Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Celebrating India’s linguistic diversity

August 13, 2008

Twelve years ago, when India celebrated the 49th anniversary of our independence from British rule, H D Deve Gowda, then the prime minister, stood at the ramparts of New Delhi’s 16th century Red Fort and delivered the traditional Independence Day address to the nation in Hindi, the language which we have all learned to refer to (though the term has no constitutional basis) as India’s ‘national language’.

Eight other prime ministers had done exactly the same thing 48 times before him, but what was unusual this time was that Deve Gowda, a southerner from the state of Karnataka, spoke to the country in a language of which he scarcely knew a word. Tradition and politics required a speech in Hindi, so he gave one — the words having been written out for him in his native Kannada script, in which they, of course, made no sense.

Such an episode is almost inconceivable elsewhere, but it represents the best of the oddities that help make India India. Only in India could a country be ruled by a man who does not understand its ‘national language’. Only in India, for that matter, is there a ‘national language’ that half the population does not understand. And only in India could this particular solution be found to enable the prime minister to address his people.

Back in the 1980s, one of Indian cinema’s finest playback singers, the Keralite K J Yesudas, sang his way to the top of the Hindi music charts with lyrics in that language written in the Malayalam script for him, but to see the same practice elevated to the prime ministerial address on Independence Day was a startling affirmation of Indian pluralism.

I have often argued that we are all minorities in India. But language is one of the most interesting affirmations of our diversity. Though i am no great linguist myself, i was able to joke to an American friend once that i was a typically Indian child: I spoke Malayalam to my mother, English to my father, Hindi to our driver, Bengali to our domestic help and Sanskrit to God. One look at our rupee notes, with their denominations spelled out in 18 languages (and nearly as many scripts) is enough to make the point. The Constitution of India recognises 23 languages today, but in fact there are 35 Indian languages that are each spoken by more than a million people — and these are languages with their own scripts, grammatical structures and cultural assumptions, not just dialects (and if we’re to count dialects, there are more than 22,000).

No language enjoys majority status in India, though Hindi is coming perilously close. Thanks in part to the popularity of Bollywood, Hindi is understood, if not always well spoken, by nearly half our population, but it cannot truly be considered the language of the majority. Indeed, its locutions, gender rules and script are unfamiliar to most Indians in the south or northeast. And if the proliferation of Hindi TV channels has made the spoken language more accessible to many non-native speakers, the fact that other languages too have captured their share of the TV audience means that our linguistic diversity is not going to disappear.

One of my favourite silly jokes as a small child was about a native of Madras (not yet rebaptised Chennai) who finds himself lost in the nation’s capital and approaches a Sikh policeman with the helpless query, ‘‘Tamil teriyima?’’ Whereupon the cop retorts, ‘‘Punjabi tera baap!’’ Part of the goodnatured joy of the juvenile joke was that the bilingual pun was one that most Indians — but only Indians — could catch instantly. The popularity in the 1990s of those endless ‘Ajit jokes’, which relied on linguistic humour of the most inventively bilingual kind, could never find an equivalent in the monolingual cultures of America or the white members of the British Commonwealth. Indeed, a more contemporary joke doing the rounds at the UN goes like this: ‘‘What do you call someone who speaks two languages?’’ Answer: ‘‘Bilingual.’’ ‘‘And someone who speaks several languages?’’ Answer: ‘‘Multilingual.’’ And someone who speaks only one language?’’ Answer: ‘‘American.’’

But my larger and more serious point, as we look forward to our 61st Independence Day, is that Indian nationalism is a rare animal indeed. The French speak French, the Germans speak German, the Americans speak English (though Spanish is making inroads, especially in the south-west and south-east of the US) — but Indians speak Punjabi, or Gujarati, or Malayalam, and it does not make us any less Indian. The idea of India is not based on language (since we have at least 18 or 35, depending on whether you follow the Constitution or the ethnolinguists). It is no accident that Jawaharlal Nehru’s classic volume of Indian nationalism, The Discovery of India, was written in English — and it is fair to say that Nehru discovered India in English. Indeed, when two Indians meet abroad, or two educated urban Indians meet in India, unless they have prior reason to believe they have an Indian language in common, the first language they speak to each other is English. It is in English that they establish each other’s linguistic identity, and then they switch comfortably to another language, or a hybrid, depending on the link they have established.

