Monday, April 15, 2013

Decolonizing the Language

I write this post in English because it is the best language I know how to write with. I am an Indian with Punjabi roots and yet I cannot read or write properly in Hindi and I cannot even speak Punjabi. I am colonised still, even after 66 years of Independence.
But I am not alone.
 Almost everyone I know is like me. They are proud of the fact that they can converse fluently in English, write better English than many Englishmen and know little or no Hindi.
And we have people commenting on someone’s lack of English speaking skills, categorising them as “gavar” or judging someone just because he cannot string two words of English together and then going on to enunciate complex sentences in an attempt to appear all high and mighty.
This westernisation of our culture has seeped in so deep that now it is difficult to actually p0oint out where it all started and what exactly is wrong. Our politicians in the parliament( if you have been unfortunate enough to watch the Lok Sabha channel) argue in “English”, our cases in the court are argued in “English”, “English” news channels are the ones most watched( maybe not statistically but no one will say they like watching a Hindi news channel), the subscription of Hindi newspapers and periodicals is at an all time low and despite the fact that Hindi is our mother tongue, we are increasingly more adept at English than Hindi.
In countries where English is not their native language, it actually IS their second language and that does not deter them from achieving anything in the world. Italians are proud of their language and you can hear so many different dialects of it, Spanish speaking nations uphold their language in the highest terms as do the French and the Germans and the Bulgarians and the Arabians. They don’t care whether you understand them or not, get a translator if you can’t or learn their language. In UN meetings they speak in their own language while we, as a Hindi speaking nation speak in English.
We are so proud of the fact that we have one of the largest English speaking populations of the world but what about Hindi? We know all the letters of the English alphabets; they are on our tips but what about Hindi Akshar? We can easily count in English but do we know the whole Hindi Ginti?
We are divided into states based on their language yet we expect a Tamilian or a Gujarati to know Hindi because it is the official language. What about their native language? Why not encourage that? There is a human development index which ranks countries on the number of ethnic groups they have and India comes a close second yet we are not proud of it. We expect our population to be a linear one where everything we do is westernised. What about our own culture? Why do we frown upon a girl wearing Salwar kameez and appreciate the one in Palazzo Pants?

We talk of western ideas of feminism and an open culture but have we ever bothered to even scrape the surface of our own culture to know that these ideas have always been engraved in us? Did you know that until the Muslim invasion started in India, the women wore no dupatta, not even to cover their heads? Just one example of the kind of society we had.
I think I reached rock bottom when the other day I saw a Hindi book in my friend’s house and it was upright and I couldn’t read the title without tilting my head.
And that’s why I write this post in English. Not very proud of it.

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