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Unity In Diversity, Or…..?

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by satchitananda, Jan 29, 2021.

  1. satchitananda

    satchitananda IL Hall of Fame

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    Forgive me if this post is a bit of a mish mash of ideas and tends to be all over the place. However, given the political and social realities of the times in which we all live, I could not help making a few observations today, in a way interconnected, in others totally disconnected.

    As a language instructor at the Goethe Institute, I have the opportunity to participate in a lot of cultural and academic events. Today is the inauguration ceremony of one such conference. The evening started with the who’s who of the institute and the consulate – mostly Germans – lighting the ceremonial lamp. Normally I would not think twice about it, but in this day and era of extreme polarization, based to a large extent on religious and cultural differences, I could not help notice a nice, warm feeling spreading inside with the light emanating from those lamps. Christmas is celebrated with much gusto at the institute – it is as German as it can get in an Indian context. Onam is celebrated with huge flower rangolis and a feast on banana leaves, Diwali is also celebrated with rangolis, staff turning up in their festive best ….. it can’t get more “Multi-kulti” (as the Germans would call it) than this. What a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t help thinking – no sensible person would or could object to being part of any celebration, no matter which culture or religion they are a part of. Such times really take me back to my younger days when this was the “normal” – or to put it in today’s lingo, this was the “old normal”.

    What a stark contrast this is to the ‘not our culture’ attitude which is so all-pervasive in our society today! It would be hypocritical to say that a certain degree of resentment does not creep in, under circumstances when one feels that one section of society is being appeased at the cost of others. This, however, is more of a reaction to a political situation than any deep rooted hostility to other cultures/religions.

    From there, it is not a particularly huge leap to talk of language chauvinism. Just the other day, I saw a tweet in the German language, put out by an ex-colleague. It was political in nature. Needless to say, there was an instant response to his tweet, demanding to know what “kind of language” this was. Another time there was a disparaging remark because of his profession and his community – he is flowing against the tide and so some people of his own community really gun for him (figuratively speaking, so far, thank God!!!)

    The never-ending discord over regional languages and national language is one more issue in question. “Why should we accept any other language other than our regional language” was another argument at the centre of a fight between a courier and the security staff at the gate of a housing complex. So much so that it went live on Facebook, with a regional cultural group being involved. At this rate all of us who can only speak 2 or 3 regional and/or national languages have only two options – learn all the regional and official languages of our country or don’t travel outside the state.

    When will people learn that language is a means of communication, a doorway to the world, its peoples and cultures and that such chauvinism will shut all doors to any possibility of enriching one’s existence – damn, you can’t even curse any person in a language they understand!!!!! If someone is so dumb as not to be able to learn your language, you’d rather not communicate with that person, rather than speak he/she can understand? When did language become a divisive factor instead of a uniting one?

    God give us sense!!!
     
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  2. Balajee

    Balajee IL Hall of Fame

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    Language is the most visible manifestation of ethnicity, it shows your cultural identity/ While it is stupid to say you won't speak a language that you know but don't want to use because of your chauvinism (Quite a few French know English but refuse to use it). Ir is equally stupid to refuse to learn the language of the area which is not myour own but where you move into. For instance, you moved to Bengaluru from Pune and it would be stupid on your prt not to learn Kannada but at the same time cultural imperialism is a reality. :et us take the case of England where the domination of Britain by English kings and aristocracy destroyed other languages like Cornish, Gaelic and almost destroyed Cymri (It would be politically incorrect to call it Welsh) . The language of the domineering class becomes the lingua franca. Forget Indian languages. How many Indians when they meet, even if they speak the same language at home converse in their native tongue. It is always English for the educated class. Now there is an obvious trend towards one language, one nation" that can ring alarm bells. True language is a means of communication but in a multi-lingual state, it is an issue that can be a minefield where we must tread carefully.
     
