Every language has its speciality

Millions of Indians are going to stand by the Little Master on this, we are sure. But what about an ordinary Indian citizen? I am a proud Indian. Do I have to tow the archaic and linguistically-myopic line that fanatics have drawn?
In a suburb of Bangalore, five senior citizens sat under the shade of a mighty neem tree last evening to discuss the language issue threadbare. “English is best,” said one man firmly. “No, no, all ministers should take oath in Hindi, the national language,” said another. “If a person wants to represent Karnataka, then he should be able to speak in Kannada. So he must take oath in Kannada.” The debate must have continued, but I did not linger.

Oath unimportant
All sensible citizens know that the language in which the oath is taken is unimportant. The oath itself is not important either. What is important is whether the people’s representative follows the oath while he or she is in office. Whether intelligence and the ministerial seat are being used to maintain and improve the state or country, irrespective of in which language orders are given and contracts are signed.

As a tax-paying citizen, I am very angry when the leader I vote into power wastes his time on non-issues like the language in which a minister takes oath. I am angrier when he or she uses these non-issues to rake up narrow linguistic sentiments.
Language is more than just a means of communication. It is important to know a language well. In the multi-lingual publishing house I am associated with, we get many wonderful stories from different parts of the country written in the local language. While most of us in this organisation are proficient in at least two languages, we often end up reading the manuscript in the English translation, and do feel sad that we have probably not got the full fragrance of the original essence.
Every language has its specialty, a certain beauty and a well-loved literary history. The way to ensure that languages live is to present them in attractive ways without getting people to learn it at gunpoint.

As I write this, I can hear children playing. Probably under the mighty neem tree. Over 20 years ago, when it was just a struggling sapling, an old lady in a Tamilian ‘madisaaru’ (nine-yards sari) used to feed it with enriched water, the water with which she had washed the rice for the day’s lunch. She would walk across the road to do this. She would feed it with the stalks of the cleaned fenugreek greens, which she had put in the methi roti she learnt to make in Rajkot in Gujarat. She would pour out leftover usal that she had learnt to make many years ago in Nagpur in Maharashtra.

The neem tree has grown big and strong and gives shade to all  irrespective of what language they speak.
Her Hindi was atrocious, her Kannada made people laugh, her Marathi was actually just Hindi with a bad wig, her Gujarati was...well, no one thought it was Gujarati. And yet, she could communicate effectively with people of all these linguistic groups. She loved cricket. If she were alive today, she would have swatted the linguistic maniacs on the knuckles and said in very bad Hindi, or fractured Kannada, or colourful Tamil, “Just let Tendulkar play! Cricket knows no language or state! And as for you politicians, when are we going to get that long-promised water connection?”

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