In my books and columns i have sung a great deal about the virtues of pluralism. It is a reality that pluralism emerges from the very nature of our country; it is a choice made inevitable by India’s geography, reaffirmed by its history and reflected in its ethnography. Let us celebrate our Independence on August 15 in a multitude of languages, so long as we can say in all of them how proud we are to be Indian.

– Shashi Tharoor in The Times of India


How to develop website in local language?

August 11, 2008

If a website wants to pull a large number visitors then it is important to provide more localized content. This means that the site should show up in the local language of the visitors accessing the website. For example if a non-English reader wants to access your website and your website is not localized in his/her language, then you might end up losing that visitor.

But if your website is localized, you might be able to retain that visitor. With the help of Web developer 2008 ASP.NET AJAX, you can build such websites in minutes. But the only issue is that you should have a translator who knows and can translate different languages.

Earlier, developers used to develop such website, ie, localized websites with the help of ASP.NET. So what’s different in using Web developer 2008 ASP.NET AJAX? Well the difference lies in the term AJAX. Earlier whole page had to be rendered from the server and then the required language was shown to the user. And if the user asks for any other response from the server then also the whole page had to be refreshed.

The technique behind this is that there is a global resource residing on the server which consists of some keywords that do not change in any case, ie the name doesn’t depend on the language setting of the user. And there is local resource on the server which contains all the substitutes for the words that will be changed according the language displayed. Now using the AJAX the resource gets downloaded on the client itself and whenever the user demands for any language change then immediately the language is change after he/she presses refresh button. But this time the text or labels are not rendered from the server but the local resource that is downloaded at the client side is used.

For more details, please visit

Wealth of wisdom – tribal literature

August 7, 2008

If the visibility of tribal languages has remained somewhat poor, those languages need not be blamed for want of creativity. The responsibility rests with the received idea that literature, in order to be literature, has to be written and printed as well. Tribal literary traditions have been oral in nature. After the print technology started impacting Indian languages during the 19th century, the fate of the oral became precarious. A gross cultural neglect had to be faced by the languages which remained outside the print technology.

The reorganisation of Indian States after Independence was along linguistic lines. The languages that had scripts came to be counted for. The ones that had not acquired scripts, and therefore did not have printed literature, did not get their own States. Schools and colleges were established only for the official languages. The ones without scripts, even if they had stock of wisdom carried forward orally, were not fortunate enough to get educational institutions for themselves. It is in this context of gross neglect that one has to understand the creativity in India’s tribal languages.

Story of perseverance

The history of tribals during the last 60 years is filled with stories of forced displacement, land alienation and increasing marginalisation, eruption of violence and the counter-violence by the State. Going by any parameters of development, the tribals always figure at the tail end. The situation of the communities that have been pastoral or nomadic has been even worse. Considering the immense odds against which tribals have been fighting, it is nothing short of a miracle that they have preserved their languages and continue to contribute to the amazing linguistic diversity of India.

The number of languages in which Indian tribal communities have been expressing themselves is amazingly large. Though there are usual problems associated with marking the mother tongue in a multilingual society, the successive Census figures indicate that there exist nearly 90 languages with speech communities of ten thousand or more. When one speaks of Indian tribal literature, one is necessarily speaking of all these.

Humbling experience

Some 20 years ago, I decided to approach the languages such as Kukna, Bhili, Gondi, Mizo, Garo, Santhali, Kinnauri, Garhwali, Dehwali, Warli, Pawri and so on, expecting to find at the most a few hundred songs and stories in them. Having documented over a ten thousand printed pages of these, publishing a dozen magazines and 50-odd books containing tribal imaginative expression, I am a much humbled man. If a systematic publication programme were created to document tribal literature in India, easily several hundred titles can be launched just containing the oral traditions in them. The story does not end there.

Tribals have taken to writing. Many tribal languages have now their own scripts or have taken recourse to the State scripts. Some four decades ago, when Dalit literature started drawing the nation’s attention, it was usual to think of even the tribal writers among them as part of the Dalit movement. In Marathi, for instance, Atmaram Rathod, Laxman Mane, Laxman Gaikwad, all from nomadic tribal communities, were hailed as Dalit writers. At that time, the northeast was no more than a rumour for the rest of India. One was perhaps aware of the monumental collections presented by Verrier Elwin, but there was no inkling of the tribal creativity. It is only during the last 20 years that the various tribal voices and works have started making their presence felt. Thus, Kochereti from Kerala and Alma Kabutri from the north surprised the readers almost the same time when L. Khiangte’s anthology of Mizo Literature and Govind Chatak’s anthology of Garhwali literature appeared in English and Hindi translation, respectively, making it possible for me to bring out Painted Words, a national anthology of tribal literature.