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  3. satchitananda

    satchitananda IL Hall of Fame

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    While it sounds alarming, one nation, one language - in this case Hindi - does not necessarily imply that one has to give up one's regional language, nor does it mean that it should be allowed to die out. This is a question of practicality. Let us say all people in India need to be able to communicate in at least one common language, but we see English as a sign of imperialism. So we won't accept English - just for argument's sake, given the fact that as you said, many Indians speak English. But a greater number don't. So which language should we have in common? Hindi is a language spoken (albeit slight variations/dialects) in various states of the North. If you know this one language, you could get by in most of India. What about the other states? Suppose I am in a transferable job. Is it possible for me to learn the regional language of every place I am transferred to, every 3-4 years (assuming I am transferred to different states each time)? If I do, it is my own gain. If I don't, I should at least have one language in common. Can we expect the whole country to learn Gujarati or Malayalam or Tamil or Kannada or Telugu or Marathi or Rajasthani as a common language? Just a question of straight forward utility.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
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  4. Hopikrishnan

    Hopikrishnan Platinum IL'ite

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    The initial wedge is by dictat. What happens afterwards is the death of the local language. This is just the way we had killed languages, as was already pointed out:
    English is used to maintain armslength relationships among educated indians who speak the same mother tongue at home. When they slip into their mother tongues, the parties recognize that they had got past the acquaintance stage of their connection. That is all there is to it.

    A question of practicality?!
    Who sees English as a sign of imperialism ? After Brexit, the PM of England was supposed to have come to India (he cancelled because people were dying in UK) and beg for trade relations. English is not an imperial anything. It is the language of a former colony, now called the United States of America. UK should/would soon lose the permanent UN security council seat to India.

    People should recognize that English is the language used by a Chinese Commercial Pilot when s/he communicates with ground support in China. Same with Lufthansa crew communicating in Germany or any other country they fly to. You may watch youtube videos of their cockpit communcations. English is the Universal Language of the World. If Indians would want to migrate to one language for the nation, that is the language they would migrate to, and not try to shoot themselves in the foot by eliminating their advantage. If practicality is what matters I'd vote for pidgin English over literary Hindi or Tamil as a national language any day.

    added later... [searched and found this video... first episode of multipart series...]
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2021
  5. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan Finest Post Winner

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    :hello:Kudos to OP for bringing up this chronically-sensitive subject. Your points are well taken . But then, I have a different take. Learning any language other than mother tongue is ...yes it is an asset - my dad used to say so and he made me learn Sanskrit at school!

    2. It could be Indian languages or foreign languages. But when it is citizens’s choice, it is for his or her benefit. Nation may not gain or national difficulties in a particular sphere get diminished.

    3. Why at all the Nation should have one common language?
    What since independence and before independence in Britsh India people lost because there was no one common national language?

    4. Before linguistic division of India, never heard the phrase “sons of the soil”.

    5. Indian People of different tongues, could do commerce not only within the country, bot all over the world. History records that (Sanskrit knowing) Indians travelled across globe in days prior to British India, spreading their religion like Hinduism, Bhuddism, established temples in foreign countries that includes China, sold spices all over the world.
    6. Why at all the government should bother to have common language for the nation.
    7. Envoys from other nations travelled across the nation were at ease: visited and mingled with people in North & South or East & West produced wonderful books on extant indian culture.

    8. Thousands of citizens cum employees of Central Government transferred to different states and we have not heard them protested about their transfer citing learning local language as a barrier.

    9. Hindi fanatics and anti English people are the ones who cry for this one common language for entire Nation. This would never happen and their dream will remain for ever a mirage.

    10. The need of the hour lies in arriving at one language - the learning of which is hard, stressful and burdensome in equal measure and would satisfy all. I have found that. That is the sign language which at times viewed in certain TV channels WHILE national news is broadcasted. Learning sign language does not need huge stationery a unique advantage.

    11. This sign language is universal; and by legislation, if it is made compulsory at all levels, at all places, all over the world including Bharat, the world and the media would turn noiseless - I mean peaceful- or less noisy.

