Hindi as depraved creatures by comparing them to a person who does not love his mother.

I tried to carry the logic of these orators a little further.  Their logic is that if you love your country you should learn its national language.  What if I love the whole world, not just my country?  That’s what occurred to me while listening to them.  Then, by their very logic, I should learn the lingua franca of the world, instead of confining my linguistic pursuit to my country.  English is the lingua franca of the world and I am comfortable with communicating in that language for most purposes.  Does that make me a non-Indian?

My knowledge of Hindi is very meagre.  I can just manage to communicate meaningfully enough in Hindi (though hilariously sometimes) with those people who do not know English or my mother tongue (Malayalam) but know the language that came to be the national language of India solely by virtue of being spoken by the larger section of the country’s population.  I have no emotional connections with Hindi.  I do not believe a person’s patriotism has anything to do with his knowledge of the official language of his nation, particularly in the Indian context.  If I am a little passionate about English it is merely because it is the language which has given me most of my knowledge and has helped me express myself intelligibly to a larger audience. 

This led me to another question: do I love Malayalam (my mother tongue) as passionately as I love English?  To my surprise, I found it difficult to answer that question.  I’m sure of one thing: I have a soft corner (a sturdy one too) for Kerala (the place where I was born and brought up) and its language.   Though I have lived outside Kerala for more years than inside it, I still make sure that I follow the Malayalam news regularly by subscribing to a Malayalam newspaper and watching the Malayalam news channel.  I also find time to read some Malayalam books, novels especially. 

The time I devote to read Malayalam and to know about developments in Kerala is insignificant compared to what I devote to English and world affairs.  Does this detract from my love for Kerala?  I don’t think so.  According to my thinking, it merely indicates my passion for knowledge about wider things, a passion that takes me beyond the boundaries of states and the nation. 

Similar is the case when Hindi is concerned.  If I did not care to learn it properly, it’s merely because I never felt a need to do so.  If the practical affairs of my life had demanded mastering Hindi I would have mastered it.  If mastering Hindi would bring me any specific advantage I would have mastered it.  Merely because it is the consensus national language it need not (and does not) entice me at all.

One of the speakers (mentioned above) implied that Hindi is the language of the freedom fighters.  I think such rhetoric, while serving well to win the applause from young and impressionable listeners, is libellously insinuating.  It is a serious distortion of the country’s history and much more dangerous than trying to strike off some people’s national identity with their ignorance of the national language.

The divisiveness that underlies the arguments of fanatical advocates of anything (language, religion, race, almost anything at all) is what I find most detestable.

Like every nation India should have a national language and Hindi best fits the bill.  Fine.  Let Hindi be the national language.  Let it be promoted too by the government as best as it can be.  Let as many Indians as possible learn it and use it if they can in their day-to-day life.  (I wonder how a person in a village in South India or Northeast India would ever be able to use Hindi in his day-to-day life.)  But Hindi should not become another cause for fissiparous tendencies in the country.  It should not seek to swallow the hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects spoken in the country.  The multi-dimensional diversity in India is its sheer beauty.  Let that beauty continue to flourish.

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About matheikal

My more regular blog can be accessed at www.matheikal.blogspot.com
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11 Responses to Hindi, Patriotism and other such things

  1. Dawn and Dew says:

    MAY IT BE RELIGION OR LANGUAGE, IF TOLERANCE AND ACCEPTANCE (INCLUSION) ARE NOT ITS TRAITS, NO ONE WOULD PREFER TO LEARN IT. THERE IS NO PROBLEM WITH ANY LANGUAGES OR RELIGIONS AT ALL. IT IS ONLY BECAUSE OF SOME CLERICS AND NARROW-MINDED PEOPLE THAT A LANGUAGE OR RELIGION BECOMES DETESTABLE TO OTHER UNTHINKING COUNTERPARTS WHO SEEK RAMPAGE AS THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION TO ESTABLISH THE SUPREMACY OF THEIR LANGUAGE OR RELIGION.

    WHAT WE CAN DO WITH THE NARROW-MINDED PEOPLE? JUST SMILE AT THEIR IGNORANCE 🙂 OR ARTICULATE THE SATIRE BEAUTIFULLY LIKE ONE MATHEIKAL. NICE BLOG, SIR.

  2. Matheikal, you say, “Like every nation India should have a national language and Hindi best fits the bill.” This is patently untrue (the first part). Not every nation has A national language. The US has no national language. Switzerland has four official languages (no National) – French, German, Italian and Romanch. I do not know what is the national language of South Africa – English, Afrikaaner or Zulu or all of them? There is no need to have a National Language for a nation, if it will create an artificial and de facto division amongst its citizens.

    And, India does not have a national language. India has official languages – English and Hindi. English was supposed to have been discraded after 15 years of Independence. Could not happen, thanks mainly to Tamils (and, I am ever so grateful to them). There is a mention of regional languages of India but nowhere in the Constitution Hindi is said to be THE National language. The list given in the Eigth Schedule is silent on national language.

    Languages cannot divide a country but linguistic chauvinists can and the anti-Hindi movement in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s was NOT linguistic chauvinism. It was a negative movement, AGAINST imposition of Hindi, despoiling the spirit of the Three Language Formula.

    I take your arguments and accept them in the spirit of what I have said above.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      Thanks Raghuram for adding much to my post. You have helped clear some of my doubts. Yes, why should a nation have a national language? Your statement that India does not have a national language indeed comes as a shock to me. We have been taught quite the opposite from our childhood, you know, and I grew up without ever questioning or checking it up.
      Yeah, I also know you understood the spirit of my article.
      Thanks again.

  3. sir… with due respect…but article shows a bit of disliking towards hindi…
    bt i agree wid u few points as well….

    • matheikal says:

      No, Rishi, why should I dislike a language? I look at language as a tool. If it is of some significant use to me, I learn it and use it. Otherwise I ignore it. There is no question of like and dislike in the case of such languages.

      I guess a person may have some emotional attachment with his mother tongue. But other languages are matters of practical usefulness and hence emotions need interfere.

  4. feddabonn says:

    hear hear. and when you do learn the language, they say it is not good enough! my mixture of shillong and hyderabadi hindi leaves most hindi speakers in splits. 🙂

  5. akshitha says:

    sir i seriously accept that person’s patriotism does’nt depend on the language he knows……but i believe that…we have many languages in our country and a person cant understand all of them, at such kind of situations hindi is officially used …and as far as my knowledge rather than getting so used to foreign languages people should first get used to the language in india which can reach every person even in the alleys…….

    • matheikal says:

      Thanks, Akshita, for accepting my invitation to visit my blog.
      I like your expression “reach every person in the alleys…” That’s just what I too am trying to say in different words. We should reach that “every person” and capitalism as a system will never do that. We have to find an alternative; otherwise we’ll be drowned in Maoism and other isms!

  6. Parag says:

    Another excellent piece sir, but before i comment on it i feel like sharing with you that right now, after reading this, i feel the same rush of zest that you used to arise in all of us in the classroom whenever some social issue or similar things came up in the class. Then, i dont really know about the others, but me and my cricle of peers ……we felt like fighters being motivated by their commander, ready enter the battlefield to fight all the atrocities in the society.
    As long as the importance of Hindi is concerned. Sir, i share your views that it is practically not possible to make Hindi the daily-spoken language in every corner of India with so much diversity already there. Yet, in my case, i have the same soft spot for Hindi as you have for Malyalam. And so i follow it’s writings too. I try. And seriously, the kind of speech those speakers had delivered only shows their narrowmindedness.
    our country can only advance amicably if more open minded youths and citizens come out strongly

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