Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Hindi - Is it a North Indian Language?

Thanks to Sudarshan Iyengar for starting this discussion on facebook. And apologies for lifting this up which started as my comment on the post, but as usual, grew too long to be posted as a comment.

I love Hindi. I don't care if it's a national language, a regional language, a world language or just a political bomb waiting to be detonated. It's the language which I use to converse with all my best friends. It's the language I read best of my stories in. It's probably the language I think in. And I don't like it when people talk negatively about it or its popularity.

But, in the interest of fairness, let's talk about the reasons for its popularity. Has Government done some propaganda to popularise Hindi? Yes, I think, it has.

I feel government shouldn't promote of suppress any language. Having said that, I feel Hindi has it in it to naturally grow. It doesn't mean it's better than any other language. Just that it did have a critical mass and following even at the time of independence for it to see a positive gradient in acceptance. It's hard to believe that its popularity today is all due to government propaganda. If you think you wouldn't have learned Hindi but for the government making you learn it, may be you are right. Don't mistake your case to be the representative case.

Hindi has adapted to changes well which is a sign of healthy language. I don't think, there's any need to call it a National language, nor is it important to argue on whether it's a regional language. A much more important fact is that it's by far the most spoken language in the country.

Hindi has found a good penetration in South India too. Though, not so much as in North India. Nor does it come close to any of the native South India languages in popularity in South India. But its acceptance is growing in South India. I remember that about 20 years ago I had almost got mugged in Chennai for uttering something in Hindi. Now, it's almost completely safe to converse in Hindi in Chennai. I don't think it's majorly due to government propaganda.

I feel it's got nothing to do with whether Hindi is a great language or not. All languages have their good and bad points. Each has a rich literature to boast of. There can be no distinction made between language on the basis of their inherent linguistic or literary quality. If these had been the main points, we all would have been conversing in Sanskrit or Latin today.

Then what is the reason that Hindi is growing more popular, even in South? It's just that North Indians find it lucrative to move down south for jobs. And South Indian natives find it profitable to learn Hindi because this allows them to communicate with them. So, we are bent on attributing the growing popularity of Hindi, let's attribute it to the growing prosperity of the South. I feel, there can't be a healthier reason for people learning a language than economic profitability of doing so. If lots of Indians migrate to Europe and America, it will become profitable for them too to learn our languages, whether Hindi, Tamil or whatever.

 There's Bollywood too. Nothing more needs to be said about this.

Domination of all major languages of the world are based on cultural, economic, military domination of one culture on another, often accompanied with bloodshed. English, which people feeling a lot of animosity about Hindi, find it so natural to accept as their professional language, has imperialism and only imperialism to credit for its spread through the world. It would be so vain not to acknowledge the sheer pragmatic sense in learning it well on the basis of the violence and repression in its history. I feel, Hindi's spread through the India landscape hasn't been anywhere as violent. It's primarily economic prosperity of South and growth of Hindi entertainment industry. Government propaganda? Again, I won't buy that unless proved. There's as much probability of that being a political propaganda.

I have been in Bangalore for more than a decade. I have learnt Kannada to a fair extent (including its script). I find it interesting and useful. I won't ever go into unnecessary discussions about what a great language Kannada is or isn't. I feel, being here in Karnataka, it's a brilliant medium for me to learn about people here: their ways, their humour, their culture, their thoughts and emotions.

All the people reading this, gentle folks, please speak/learn/teach Hindi if you feel it's interesting and useful. Otherwise, forget it. Don't hate it. It's of course just another language. I feel our eagerness to learn and use a language should be rooted in our eagerness (whether due to economic, intellectual or emotional reasons) to connect to the people who use it. I feel, it's a lovely, beautiful reason to learn a language. Why let one's cultural and political biases cloud this innocent instinct? 

Therefore, I repeat: don't propagate Hindi. National Language status? To hell with it. But, don't stop yourself or anyone else around you from learning it by tagging it as a vehicle of North's dominance.

Which language does a child learn at home? The one used by his elders. Then, as he develops his own friendships, he learns the language he finds most useful for communicating with them. That's how languages are learned; that's how they should be learned. People are interesting or disinteresting, not languages. And if you wish to connect to the people, you learn their language. Government can favour a language over another. To think of it as a propaganda instead of an opportunity is unfortunate. And to think of your knowledge of a language as an evidence of your having been a victim of a political, linguistic or regional propaganda is an illogical thought, to use a mild adjective.

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