    12. You post made me live the moments when I spoke ex tempore
    to August audience(!) about unity in diversity & national integration narrated in link:
    Disintegration On National Integration Desideratum

    Thanks and Regards.

    God - why cursed the Nations with pseudo issues and trying moments to its citizens?
     
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  6. Hopikrishnan

    Hopikrishnan Platinum IL'ite

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    @Thyagarajan "less noisy !!" That is a good language. I will vote for that.
     
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  7. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan Finest Post Winner

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    :hello:Thank you for appreciating the less noise one here.
    Regards.
     
  8. HariLakhera

    HariLakhera Platinum IL'ite

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    There is a difference between the language of an individual and official language of a country. Most countries have one or maximum two official languages. As I know in India it is Hindi and English on national level and in States, language spoken by the majority on the basis of which states were created and English/Hindi.
    In USA it is English and Spanish. It may be same in other countries also.
    The moot question is language is dividing people. But at the same time it is also true that if one has to work in some other state, it is worth learning the local language at least for dealing with common people.
    I lived in Chennai for a few months and realised it is worth knowing a few common words like counting up o ten, yes, no. come , go. boy, girl, and so on. I have travelled to all states in India and can understand the languages to some extent- Bengali, Marwari, Gujrati, Marathi in addition to my own language, Hindi and English.
     
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  9. Hopikrishnan

    Hopikrishnan Platinum IL'ite

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    We in America call these "culture war" issues. Convenient harangues that fanatics can invoke to divert the masses away from actual life's problems that need a political solution through hard work, consensus, legislation and administration.

    India is a federated political union of (25+ now?) disparate cultures, and language speakers. Very much like the European Union's 27 countries. Their parliament is in Brussels (our in NCR), and works on things of common interests of all 27 members. India deals with water sharing, EU deals with natural-gas, petrol, and electricity (Energy) sharing. Each member nation has an Official language for their EU participation, and in India this is never stressed enough in the parliament. Until recently English was one of these languages in EU. A few years ago a Dutch Member of the European Parliament (MEP) quipped that the official language of the EU is "Bad English". Recently (it may the same guy) it was heard that they will continue to use Bad English as their official language, although there is pressure on the Republic of Ireland to switch their preference to English as the member-preferred language. We'll see.

    When people's economic conditions improve, they cannot be easily swayed by idiotic culture-war issues like trying to foist one language on a federal conglomerate of cultures within a political union of Nations. The Germans celebrating multi-kulti events in India would never dream of imposing German (language of the biggest, by population and economic might, member) on the rest of the members of the EU, an outfit pretty close to an organization like India.
     
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  10. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan Finest Post Winner

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    :hello:Language learning:
    There are ingenious ways of learning a language and put into use as exemplified in the succeeding stories:

    On a hill top resort, A gate keeper knowing only Hindi was ignorant of English and his British Boss was new totally ignorant of local language.

    There was confusion between boss and watchman regarding keeping the gates “ open” & “close”.
    The boss asked way out for overcoming this problem to his Man Friday. She suggested to him
    For opening the gate instruction should be
    There was a cold day”
    & for closing the gate instruct him saying
    There was a brown crow
    It worked well when Boss in his British accent uttered these sentences.
    The watchman heard boss instructing him “dharwaza kohl dehy “.
    & “Dharwaza bandh karo” .

    An UPSC interview on the verge of coming to an end. The candidate from Chennai city of south India, claimed to possess working knowledge of Hindi - the national Language.

    A senior member P of the panel, lifting his head from candidate’s application said,
    “OK Mr T. Here in application, you had claimed that you possess working knowledge of Hindi. Now you instruct the orderly standing outside the revolving door to come in.”
    Mr T bit in a confident tone, loudly called “hare peonji - idhar aavo
    The orderly heard and came in.

    Mr P said, “Good. Now you instruct him in Hindi to go out”.
    Mr T bit hesitant, then
    quickly walked away to the door and from there called
    hare peon idhar aavo”.

    And you guessed right who was that T.
     
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