God! Where would we Indians have been if not for this language??? Sixty years of English in Independent India and me thinks its time for some introspection to determine its status.
Would like to begin with one R.K Narayan’s short stories where he personifies English as a prisoner and independent India as a judge who determines the fate of the language after independence. “Why don’t you go back to your own country” orders the judge. “I have been here for 400 years. This is more my country than yours” quips the prisoner. For good or bad: ENGLISH is here to stay.
Following is the argument (monologue more likely) that I have with one of my sterner uncles
Him (with a touch of philosophy): Youth today don’t know any language properly. Neither are you guys (pointing his stubby finger at me) well versed in your mother tongues nor do you know English beyond a certain point.
I (thought): Why on earth do you care! Let me get on with Jakson* heights I had just reached.
I (said): Purpose of language is communication and if the English generation with a spattering of English and not so perfect mother tongue has ushered in the IT era; then I would more than be satisfied with it.
Him: Satisfied? Would you ever know the pleasure of reading the scriptures or the joy of reading the Vedas in Sanskrit?
I (thought): Why would I even bother reading them. Thank God my parents enrolled me in an English medium school. I really can’t imagine both of arguing about English in Sanskrit.
I (said weakly): There are good translations.
Him: Pah!? I think youth have lost much by not mastering the regional languages.
He then went on to give me a stare indicating the conversion was over. All my conversations with him end in this manner! With him hoping that he’s given me some “gyaan” and with me feeling “What was that all about?”
If given an opportunity these are the agrs that I would have presented him with:
The JOB factor: Unless you talk some fancy English, most companies worth their salt hesitate to hire you. Fluency in English assures, if not guarantees a good job. Why else would most parents insist on English medium school for their wards
Agreed that it’s not the language of the masses, but it’s probably the only true national language of India.
Regarding not being able to read literature in mother tongue and not being proficient and competent enough in the mother tongue; I must admit that my uncle was right. This is not surprising since regional languages have been relegated to second position in most states.
All said and done, The English Juggernaut roles on, oblivious of whether or not blogs like these argue and discuss its significance in modern India. The English may have lost but English certainly rules our nation.
* Jakson heights: Third stage of NFS Underground. For the benefit of those unfortunate souls who haven’t yet played the game.