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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The great Indian language quagmire!

The great Indian language quagmire!

The following e-mail “samvaada” took place just after a symbol was chosen for the Indian Rupee in II week of July 2010. Being fanatically pro-kannada, I was not amused that the symbol was not a symbol (like that of US dollar or Pound Sterling) but a hybridization of Devanagari and English scripts – the two languages which have had a demeaning effect on other indigenous Indian languages. The mail exchange took place between 16th July and 20th July 2010.
Peruse and enjoy the jovial-serious sharing of ideas, thoughts and information on the issue of language :

NDTV Correspondent, 15 July, 2010
Finally, the Rupee will have a symbol like the Dollar ($) or the Euro (€) or the Pound (£). The Cabinet today finalised the design for the Rupee.

IIT post-graduate Uday kumar's entry has been selected out of five shortlisted designs as the new symbol for the Indian Rupee.

The government had organised a symbol design competition with a prize money of Rs 2.5 lakh. Five designs were shortlisted from a competition and all new notes will bear the design finally approved.
The growing influence of the Indian economy in the global space is said to have prompted this move that will result in the Indian rupee joining the select club of global currencies like the US dollar, the British Pound, European Euro and Japanese Yen that have unique symbols.

The abbreviation for the Indian Rupee, 'Re' or 'Rs' is also used by India's neighbours Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

On Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 7:12 AM, A. Bhanu wrote :

Don’t you all see the Hindi letter in it?
When India is a land of diversity with so many ingenious cultures, languages, arts etc... it is difficult to believe that English and Hindi get undue prominence in all spheres.....

My friend wrote back in response :

With all due respect Sir, Hindi does remain the national language because it is spoken, written and understood by a majority of the country. In my opinion the sole purpose of any language is communication. We as Indians have a unique ability to divide ourselves over totally ´faltu´ i.e. useless issues. We have in the past divided ourselves over religion, state and cast (and this continues even till date) and now we find another great opportunity to unite ourselves in hating Hindi!! This is fabulous indeed!!
We find all the time in this world to criticize the national anthem which some wise people believe was written for the king of England but fail to realize the amount of pride and values attached to it. We gather up at Chai (tea) time to criticize Mahatma Gandhi and his policy of non-violence and blame all the ills of modern India on the governance of Pandit Nehru. Aren’t we are a population of very wish-full people who live and die in fantasies!
I hope we don’t give this concept of unity in hatred as inheritance to our young ones. Can’t we just be Indians without any cast or religion or creed or language? I am glad and immensely proud to see the Indian symbol for the rupee and I would have felt the same pride even if the symbol was in Chinese!
cheers and jai hind!!

On Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 7:14 AM, A. Bhanu wrote:

Let me clarify that there is no National Language in India. We have a national anthem, flag, bird, symbol, animal, tree, river etc., but no national language. You can verify this by perusing the Indian Constitution. There are 22 official languages listed in the Eigth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
Hindi is not our national language.All Indian languages are rich in history and literature. They all are to be given due respect and credit. Demanding equal respect to all Indian languages is not spreading hatred nor is it causing disunity. This is a paranoia spread by Hindi fanatics.
If the Rupee identity was to be symbolic, then there should not have been any linguistic connotations to it. If you see the American Dollar or Sterling Pound -they are mere symbols.
If we are to respect the diversity in language and cultures in India we need to be aware of and fulfill the representative character of the diversity and richness of our culture. Not by aping the west by glamorizing English or by using (indicatively) any one indigenous language.


My friend’s response was based on Wikipedia referenced literature and ran thus :
(Saturday, July 17th 2010 – 16:03)

Wopsi do!! that was a good reaction!!
Thanks for enlightening us but please check this out:

The principal official language of the Republic of India is Hindi while English is the secondary official language.[2] The constitution of India states that "The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script."[3] Neither the Constitution of India nor Indian law specifies a National language, a position supported by a High Court ruling.[4] However, languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution are sometimes referred to, without legal standing, as the national languages of India.[5][6]

This isn't from any rocket science source!! this is from Wikipedia ( and this is what you would get when you google for three simple key words national+language+india. Well then technically the constitution does not state that this is the 'national language' but it the 'official language'. But then we can always argue with the parrot philosophy that these two are different.