The last two decades have demonstrated that tribal literature is no longer nearly the folk songs and folk tales. It now encompasses other complex genres such as the novel and drama. Daxin Bajarange’s Budhan Theatre in Ahmedabad has been producing stunningly refreshing plays, modern in form and contemporary in content. Little magazines such as Chattisgarhi Lokakshar and Dhol have started appearing which provide space for tribal poets and writers. Literary conferences providing a platform for tribal writers are being frequently held at Ranchi in Jharkhand and Dandi in Gujarat. In January this year, a global conference under the title ‘Chotro’, devoted to tribal literature and culture, was held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts at Delhi.

There is now a greater understanding among tribal activists all over the country that tribal identity and culture cannot be preserved unless the tribal languages and literature are fore-grounded. Over the last four decades, a mainstream writer like Mahasweta Devi has been writing on behalf of the tribals. That situation has changed now. The voice of the tribals themselves is now beginning to be heard.

G.N. DEVY (The Hindu)

Siddhartha’s Saga

August 6, 2008

Were he alive today, the Buddha would be in jail for child-support violations. Two-and-a-half millenniums of adoration and mythology have obscured the unflattering fact that the Buddha was a deadbeat dad. So a shimmering new English translation of the Buddhacarita, the 2nd century Sanskrit poem chronicling his life, reminds us that in his search for enlightenment and release from samsara — the wheel of rebirths that condemns us to endless lives and thus suffering — he cruelly abandoned his wife and young son Rahula (whose name, making a not-so-subtle point, means “fetters”).

The 28 cantos of the Buddhacarita are spectacularly imagined. The theologian Ashvaghosha’s ancient epic courses over 80 years, the entirety of the Buddha’s journey toward nirvana and death. It fleshes out, warts and all, the more popular image of the Buddha as an eternally serene spiritual master. First, there’s his auspicious birth, as Siddhartha Gautama, in the 6th century B.C. in what is now Nepal. His family is so obscenely rich (“like the Indus with the rush of waters”) that they sacrifice 100,000 milk cows for the occasion. A diviner foretells Siddhartha’s salvific destiny: “This sun of knowledge will blaze forth/ in this world to dispel/ the darkness of delusion.”

Not that you would guess that from his dandyish youth, which is a period of panting indulgence doing whatever he pleases and to whomever. Dad Suddhodana, who would rather Siddhartha become an earthly king, manufactures this hedonism, hoping to shield his son from the world’s anguish and thereby stanch any desire of Siddhartha to redeem it.

But things quickly turn from Confessions to The City of God as Siddhartha, like Augustine, abandons adolescent excess (and, don’t forget, his new wife and son). The fateful decision is made when his curiosity about life outside the palace walls overwhelms him and he decides to take a look for himself — only to witness firsthand the ravages of disease, old age and death. Disillusioned with “the perishable world,” he suddenly renounces his princely surroundings for a life of famished mendicancy.

It’s a bit like flipping from cable soft-core straight to Masterpiece Theatre. Siddhartha, “under the spell of liquor and love,” is petting concubines one day; the next, disgusted with it all, he’s galloping on his noble steed Kánthaka far away from his father’s opulent digs (“with his yearning aroused/ for the dharma that’s imperishable”) and making for the woods, where he turns away from material delusions.

This business of going forth into the woods is a universal symbol of spiritual quest. Thoreau used it in his years at Walden Pond. And as translator Patrick Olivelle — who in his rendering of the Buddhacarita has stressed its exquisite literary qualities — notes, Siddhartha’s departure into the forest from his father’s palace is itself “modeled after that of Rama in the Ramayana, although cast within a Buddhist theological and moral background.” The Buddhacarita, Olivelle argues, is both an extension of Brahmanical texts and a potent challenge to them — repudiating Vedic conservatism and its emphasis on family units.

The epic is part of the Clay Sanskrit Library, a new series that aims to do for Sanskrit literature what the Loeb Classical Library — publisher of those pocket-sized, green and red volumes found in many a university reading room — has done for Greek and Latin texts over the past century. As such, it’s geared more toward lofty specialists and Indiana Joneses than curious general readers. The poem is cluttered with arcane history, dry scriptural debate and explanations of Buddhist doctrine — the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Triple Refuge — that can be meticulous to the point of opacity.

