Overdose

Published on March 12th, 2013

1

Iss English ki toh…

Jatin Sharma takes up the cudgels on behalf of the non-English speakers, wondering why we’ve become lingual terrorists against them.

“Oh , he is such an idiot, doesn’t even know English.”

“Do you know she just said, ‘I don’t riks my life’?”

“His English grammar is pathetic.”

These are some lovely lines that have fallen on my ears time and time again. In fact, once while I was at a production house to meet a friend, waiting for the lift to arrive, I heard someone shouting. It was a woman, about 30 years old, and she was talking, no, shouting at someone over her phone. Since my lift hadn’t arrived yet, I took the chance to listen in on this screaming person.

What I heard shocked me. The girl was yelling at her mother for coming to her birthday party to surprise her, because the girl was embarrassed. Why? Because her  mother couldn’t speak English. The girl felt really bad when her mother tried to speak English in her front of her friends, and failed with a line. She felt even worse when her friends laughed.

Before hanging up the phone, the girl said, “You are such an embarassement, mom. Learn English.”

My lift arrived. As I entered it, I began to wonder: why would someone feel elated or dumb, happy or sad, secure or insecure in this world only on the basis of them (or somebody else) knowing or not knowing how to speak English? Since when, and why, has English become so important, that we have started judging people on the basis of the language they speak? Why has the world forgotten to dwell on the importance of good thought?

Language, as I know it, is a tool to express and understand your thoughts. It doesn’t matter whether it is Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi, Marathi, English, French, Italian or Pashto. No doubt that English is what most of the people in the world speak today, but judging other people and their talent on the basis of their fluency in English is just ridiculous. You can rejoice if someone’s English is extraordinary, but making fun of people who don’t know English is just demeaning them.

rickshawwallah from Benaras once told me, “Angrez chale gaye, angrezi chhod gaye! Pehle angrez ke ghulam the, aaj angrezi ke ghulam ban rahe hain (the English have gone, but they have left English behind! Englishmen ruled us, and now English is making us its slaves.)” He was very happy that he cared for people more than the language they spoke. I asked him about his education. He said that he never attended school, but that he is still literate because he knows not to judge people.

Angrezi bolne se koi vidvaan nahin banta, Shiva ko angrezi thode hi aati thi! (Nobody is intelligent because they can speak English, did Lord Shiva speak English?)” he said. I knew I was going to remember these words for a lifetime.

We judge each other on the basis of how well we speak English, and we are brazen enough to laugh at people who don’t speak it well. Has anyone realised that English is a foreign language? It became a world language only because of the British man’s rule all over the world. They made slaves out of other people and became rich by looting and plundering. So there’s nothing to feel proud of if you speak their language well.

And if you think that the British can speak English well because they are British, think again. I once met a girl in India – she was from England – and when I read her diary, the first thing I noticed was that she couldn’t even spell the word ‘sympathetic’. I laughed in my head; if she had been Indian, I would have just pointed at her and laughed aloud, making her feel really stupid about not knowing how to spell an English word.

Let a language be a language. Don’t make it a tool to judge a person. We are Indians, we are doing great in the world. Our culture is already awesome, packed as it is with so many languages. We have Sanskrit, which is forgotten in our country but which is becoming really popular in Germany. We have the Vedas, and we are the fathers of yoga, which is a phenomenon all over the world.

So what I’m trying to say is, it’s okay if Indians behave like Indians. Why try to turn them into Englishmen and Americans?

And while we’re on the subject, I want to point out that the English language itself has some fundamental flaws of pronunciation. I still don’t know how you can have a ‘p’ at the start of a word and say it is silent. I still haven’t figured out why certain words have similar spellings and completely different pronunciations. Also, why is the word ‘the’ pronounced differently in two different situations? And why did the British change the names of our cities; are these names so difficult to pronounce? I can say Kolkata and Calcutta equally well, so why can’t they?

A language, its writing and its pronunciation, must have a science driving it. Hindi has a science backing its words. Sanskrit is a flawless language, the main reason why the Germans are planning to programme their computers with it, because it has no errors.

Again, look at the French and how proud they are of their language. You don’t find them laughing at their own countrymen for not knowing English. Look at the Chinese; the Premier of their country takes a translator along on his trips and tells the world that he is a proud Chinese.

Yes, English is required for progress. But we have to be supportive of those who can’t speak English and who prefer to speak in Indian languages. No language is more superior than another. Languages are meant to connect hearts and minds. So don’t become a lingual terrorist, hating people left, right and centre just because they are incapable of speaking English. Listen to their thoughts and not their words. And while you’re doing so, take pride in yourself, rather than the person you are trying to be.

Jatin Sharma is a media professional who doesn’t want to grow up, because he believes that if he grows up, he will be like everybody else.

(Picture courtesy ascentinstitute.org)

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One Response to Iss English ki toh…

  1. Sweta says:

    Mr.sharma yakeen hai, ki article me end tak pahunchte pahunchte as ko sharma again yogi…..loved the fact that you brot it out so well….so yeah, 3cheers to Jatin sharma…..padhnewaalon samjho iska saaar, ……killer that’s put across Jatin……wohooooo…..

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