I really don't mind being a 'hindi' fanatic specially if it amounts to be a 'hindustani' fanatic!! viva india!! Jai Hind!!
Let me be specific about this issue. Having toured almost the whole of South India, i found a huge amount of problem in communication only in parts of Tamilnadu. To be more specific, i could not even get a decent glass of water to drink in a village because the people would not understand either of the 3 Indian languages that i speak fluently. i felt like i was not in the same country. I don't know how many of you have experienced this but i have. Now we could always argue about our rich history and past and culture (which incidentally also includes suppression of women and more recently female fetus abortion, our terrific cast system which brands a person not because of his ability but because of who his parents were and then we have the all time great regional/ religious divide). And then we can always continue to bang on our historic and cultural drums without moving an inch forward. Cant we ever get to look at one world (not even country) and only one religion - humanity.

sorry if i hurt any sentiments, but we certainly need to let the past be past and move on. Time never stops. The world is a global village now and if we like it or not we are the third world. Globalization is going to stay no matter how much we resist it by calling it aping the west but the truth is that the west is better off financially as well as socially. We definitely have a unique identity and that is because the rich culture gives us values that are very humane and immensely lovable for the rest of the world. In my opinion we must retain this identity (like the Japanese and Chinese have retained there's) and still move forward.

On Sun, Jul 18, 2010 at 7:41 AM, A. Bhanu wrote:

I shall respond this mail in detail as soon as I can get sometime since its going to be an elaborate and emphatic counter to all the misinformation and half truths spread by the arrogant and audacious hindiwallahs who have tried to usurp the non-existent title of national language!
Let me just add..... If a Hindi zealot says 'jai Hindi' then I will also vociferously proclaim ''JAI KANNADA''

Deepak wrote back as follows :
(Sunday, 18 July, 2010 12:02)

By-god!! boss please don't get so emotional about this!
Jai Kannada
Jai Tamilnadu
Jai Kerela
Jai Maharashtra (I guess the Thakre gang is right in harassing non- maharashtrians living in Maharashtra)

Jai to the whole country and all the states and union territories individually jai Hindustan Oops sorry Jai Bharat!!

well Jai is also a hindi word so lets use neutral words ..............Viva todo el pais mas grande!!

Do we have a Kannada or Tamil or Telegu or Malayali or any other regional name for India (since India comes from the Raj)? if yes, please do let me know.

I don't wish to infuriate you any further but a small thought crossed my mind. Sometime ego there were news reports of leaking of a Chinese secret service document that stated that India's so called sovereignty
hangs by a very delicate thread which is very easy to snap. Well lets face the truth, i guess they are right since we are all either arrogant and audacious Hindiwallas or vociferous rest of the non-hindi speaking people.
BTW: i also speak Spanish so that should disqualify me from being Indian i guess!

My reply was : (Monday, 19 July, 2010 21:49)

You may do a lot of semantic circus. But technically, legally and etymologically "official" is different from "national". I re-emphasize that "official language" does not mean "national language".
Language is a tool for communication - to share ideas, exchange information, swapping data and spreading knowledge. If it was just that we would all be happy!
But, language binds people. It creates art and culture. Therefore, every language has historical, literary, social and emotional significance and importance. People speaking a particular language naturally will love and respect their language. Not that they hate another language.
It is not the language per-se that is damaging the society. It is the haughtiness of people one language having a superiority complex and acting in a manner that is demeaning other languages.
If analyze the facts, the south Indian languages (Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Tulu) are of non-sanskrit origin. They have been there in written form at least since about 500BC, if not earlier.
(Tamilians say their language is older than the Earth. One of their hypothesis is that God created Tamil first, then Tamilians and then a place for them all to live in! You may call it "self indulgence". That is the extent of Tamilians' love for their language.)
All other Indian languages (except Sanskrit) are of recent origin.
I once again reiterate that Hindi is not the national language of India. It is just one among the 22 official languages (including English) notified in Schedule 8 of Constitution of India. Hindi is in no way superior to other languages of India. Indians need not be ashamed for not knowing Hindi.
It is the sheepish attitude of non-Hindi speaking Indians that encourages Hindi zealots to wrongly proclaim Hindi as a national language, a status that does not find place in Constitution of India.
We have a national anthem, flag, emblem, animal, flower, tree, river and bird but no national language.

