“When people fall into servitude, so long as they cling to their language, it is as they held the key to their prison.” I remember the quote from the story, ’The last lesson’ by Alphonse Daudet from my class 12th English textbook. It says, the only nexus that binds the people together when they’re slaves to a colony is their language. I relate to it as I’ve gone through the Indian history texts- slogans by our leaders, writings by Indian authors have remained the subjects of our study. From freedom fighters to our Prime Minister, everyone has been trying to endorse our native language, Hindi, to bind the country and to use it as an antidote against any external threat.
The other day while I was teaching Ankit and Shrawan, I asked them to study their Hindi textbook. To my surprise, they refused to do so saying they don’t like studying Hindi; and English is the only language they are good at. I simpered, because I know that they recite numbers or mathematical tables in Hindi and they can’t write or speak number names in English. So if I write 56 and ask what it is they’ll speak “chhappan” instead of “fifty six”. In fact I even mocked at myself for not realizing how important it was to stick to a language that’s in your roots, no matter how well-versed you become with your second language. I remember once my Hindi teacher was chiding us showing us the mirror of reality. She said, “You think English is superior so you won’t study Hindi. But if I make you stand here and ask to speak, you can neither give a proper speech in Hindi nor in English.” That’s true. In a race to become a classy English speaker, we turned a blind eye to the language we’re brought up with.
Hindi doesn’t have an official recognition as the ‘National’ language, simply because India celebrates various cultural and ethnic diversities. But I do press on the fact that one’s native language, whatever it be, needs to be felt proud of. You’re not expected to profess a second language when you’re born. Your language binds you with your community, makes you stand out in the crowd of unknown people. That’s why, I remember, Mr. Modi once refused to give his speech in English even though he might be good at it. Various world leaders such as Xi Jinping, Francois Hollande, Shinzo Abe and Angela Merkel prefer to give speeches in their native languages. What is it then that makes us reluctant to accept that we might not be a pro English speaker? Why aren’t we proud to be conversant with the languages our country represents?
Of course one needs to be familiar with a language everyone follows globally to walk shoulder to shoulder with the world but should subsequently represent the locale he comes from.
Do you remember the first day of your college/school when one of the batch mates was speaking the same regional language you do? If yes, then you know the sort of happiness I am talking about. As Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.