To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Friday, July 05, 2013
There is a prevailing perception in our Indian society that an English-speaking person is superior to those who speak local languages. In Mumbai, where I am, you find thorough-bred Indian youngsters who have never set foot abroad, talking as if they have landed from a different planet. They take pride in their twisted Hindi, talking to maids and vegetable sellers who do not know English as if it was a struggle to piece together a coherent sentence for lowly mortals! Their English sounds deliberately accented—in trying to avoid a local accent, they put on fake, funny accents that sound a hundred times unnatural and ugly than a natural one would have sounded, considering it would have sounded genuine.

I have nothing against the English language. On the contrary, it is the language that has taught me how to think. But the fact is that it was never thrust upon me or forced on me at the cost of my mother tongue. As a kid, I spoke Konkani at home, with parents, with grandparents, with uncles and aunts, and with all our circle of relatives. The sharing of a common language among a people is at the very heart of a collective culture, and when you break that mould and adopt another, there is a sense of losing touch with that culture. Maybe even losing something of your essence?

I remember being extremely fond of languages even as a little one, and when I was about 8, I discovered our school’s library full of the English classics, and then there was no looking back from the wonder of it all. Since then, I am thankful to have found a language with so much variety and depth, that if I had to be grateful to the one thing that shaped me a person and broadened the horizon of my mind, I would think it would be the English language, and the wealth of ideas and emotions compressed in that language. But it never changed my equation with my mother tongue or local languages.

What bothers me then is not that young or even older persons in India, and more specifically Mumbai, these days, set so much store by English. What bothers me is that they do this not so much because they appreciate the ‘language’, but more as they perceive it to be a ‘tool to project superiority’ or another tool to ‘classify people as per status’—because to have a good English education means a position to afford it! What also bothers me is that this ‘superiority complex’ leads them to forego their own mother tongues and local languages that have their own unique flavour and richness. God forbid that your child speak in an Indian language and get dubbed as ‘LS’ (low society) among peers! What bothers me is the senseless basis on which this ‘superiority’ is pursued, which is the outward form and origin of the language, and not the thing that language stands for or that has actually lent it its perceived superiority. What bothers me is the slow breakdown of many things in our culture that took centuries to bear fruit… and that could well be the very glue that holds it together.