The framers of Indian Constitution were men of wisdom and vision who could foresee the disintegrating havoc that the imposition of Hindi would cause and therefore settled for ‘official languages’. nfortunately, next to religion, language has the troublesome potential of dividing people. The creation of linguistic states in the Indian Union has not helped matters either.
Can anybody say what credible purpose was served when Sri.Vajpayee spoke in the United Nations in Hindi? What brownie points did he score by playing to the cow-belt gallery in India from the podium at the UN? More importantly, what tangible benefits did India and Indians gain by this grand-standing? This deliberate action appears more illogical when juxtaposed with the fact that Sri.Vajpayee is very fluent in English.
The Hindiwallahs will point to the French, Chinese, Japanese and even the inconsequential Spanish speaking in their own tongue. By the same logic, what is wrong if a Kannadiga or a Tamilian or an Assamese seeks primacy for his language? Do the Hindi fanatics realize that a language is to be used to convey ideas and convince others? No, they are more interested in boosting their bloated egos unmindful of trampling on the sensitivities of others!
Hindi is known to just about 35% of Indians. Majority of the populace is ignorant of this language. One will elicit a blank stare if Hindi is used in interiors of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, just to name a few states and not to mention the North-Eastern states. And this after Sixty years of rigorous imposition of an unwanted language through the backdoor! That is why Hindi is still alien to Indians. And, pushing Hindi as the sole (unifying) Indian language is doing a great disservice to the diversity of languages and culture in India.
Let us be proud of our diversity and aim at consolidating our strengths by integrating our rich history and culture rather than dividing the nation in the name of language. And the snobbish Hindiwallahs are not channelising their efforts towards this objective! Hindi can never integrate Indians as long as Hindiwallahs entertain a superiority complex!


Deepak’s reply was laced with irony and satire!
Date: Monday, 19 July, 2010, 22:34

Alright boss i agree and seek seize fire!!

The lessons from this conversation are: (any of you receiving this mail can add in if i missed out on anything)






Cheers to all
the circus man!! ;)
btw the people of gujrat and rajesthan speak good Hindi even in the interior parts. i have lived in both these states but that is inconsequential!

My response was subdued (Tuesday, 20 July, 2010 9:14)

I also have learnt Hindi. I can read write and speak good Hindi. I don't carry any grudge against any language. I also speak Telugu, Tamil, English and Kannada. For me language is a means of communication.
Just like I speak to people in Hindi when I am in Delhi, I would also be happy when the northies speak (or at least try to) in the local languages when they are here. But, the Hindiwallahs have a ghetto mentality and would not like to merge with the mainstream!
My only wish is that people up above the Vindhyas realise, appreciate and recognise that there are civilised human beings with a rich culture, language and social life down below the Vindhyas also.
It is the frog-in-the-well mindset where the Hindiwallahs seem to think that their Hindi is the only panacea to all ills dogging India (that is Bharat) and the domineering way that they try to change others' way of life is condemnable!
I rest my case.


  1. Bhanu's reply of 19th July 2010 is a balanced assessment of things. Hindiwallahs don't realise how much at a disadvantage the non-Hindi speaking populace will be if Hindi is forced as a 'National Language'. It is even so repulsive when it is forced as an Official Language.

    Bhanu says it best when he says :

    "But, language binds people. It creates art and culture. Therefore, every language has historical, literary, social and emotional significance and importance."

    Why can't Hindiwallahs just conduct a 'thought experiment'? Why can't they for a minute pause and conceive (with all feelings and emotions that will arise) how they would feel if, say Tamil or Kannada is forced as an Official Language on them?

    All one needs to do is place himself in another man's shoes!

  2. While my friend, Bhanu's argument has substace about the Rupee symbol, we should recognise that the symbol is not based on Hindi 'language' but it is based on a letter from Devanagari, which I believe Indian believes as as ' Indian' language. so, 'so be it' !!