By Priyadarshan Pant
I consider myself one of the unfortunate ones to have studied in a ?convent? school. I am not unfortunate because I am proficient in this language of our erstwhile masters and tormentors-after all, it has afforded me many things too! I am unfortunate because I find it most tedious and excruciating to read letters, newspapers, etc. in my own mother tongues. I say mother tongues because Bharatmata is one of my mothers and any language of hers is naturally my mother tongues. And, not knowing my mother tongues well enough has taken me away to a great extent from my roots and people. After all, my people are not just the urbane urbanites who throng the streets of cities like Mumbai and Kolkata-Oops! Bombay and Calcutta!
English has become a symbol of the educated. The poor and the downtrodden look up to the English-speaking ?upper? strata and try to ape the sahibs and mem-sahibs in their speech and their mannerisms. The uneducated and the semi-educated, all try to show that they understand English. Not knowing English has become a terrible disqualification. Even the lowliest sweeper feels he must know it. In the 5-star world of the rich, only English will do. If a young kid speaks in English, the elders listen in awestruck wonder at how intelligent the kid is! They forget that kids naturally learn to speak the language their parents and elders speak most of the time. Thus, even beggars in England (and there are beggars there!) beg in English and the dogs-they must be barking in English!
Of course, we could say, what'sin a language? After all it is only a medium of communication. True, all languages provide the medium for expressing our thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc. However, just as a person'sname is more important than merely being a tag to a person, a language is also more important than merely being a simple communication medium. Languages do much more. When one'slanguage gets respect and status in the eyes of the world, one also goes up in standing. When one speaks in the language and dialect of the locals (wherever one may be), one becomes acceptable much faster to them. It is also a fact that children tend to learn their mother tongue much faster than any other language. Also, their brain is sharpest and most creative when they think and converse in their mother'slanguage. This has something to do with the genes. When children learn and think in any other language, it is obvious that they would never reach their brilliant best. It is also my personal belief that just as the mere utterance of certain words, like Om (Naada Brahma) has got a great and good influence on the surroundings, the different languages also send different vibrations. I believe that Devavani Sanskrit when spoken, creates good, positive vibrations around us. This is especially important when we consider the concept that Naada is Anant.
Most of our own literature and history has hardly been translated into English and as a result children who get into ?English? schools are more likely to read Western books and authors and thus their mindset is likely to be more foreign than Bharatiya.
Children who get into ?English? schools are more likely to read Western books and authors and thus their mindset is likely to be more foreign than Bharatiya.
Today, most city-bred children do not have more than just a rudimentary knowledge of the Mahabharata and Ramayana-leave alone the Puranas and other Shastras. What is more, even their parents do not know much in this regard. Thus, they are taught that the Bible is history; the Quran is holy but our own scriptures are mythology-a collection of false stories according to the dictionary! These are dictionaries compiled by foreigners. When a foreigner says that our scriptures are false, we could rationalise and say, ?They don'tknow, they are ignorant.? But, it is now our own people who label our scriptures as mythology. That is how deeply ingrained these concepts have become for our children and us. And who are these ?we?? ?We? are the English-educated-nay, convent-educated-nay, just convent-literates.
What is the difference between the average Westerner and us? It is gradually becoming ?zero?. If our country had had a ?zero? of a history like so many other nations of the world, it would not only not have mattered, but it would have done us good. But, with a great past-be it in science, arts, mathematics, music, medicine, religion, the occult or any other branch of human knowledge and endeavour- if we are led to believe that we are zeros, that our ancestors were nothing better than superstitious ignoramuses-then, there is a lot drastically wrong with the entire generation of people who have been born in the past few decades.
Where did we go wrong? I think part of it is the English system we got when the British were here. It served them well to tell us that our past was a big zero and that they-the masters-were much better. To destroy our ethos and us, they criticised our social system, our beliefs, our customs, our languages and everything that was ours. They twisted our names, words and pronunciations till even we could not recognise what the original was. All that was all right for them, for they were foreigners. They were here to loot our fair land and us. But, now such myths are accepted and even propagated by our own government and people. How do we get out of this rut?
Great thinkers like Chanakya have recorded that ??though he considered himself great at the Girvanavani Sanskrit, he would like to learn various other languages.? Yes, but then he was a master at his own language-Sanskrit, which if translated means ?refined?. We have now come to a stage where we don'tknow properly even the coarse form of Sanskrit – Hindi, which is supposed to be our national language. Was there ever in any land such a mockery by its own people of everything indigenous and what they could call their own?
A look at the TV channels reveals the following picture. Almost every newsreader is obsessed with pronouncing English, French and other foreign words correctly, however difficult they may be. But, when it comes to Hindi, Tamil or any other of our own words, pronunciation goes for a six. The average ?Hindi? newsreader brings in umpteen English words into his/her news reading. Also, they would rather use Urdu words to prove their bona fides as true secularists. Thus, ?shukriya? is more used and acceptable than ?dhanyavad?! Almost all our film personalities speak in English even though 99.99 per cent of all their film releases are in Hindi. This is perhaps to prove to the public that they are all ?educated? people and not to be confused with the Hindi-speaking village bumpkins! Even in everyday life, when two strangers meet, introductions are always in English. After all, one must let the other man know, that we are ?well educated?. As if the only hallmark of education is English! Remember the English beggars and the barking English dogs?
The wife at home must be English-speaking, the children, of course and now the servant too. So, we all think, greet, wish and converse with each other in English. We must eat English food in English style, see English movies, hear English songs, do our sums in English, do our begging in English-in short, we must be English-personified. Our gods, they understand perhaps only Sanskrit-so they must go; let'sget the English gods.
Lastly, let us not forget the most loyal being-the dog. Our Bharatiya variety may be the most hardy and the most effective guard-dog around but its bark is not in English, so we must get the imported variety. There could be an added advantage-the imported one always barks in English and if we ever forget our own syntax, we could learn it from our loyal friend. We must remember that even an English bark is better than all that Bharat can offer. In the end analysis, if all this is not immediately possible, for the present let'sgo where it is English all the way.