Opinion:A proud kannadiga has a message for people fighting over hindi imposition

In the virtual world of social media coupled with a digital excess of 24/7 views channels where reports mostly egg from a cynical pattern of ‘who said this to whom on twitter’ leading to overreaction hungry debates and in this context it would not be an exaggeration if I said there could be an outrage for not get outraged!

The online protests against introduction of Hindi sign boards in nammametro is one such outrage that has suddenly gathered steam when the fact is that Hindi has been a part and parcel of our lives in various forms from a very long time.

We have heard both Hindi and English announcements while boarding flights, we have our passports printed in Hindi and English and whether one likes it or not Hindi is a compulsory subject in our CBSE schools and also taught till higher primary in state boards from the last many decades, so what is new about Hindi being around us and why this sudden outrage against Hindi?

If at all anybody is sincerely concerned about the cause of Kannada, then perhaps they should be protesting against the state government for not introducing Kannada as a compulsory subject in all schools up to higher primary. Today there are many elite English schools that offer French and German but do not offer Kannada as an elective at all, bank and government jobs are being given away to candidates who are not even colloquially familiar with the regional language, why aren’t people protesting this or demanding that front ending jobs be compulsorily given to people who are able to communicate and correspond in the regional language at least colloquially irrespective of their local or non-local status?

While it is completely a callous and condemnable act where Kannada sign boards are done away with and the exclusion of Kannada boards on national highways is totally unacceptable and calls for a more sensible approach by the NHAI officials, what is so wrong in including an official language like Hindi that too in a public transport system where large masses with varied linguistic backgrounds would be benefitted? It is ironical that on one hand we want to promote our travel tourism and advertise that more and more people visit Karnataka but are up against Hindi sign boards while going into ostrich syndromes with the English sign boards, the NHAI is free to put up sign boards in Hindi but only after the local language! Adapting and accommodating attitudes are more important for communication than any symbolic language, the recent story of a bank employee ill treating a Kannada local for not knowing Hindi is one such instance that exposes the Britishly attitude of the Hindi speakers and in this context if Kannada is removed or if a public official fails to communicate with a local customer, then the people protesting against the attitude and arrogance is completely justified but can we generalize it? I know of many Marwaris, Gujarathis who can speak perfect Kannada but cannot read Kannada! Perhaps the Karnataka Government should make it mandatory for non-Kannada officials to compulsory go through basic Kannada learning classes and bring about an empathy in them to understand that it is not so important for a farmer in some remote village of Karnataka to be knowing Hindi and he deserves to be attended to with the same respect as any other multi-lingo urbanite! The Congress and JDS that are quick to play the Kannada sentiment will do good by implementing such schemes if they really cared enough for Kannada instead of making it look like a Hindi hegemony that is being rolled out and reeled only in the last 3years when that is not really the case as the 3language policy was very much introduced by the previous so called secular political regimes!

Coming to the sign boards issue, even if one chooses to say that it is Hindi hegemony, the fact remains that this hegemony did not happen overnight and has been there from past many decades and the ground reality is that most people understand this hegemonic language – Period!

But yes, I am a proud Kannadiga who is deeply affected by the arrogance of many of the North Indian Hindi speaking folks who have lived here all their lives but never make an effort or even refuse to learn/speak Kannada and look down upon the locals North Indian Britishers. I have seen many manicured and pedicured brand conscious north Indians who for some reason assume that the not so fair, rice eating, jasmine flowers wearing or dhothi clad, sober looking, mild spoken South Indian is by default a dimwit or not so knowledgeable and do not value the simple living approach of South Indians. One can only attribute their(NI) dressing sense and hyper temperamental attitudes to the influence of the Mughal hegemony and smile at their ignorance about their southern counterparts, also I have not seen even one UP, Bihar, Delhite ever make an attempt to speak Kannada! But then again we cannot generalize all the people under one umbrella because remember Sushma Swaraj learnt and spoke in Kannada in just 3days! Yes one can attribute it to political gains but she did try. It is another thing that the South Indians (and Bengalis) were dominated and directly controlled by the British hence we never object to English nor see it as a threat but are invariably driven to feed our emotions that get flared up when we see the promotion of Hindi when our Hindi brothers and sisters choose to be aloof and insensitive to the local culture or people.