But you needn’t be a scholar to enjoy this wondrous poem, which continually marvels us with its grand gestures: moments of divine intervention, political assassination plots, infernal visions and hellish battles with chimerical fiends. Recent pop culture has tackled the Buddha, from fantastic depictions (see Osamu Tezuka’s eight-volume manga interpretation of his life) to the absurd (one thinks of a bronzed Keanu Reeves strutting as Siddhartha in Little Buddha). Yet you would be hard pressed to find anything that ranks close to the Buddhacarita, which still mesmerizes with its vividness and sheer audacity.

(Source: The Time)

Promote the Indian model of education

June 21, 2008

Education, external part of Learning, plays a vital role in manifestation of personality, which encompasses various factors like one’s attitude towards life and its different hues and shades, culture, society and Languages.

Education, besides self-learning is vital. Today, lets see how it is perceived by one of the policy makers:

“I am not an educationist. Indeed, I welcome ideals and suggestions from the teachers and administrators of institutions like yours on what kind of educational reforms we should implement. Here I only wish to present a few broad thoughts on the subject.

Gurukul Kangri Vishwa-vidyalaya is situated in the holy town of Haridwar, on the banks of Maa Ganga. That itself is a source of uniqueness and pride. Equally proud is its association with Swami Shraddhananda, a great freedom fighter and social reformer in the pre-1947 era, and one who was inspired by Swami Dayananda Saraswati to promote the ideals of Swabhasha, Swadharma and Swadesh. Before he took sanyas, he was known as Mahatma Munshiram, about whom Gandhiji himself said, “If anybody called me Mahatma, I would think that it is a case of mistaken identity. The true Mahatma is Munshiramji.”

Indeed, there is no other university in India that received such strong blessings and regular personal attention from Gandhiji as the Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya. Recently, Prof. Swatantra Kumar sent me two books about your university. One of them, which is quite bulky, is devoted solely to Mahatma Gandhi’s association with your Gurukul.

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Gurukul Kangri
The second book, titled Deekshalok, is a collection of the convocation addresses by eminent personalities who visited the Gurukul since its inception more than a hundred years ago. For amongst the eminent personalities who came here was Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who delivered the convocation address in 1943. He was the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. I started my political life as an activist of this party, which merged into the Janata Party in 1977 in the aftermath of the successful struggle against the Emergency Rule and was reborn, after the fall of the Janata Government, as the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.

Dr. Mookerjee, who was known as the “Lion of Bengal”, was an outstanding leader. A great freedom fighter, an able minister in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first government after Independence, a widely respected opposition leader after he resigned from the government, and by far the best parliamentarian of his time, he was all this and more. He was also one of the greatest educationists and vice chancellors of his time. Son of Ashutosh Mookerjee, himself a highly revered educationist in Bengal, he became the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious Calcutta University when he was only 33 years old.

Let me quote a few lines from Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s convocation address at your university. “We are not unhappy with the fact that (during the British rule) the doors of western education were opened for Indians. What distresses us is the fact that this education is being imparted to us by suppressing India’s rich heritage of culture and knowledge…We should cultivate in the hearts of young Indians such strong pride and such deep awareness about our national heritage that makes them rise above the barriers of caste and community.” Dr. Mookerjee complimented the Gurukul “for demonstrating that in our country it is possible to create a proper balance between the fundamental aspects of the Indian civilization and the needs of the scientific and technological era.”

Dr. Mookerjee’s words show that our great leaders were never against modernity and scientific and technological progress. However, what they stressed as an ideal was modernity with an Indian personality, and not imported and supplanted from outside.

Need to protect and promote Sanskrit, Hindi and Indian languages
Gurukul Kangri Vishwa-vidyalaya is one of the few universities in India that was not only founded to promote education through Hindi and Sanskrit, but has kept that tradition alive even today. I am not against English, and I do not think that any Indian should oppose English for the sake of it. After all, it is the repository of immense knowledge from the modern era. Over the years, it has become as much a language of Indians as it is a language of Britishers or Americans. Nevertheless, I believe that Angrezi and Angreziat are two different things. Angreziat connotes a sense of superiority complex, which, unfortunately, has survived in India long after the British rule ended in our country.

In this context, let me give an example from my own life, which I have mentioned in my recently published autobiography. I knew very little Hindi during the first twenty years of my life (1927-47) I spent in Sindh. But I studied it diligently after I migrated to this part of India after Partition. I came from Rajasthan to Delhi in 1957 to assist Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Parliamentary Wing of my party. Those days, whenever the telephone rang at my residence and I happened to pick it up, my first expression was (it still is), “Haan ji.” To which, many times, the response from the other side used to be: “Sahab ghar mein hain?” (Is sahib at home?). And I would tell them, “Aap ko Advani se baat karani hai, to main bol raha hoon.” (If you wish to speak to Advani, you are talking to the right person.)

