Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Chennai-Madras

Language – this is an issue which has stirred Madras and its politicians over the last 34 years that I have been experiencing the happenings of Chennai. It is one of the keys to the character of the citizens of Chennai. The fixation with Tamil and English both hides and reveals many facets of what makes Madras such a charming and culturally significant city to live in. Madrasis regard the Tamil language as the key to the essence of their culture. English is their window to the wider world; Hindi, an imposition of an alien, aggressive culture trying to dominate.

I have a couple of things to say about the last sentence... but that comes later....The rest of the article is much less interesting and sheer nonsense...

This reminds me of an incident... Was talking to my friend about my classmate's marriage and she asked when his baarat was... I promptly went on to ask what this baarat thing is, and guess what, i was greeted with an incredulous stare and the type of look that is bestowed upon a 10th standard child when he is caught watching a porn flick on a hot and sticky saturday afternoon or upon a person endowed with a vociferous fart puts up a public display of his vociferousness(or is it vociferocity?) over a speaker when the crowd's devotional fervour is at its peak...

The gravity of the situation overwhelmed me...

'What?' I queried tremulously.
'Dont you know what baarat is?'
'No... Its a hindi word, isnt it?' - the post-gathering-myself me

The incredulous stare upon a 10th std porn-watching boy turned into one upon a 3rd standard serial rapist.

'Dont you know hindi?' : Make that font 40 bold
'Not to this extent'
'Well, you are supposed to... Its our national language'
'So is English...'
'But...but its a foreign language'

And the pointless conversation went on....

Pushing aside all this patriotism junk, the answer is simple... India, as a nation is only 60 years old... There was no political entity called India before the britishers established the nation....Everybody was fighting everybody else... I wouldnt exactly call that a nation...

To tamilians, both English and Hindi are foreign... Where tamilians differ from the rest of the linguistic communities is that while all other languages of India were either evolved from Sanskrit or heavily influenced by it, tamil has a distinct linguistic tradition, not evolved and not influenced(very little)... And while the familiarity with English is 250 odd years, the familiarity with Hindi is only 40 odd years...I think the criticism is a bit unfair...

And i am much more comfortable with english...

P.S: This doesnt mean i am against/for certain languages... i suppose i am beyond all that now... was just trying to talk some logic... :)

15 comments:

Sanket said...

Agree with some points, disagree with some others. Anyway, that's not the point. Just wanted to add a thing or two. The popular belief that *all* indian languages have evolved from Sanskrit is wrong. Tamil, for example, is more than 4000 years old, and evolved from a (not so much of a ) language,'Dravida' (spoken by us... the aborigines :-) ). Kannada, about 2000 years old, evolved from Dravida and Tamil. Naturally, Kannada has more influence (from Sanskrit) than Tamil has. The other south Indian languages, being much newer, have more influence (compare the no of Sanskrit words in Malayalam or Telugu to that in Tamil or Kannada). Oops... it's too long a comment. Will stop.

By the way, I too have had many such arguments (thou I guess I speak better Hindi than u do ;-)).

Ishwar said...

1. go back and read. i said "evolved or influenced by"...

2. self-antiquation evident here.. tamil isnt 4k years old, and kannada isnt 2k years old... refer history texts(authentic)...

Sanket said...

reply to 1: Ok. u have said that. so? i was not responding to that at all! just mentioned a *popular* belief (have been arguing with people on this issue since the day i got reason).
reply to 2: If 'self antiquation' were evident, u should not have mentioned it ;-). From epigraphical evidences historians conjecture that the *spoken Kannada* language evolved much earlier than the 'Halmidi Shasana' (450 AD). If it is not authentic please give me the authentic ones.
Kannada perhaps is the oldest language Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Tamil.
Well.. anyway... Tamil is not 4000 year old? Ok. Will take it.

Sanket said...

Oops... typo... I meant - "Kannada perhaps is the oldest language next to Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Tamil."

By the way, I know that whatever I've written 'sounds' 'authentic' (read textbookish). Well.. but then...

Anonymous said...

ahem!

wat's your point?

Nilu

Ishwar said...

there was a time when i would have jumped for the kill under such circumstances.... have become old...

nilu, if u want some points, this blog is not the place for it. read aym-gramders' blog. was just blabbering.

Praveer said...

The quoted statement "Hindi's an alien aggressive culture trying to dominate" is ridiculous, inciting and blown up.
Hindi as two years of reluctant learning cannot turn the tables.

The statemenet looks more ridiculous when u see it in the light of
1. Dominance of English on the Culture -- which is disregarded and called a concious choice.
2. Cultural similarity of Northern and Southern India. -- which is trivialized.

Compare Hindi and English.
Which is more dominant and which is more alien ?

Imposition of Hindi is a problem but it aint a threat !

ps: Fixation to English is an inevitable problem all across India. Not just in TN.
pps: I think blaming you for a little ignorance in Hindi is as unreasonable as blaming me for not knowing Tamil.

Whoosh said...

@Praveer. Your "pps" is well noted.

Continuing on Ishwar's arguments, I had this irritating specimen travelling with me in the BMTC bus the other day... Conversation follows..

Him: So, you are a Tamilian...
Me : Yeah...
Him: So, u dont know Hindi...
Me : Yeah, So?
Him: Just asking... (and looking with a superiority complex)
Me : No, why did Hindi come into the picture here?
Him: Dont u find it difficult here in Bangalore without Hindi?

(Now, this is a really crazy question. I can understand a decent amount of Kannada. Most of the people here speak tamil and English is universal. So, why should i find it difficult in Bangalore?)

Me: No, i dont.. Arent u able to talk to me?
Him: Yeah
Me: Are u able to make sense of what i am saying?
Him: Yeah
Me: Isnt that enuf for a conversation?
Him: Not like that... See, it is essential to know Hindi...

(Oh God.. there he goes again...)

Praveer said...

Almost every South Indian I've met, invariably knows atleast two other Languages (thats apart from his mother tongue and English) one of which is usually Hindi. I think that gives ME a complex on the contrary.

Ishwar said...

this post has gone beyond being a funny episode and has taken demographic and linguistic overtures... i refuse to get involved in such trivialties.

Anonymous said...

Death to everybody.

Nilu

Arvind N said...

Wow! The post has some implications. This should atleast answer one question, that is, if you can read tamil.. ;)

Anonymous said...

With luck you'll find the time to check my resource for information about upcoming seminars and find an article or two or three you'd like to read. I hope you, too, consider comments however short and sweet fun to get and read :)

Om said...

http://vetri-vel.blogspot.com/2006/12/india-does-not-have-national-language.html

India does NOT have a national language.

dghnfgj said...

welcome to the wow power leveling cheap service site, buy wow power leveling cheap wow gold,wow gold,world of warcraft wow power leveling buy wow gold