We (Kannadigas) have compulsorily (most of us) studied Hindi till seventh standard at schools and those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90s will agree that most of us grew up watching serials like Hum Log, Buniyaad, Ye Jo Hai Jindagi, Aparadi Kaun, Chitrahaar, Airhostess and such other programs where we learnt more Hindi, watching TV serials and cinema than from any text books and even today we love to hear bule bisere geet on radio.

While we have always appreciated and unsuspectingly learnt Hindi, the technological and job market boom of Bengaluru has perhaps exposed us to experience what it means to be living with the Hindi speakers whom we so admired and appreciated all along but who do not as much reciprocate the way we do and seem to be obsessed with the stereotypes promoted in movies like Chennai Express!

Perhaps the whole social media protests or that Hindi imposition mood is triggered as an after effect of this apathy that has been long brewing within Kannadigas against this sustained insensitivity towards the local language or culture.

Again the above sentiment cannot be generalized just like how the Hindibeda protests cannot be generalized as an endorsement of all of the people of the state unless it is so propagated deliberately because it is insane to let an emotion assault the public convenience efforts of the government. And how many of you Kannadigas (please tell me honestly) have not been annoyed on seeing only a Tamil board when you go travelling across Tamil Nadu? If Hindi was tagged along Tamil, would it not help you? Of course the wordsmiths can argue that an English board will suffice but the question remains that when you can accept a foreign language as an official language why not Hindi which is not so alien after all as it is written in our own Devanagari script! Or is it precisely the very reason for that outrage?

For the enlightenment of the constitution quoting freaks and the bearers of the Kannada torch in English who often remind people that Hindi is not our national language, let me reiterate that yes Hindi is not our national language if you look within the framework of our constitution but whether you like it or not it is the most widely understood language, whether you can speak it or not, today when one travels across the length and breadth of India you will figure out that even with a little bit of broken Hindi and English, one is able to manage that basic communication which is the actual essence of having a language at all!

And if all those fat Bollywood collections in the South mean anything, then it simply points to one truth that indeed the Tamilians, Malayalis, Kannadigas, Andraites do understand a whole lot of Hindi than anyone can fathom. So what and why is all this fuss being made out now?

The official language status unofficially accorded to Hindi is not a recent phenomenon as it has been like that for many years so why protest now that too only for a sign board when Kannada is actually being marauded at the hands of English day in and day out so much that children from Kannada homes today can only speak Kanglish or plain English? If a dominant Hindi has failed to unite us all under one national language then perhaps it’s time to pull up your socks and demand for Sanskrit as the national language because no matter how much we boast about our diversity the ground reality is that religion or linguistic politics has proven that people can be pitched and pitted against each other with the slightest flare up of emotions which further necessitates the need for a national language lest we fight over sign boards and end up communicating in sign languages as – remember – my language is always bigger and better than yours!

So how do we restore or revive the spirit of Kannada – by erasing Hindi sign boards and becoming susceptible to yet another separatist Dravidianist like agenda of a mumbo-jumbo? How many of us revolting against Hindi imposition has plucked out a Harry potter book from your child’s hand and placed a DVG’s Mankuthimmana Kagga?

The Nammametro is a much awaited prestigious project that has been funded by both the central and state governments to cater to the exploding populace of Bengaluru that has an image of one city fits all. People from different states have made Bengaluru their home and will be using this transport system and the addition of a Hindi sign board is just a matter of more inclusivity.

Did you just say why not add Telugu, Tamil, Malyalam,Oriya, Bengali and Creoul!!

Hey remember the official languages of Singapore are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English! If a small country like Singapore can have an alien language as its official language because of the presence of Tamil hubs, why is there so much resistance for another Indian language within India!

Yes the government of India can promote all languages and make a sincere effort to unify the north and south divide by promoting the study of South Indian languages in the North. Maybe someday if states like UP or Bihar get so developed that it can one day attract South Indians in its job markets but currently that is not the case and it is Bengaluru or Mumbai that is accommodating them all hence the language rants and ratifications.

Kannada is a classical language and will thrive only when you and I use it extensively with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues encouraging people to learn it and use it and stop all that English announcements/translating on Rajyotsava celebrations because today if you found an English speaking person, be sure that it is a confused Kannadiga! So Kannadigas stop being apologetic and stop translating endlessly, just start speaking and using the language, things will automatically fall in place!


– Proud Kannadiga