When we talk of India’s national heritage, we must remember that our linguistic diversity is a very rich part of this heritage. Each of the Indian languages has a precious treasure of knowledge, cultural and artistic wealth, folk memory and spiritual enlightenment. Unfortunately, one of the ill-effects of globalisation has been the neglect of Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages. This is especially true about university and college education, but is now rapidly spreading in secondary and primary education, too. This neglect must be arrested and reversed.

I strongly believe that education is an important field where our nation’s ability to face present and future challenges is going to be tested.

The question that naturally arises is: What kind of educational development will enable India to successfully face the challenges of today and tomorrow? I believe that it has to be an Indian model, rooted strongly in the Indian soil, based on Indian’s needs, and guided by India’s integral view of life.

I am not an educationist. Indeed, I welcome ideals and suggestions from the teachers and administrators of institutions like yours on what kind of educational reforms we should implement. Here I only wish to present a few broad thoughts on the subject.

The first and most important feature of this model is to develop a strong sense of patriotism among students of all backgrounds. Our students should have sufficient knowledge of such basic aspects of our national history, society, culture, way of life, our national heroes, our achievements in the past and present, and future goals as will make them proud to be Indians. National pride and awareness of national unity alone can help our people transcend the various diversities, which otherwise can become sources of divisiveness.

The Indian model of education should help students develop an all-round human personality. There is a need to provide high-quality education for all in diverse streams of academic knowledge and skills, combined with values, morals and sanskaras. Academic knowledge can help a person earn a livelihood. But it is the inner development of personality that alone can help him learn how to live life. That is what forms the basis of Indian education, and particularly the traditional Gurukul system.

We cannot perhaps revive and recreate the external aspects of the Gurukul system in today’s times, but its core is equally relevant even today. We should enhance the prestige and social status of a teacher to that of a “Guru”, because a teacher cannot merely be a purveyor of information or book-based knowledge. He or she should be in a position to impart wisdom, teaching students how to live life, inculcating in them a sense of right and wrong, and stimulating in them varied interests in the wonders of the world. It goes without saying that teachers’ own continuous training and retraining has to receive priority attention.

Far too often, we rely on alien methods of education in India. It is necessary to revive Indian systems of learning and teaching. As we know, many great minds have worked on this subject in ancient as well as modern times. For example, Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram has identified five principal components of education and also evolved appropriate ways of developing them among students: (1) Development of the power of concentration and the capacity of attention; (2) Development of the capacities of expansion, widening, complexity and richness; (3) Organisation of one’s ideas around a central idea, or a higher ideal that will serve as a guide in life; (4) Thought-control, rejection of undesirable thoughts, and the ability to think only what one wants and when one wants; (5) Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.
It will be seen from this that Indian educationists have delved into the deeper potential of the human mind and how to actualise it through education. The present education system is aimed at developing a very small part of the mental potential of students. This is because of the one-sided emphasis on the fulfillment of the material needs of human beings. If this imbalance is removed, and more and more people are empowered through proper education to develop the hidden powers of their minds and hearts, we can indeed hope to see a qualitatively superior kind of social progress in the future. And this is what our seers like Swami Dayananda, Swami Shraddhananda, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Maharshi Aurobindo and others had attempted.

The Gurukul Kangri University was born out of this Indian vision of education—to support the all-round development of the nation as well as the individual. Students who have graduated this year, and who received their degree certificates today, should be proud that they studied in such a great institution. They must try to attain excellence in their future studies and professional life, for that is what will bring recognition, success and satisfaction to you. However, they should also strive to live by the ideals and sanskaras that they imbibed while learning and living in the Gurukul.”

– L. K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha

(Excerpts from the speech at Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya Convocation in Haridwar on June 7, 2008.)

માતૃભાષા – આજના સમયમાં

April 6, 2008

ચૈતાલી કંપનીના કામે હોંગકોંગ ગઈ હતી ત્યાં કોઈને અંગ્રેજી નહોતું આવડતું. ચૈતાલીએ જોયું કે માતૃભાષા માટે એ લોકોને ખૂબ પ્રેમ છે. એનો પ્રશ્ન છે કે મને કેમ કોઈએ ગુજરાતી શીખવા માટે પ્રેરિત ન કરી. ચૈતાલી કહે છે, નાનપણથી મમ્મી અમને ઇંગ્લિશમાં જ વાત કરવા કહેતી. ઘરે પણ અમે ઇંગ્લિશમાં જ વાતો કરીએ. મમ્મી પણ એમાંથી થોડું ભાંગ્યું તૂટ્યું અંગ્રેજી બોલે. બહાર કોઈ પાર્ટીમાં જઈએ તો મમ્મી બીજાઓ સાથે અંગ્રેજીમાં વાતચીત ન કરી શકે એથી ખૂબ નાનપ અનુભવે. અમે પણ નાનપણથી આવું જ જોયેલું તેથી ક્યાંક મનમાં બરાબર ઠસી ગયેલું કે ઇંગ્લિશ બોલવાથી આપણી ઈમ્પ્રેશન બહુ સારી પડે છે. તેમ જ તમે ભણેલાં છો એવું લોકોને લાગે.

પણ, પણ હવે લાગે છે કે ના, આપણે ખોટા રસ્તે છીએ. જાપાન ચીન જેવા દેશો ત્યાં એ લોકો પોતાની ભાષા જ વાપરે છે છતાં માનસિકતા ઘણી વિકસિત, ખોટા આડંબર નહિ, ખોટા ફાંકા નહિ. આત્મવિશ્વાસથી છલોછલ ભરેલા હોય આ ખૂબ જ જરૂરી છે.

ચૈતાલી મને કહે, ‘‘મને તો મારી મમ્મી પર ખૂબ જ ગુસ્સો આવે છે.’’ અમારા મગજમાં અંગ્રેજીનું ભૂત મમ્મીએ જ ભરાવ્યું છે. જાણે અંગ્રેજી ન હોય તો આપણે જીવનમાં કંઈ જ ન કરી શકીએ. મેં કહ્યું, હવે જે થયું તે, ચાલો આનંદની વાત છે. તારા કંપનીના કામે ગઈ હતી પણ હવે તને જ ગુજરાતી જાણવું છે, ‘‘શુભસ્ય શીઘ્રમ’’. સારા કામમાં વાર કેવી? શરૂઆત કરી દે પણ મમ્મી પર ગુસ્સો ન કરતી.

અંગ્રેજી પણ આજકાલ જરૂરી તો છે જ. પણ એના લીધે માતૃભાષા ન જાણવી, એ ખોટું છે. જેમ ત્યાંના લોકોને એમની માતૃભાષા આવડે છે, જો તેઓ થોડું અંગ્રેજી જાણતા હોત તો તમને લોકોને તકલીફ ન પડત ને? ચૈતાલી કહે, હા, હોં એ વાત તમારી સાચી. આપણે બીજા સાથે વાતચીત કરી શકવા જોઈએ અને અંગ્રેજી તો એ રીતે દુનિયાની ‘‘ઈન્ટરનેશનલ લેંગ્વેજ’’ તરીકે વિસ્તાર પામી છે. પણ હવે ગુજરાતી તો વાંચતા લખતા શીખવું જ છે.

આમ ચૈતાલીની જેમ કંઈ કેટલાયે યંગસ્ટર્સ હશે, જેમને અંગ્રેજી આવડે છે, ગુજરાતી નથી આવડતું. આ જ લોકો ફ્રેન્ચ, સ્પેનિશ, જાપાનીઝ શીખવા જાય છે પણ ગુજરાતી, હિન્દી, સંસ્કૃત શીખવા માટે કોઈ માર્ગદર્શક નથી બનતું.

બીજી એક કડવી વાસ્તવિકતા છે કે આપણા જ લોકો ખૂબ જ સહજ રીતે જાણ્યે અજાણ્યે પોતાનું જ અપમાન કરે છે. સાતમા ધોરણમાં મુંબઈની ભદ્ર કહેવાતી અંગ્રેજી શાળામાં ભણતી આયુશીને પૂછયું કાલે શેનું પેપર છે? (એની પરીક્ષા ચાલુ છે) એ કહે, ‘‘ગુજ્જુ’’. હું તો સડક જ થઈ ગઈ. મેં કહ્યું’ “આયુશી, આપણે ગુજરાતી આખું બોલવામાં શું વાંધો?” તો કહે “બધાં ‘ગુજ્જુ’ જ કહે છે.” આ થોડો તકલીફ આપે એવો શબ્દ છે. મેં એને સમજાવ્યું તો મને કહે, મમ્મી પણ કહે છે ‘‘ગુજ્જુ’’. (હવે આ મમ્મીઓને કોણ શીખડાવે?) મમ્મી પોતે પણ અંગ્રેજી શાળામાં ભણી છે તેથી આયુશીને ‘ગુજરાતી’ વિષયમાં કંઈ પૂછવું હોય તો પપ્પાની રાહ જોવી પડે છે.

અહીં પાછું કહેવાનું મન થાય છે કે અંગ્રેજી ભાષાનો વાંધો નથી પણ પોતાનો વારસો ન જાળવો એ દુઃખની વાત છે. આપણા છોકરાઓ એક ગુજરાતી અખબાર ન વાંચી શકે? કારણ ગુજરાતી નથી આવડતું. બોલે છે, વાંચતા લખતા નથી આવડતું. તો પછી ઝવેરચંદ મેઘાણી, મકરંદ દવે, અવિનાશ વ્યાસ, ઉમાશંકર જોશી, કવિ ન્હાનાલાલ, કલાપી, દલપતરામ, નરસિંહ મહેતા અને સુરેશ દલાલ દ્વારા રચાયેલા અદ્ભુત સાહિત્ય, આ સાહિત્યમાં કહેવાયેલી અદ્ભુત વાતો, સંસ્કારો, નૈતિકતા વિ. મૂલ્યો, જે દ્વારા જીવન જીવવાની કળા આત્મસાત્ થાય (એ માટે ક્લાસમાં જવાની જરૂર ન પડે), વ્યક્તિત્વ ખીલે આ બધું આપણાં બાળકોને નહિ મળે કારણ? કારણ કે અમારા બાળકને ગુજરાતી વાંચતા લખતાં નથી આવડતું. શું આ અદ્ભુત વારસાથી એમને વંચિત રાખવા માટે આપણે એમના ગુનેગાર નથી? આપણી ફરજ અને જવાબદારી નથી બનતી કે એમને ગુજરાતી શીખવાડીએ? હું એવા ઘણા લોકોને જાણું છું જેઓ અંગ્રેજીમાં જ ભણ્યા છે, જેમની ઉંમર ૬૦ની આસપાસ હશે. પોતે દાદાદાદી બન્યાં છે પણ સાથે ગુજરાતી ભાષા પર પણ એટલું જ પ્રભુત્વ. એક ભાઈ કહે, મને તો ૪૨ વર્ષ સુધી ગુજરાતી જ નહોતું આવડતું પછી શીખ્યા અને આજે ૭૮ વર્ષની ઉંમરે સુંદર લખાણ ગુજરાતીમાં લખી શકે છે. ધર્મના ક્ષેત્રમાં પણ આજકાલ બાળકો માટે અંગ્રેજી અનુવાદવાળી ચોપડીઓ તૈયાર કરાય છે. કારણ કે બાળકોને ગુજરાતી નથી આવડતું. જો ખરેખર, આપણે આ બાળકોનું ઘડતર કરવા માગતા હોઈએ તો આ પેઢીને સાથે સાથે ગુજરાતી સંસ્કૃત ભણાવવા પર ધ્યાન આપવાની જરૂર છે, નહિ કે ફક્ત અંગ્રેજી અનુવાદ. આ તો શોર્ટકટ છે. આ બાળકો હંમેશાં માતા પિતા કે કહેવાતા ગુરૂઓ પર જ નિર્ભર રહેશે. શું એમને આત્મનિર્ભર કરવા છે? તો ગુજરાતી સંસ્કૃત ભણાવો. જેથી ગુજરાતી સાહિત્યનો અમૂલ્ય વારસો ક્યારેક વાચી વિચારી શકે. જે બાળક ફ્રેન્ચ શીખી શકે એ ગુજરાતી ન શીખી શકે? માટે આવી પાંગળી દલીલો ન કરો. એમનો પાયો મજબૂત કરો. અંગ્રેજી તો આવડે જ છે પછી જુઓ એમની પર્સનાલિટી. હમણા કાંદિવલીમાં ટી.વાય. બી.કોમ.ની છાત્રાએ પરીક્ષાના ડરથી આપઘાત કર્યો. જો આપણાં સંતાનો પાસે આપણા કવિ લેખકોનો વારસો હશે તો આવી નબળી ક્ષણો એમના જીવનમાં ક્યારેય નહિ જ આવે, ગેરંટીડ. પૂજા કોલેજમાં જાય છે. એનો પ્રશ્ન છે મારી મમ્મી ગુજરાતી છે, પપ્પા મરાઠી છે મારી માતૃભાષા કઈ? (એ કહે છે મારી માતૃભાષા ગુજરાતી છે મરાઠી મારી પિતૃભાષા છે) આપનો શો જવાબ છે?

– બીના ગાંધી (મુંબઇ સમાચાર, 5 એપ્રિલ, 2008)

Who is afraid of English? – I

April 5, 2008

In India, a country of ‘unity in diversity’, time and again more differences have surfaced when it comes to languages.

India now has the status of highest English speaking population in the world. While this is an envious development for other countries, fear that looms over linguistic circles is whether native Indian languages will finally reach minority status.

No wonder, during one of my lectures at Linguistics department of the University, a girl asked me, “What is the importance of translation and native languages when all are neck-deep busy in mastering English?” This question and a few facts compel us to look at some unknown facts.

TEN YEARS ago, the United States was the country with the largest English-speaking population. Today, with a population growth at a rate of three per cent per annum being added with a billion population, India has taken over that status. With roughly a third of its population – or more than 300 million – knowing the English language, India has more English speaking people than the US and United Kingdom combined.
Whether it is on the top of the list or the second there is hardly any scope for a debate on such an issue because for Indians English is not a native language and still they have gained excellence in communicating in a foreign language. Besides, it is not only English that Indians are learning to master, in the age of globalisation, other foreign languages namely French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese etc. are also luring the masses. The main reason is the ability to communicate and understand the people at global level.
Come what may, importance of native language is unmatched and can never be ruled out for any reason whatsoever.

A world wide study by the Internet Coaching Library has also proved that English is the choicest language used in Internet. English is chosen by 30.1 per cent of the world population of the total world population of 2.022,629,545 during net surfing. Other languages follow – like China (14.7 per cent), Spanish (9. 0 per cent), Japanese (6.9 per cent), French (5.17 per cent), German (4.9 per cent), Portuguese 4 per cent), Arabic (3.7 per cent), Korean (2.7 per cent), Italian (2.6 per cent).

Against this statistics, if we look at the multi-lingual blogging, the use of native Indian language is getting the preference over English. Blogs in Tamil language crossed 700 mark just a couple of months back. And blogs in other Indian languages are increasing day and night. An undercurrent is fiercely active, keeping the interests of the people alive in their native languages. Budding writers prefer to write in their native languages, regardless of the medium.

We will look at some more interesting aspects in second part…
Till then, happy introspecting…

Pânini: The avant-garde grammarian

March 17, 2008

Patanjali, a later grammarian, describes Pânini as ‘analpa-matihh’, that is ‘infinitely intelligent’.

It is intriguing to know that Pânini never mentioned the name of the language for which he wrote the grammar. Tradition ascribes Panini’s grammar ancillary to the Vedas but hardly 300 rules out of his nearly 4000 rules of grammar describe Vedic intricacies. This notion might thus be dispelled.

Read more …

The need for Translations

January 22, 2006

This is a beginning to emphasise the need to read and communicate in one’s own language. I believe that in today’s world, one needs to be multi-lingual. Multi language skill is not restricted to linguists or academicians. In the era of Global village, one needs to learn more than one language.

Lets keep the issue of learning foreign languages aside, and focus on our own Indian languages, to start with. In India, a country of infinite diversity, one has so many languages to learn and enjoy its flavour in order to grasp the cultural variety!

This need gives birth to translate one language into another. But since, quite a lot of emphasis is put in learning English for various reasons, let us examine its stand.

Please remember that English is hardly widespread in India, not nearly as much as people assume.

Only 3 to 5% of Indians speak English.

And please do not associate English fluency with being educated in India. There are many poor, uneducated English speakers and on the other hand many rich, well-educated Indians who speak little to no English.

Most schools in India teach in one of the other national languages– Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu among others– that is indigenous to India, with English sometimes as a second or third language.

So it makes perfect sense that a classic like Harry Potter is translated into Hindi and other Indian languages. Many children in India are educated in schools where English is not the medium of instruction. In such schools, English is only taught as a second language. For such kids, reading the Harry Potter books in English might not be as easy.

One doesn’t understand why “educated” children who learn English in school still can’t/shouldn’t be given the option to read the book in their own language as well. Norwegian children learn English in school from an early age too, but they still have the book translated into their own language.

Kids interested enough will still read it in English too, and having already read it first in their own language will make it much easier. Lets not forget that even adults would enjoy reading a classic in their own language.