Sunday, November 2, 2008

Brewing A Cuppa In A Classical Cup

Why do grown-ups complicate matters which concern the literary education of children?

When a child is born, it has absolutely no choice in choosing the language it would like to learn. Invariably, it would be the mother tongue that would be taught. Later, as a part of getting that child ready to face and survive in this modern age, he gets to learn other languages and gets equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge.

Keeping what I have said above in mind, there is been numerous instances where the State Governments have tried to bring in a rule, some successfully; mandating the Govt. schools to impart education in the State’s official language, till a certain level. There have been variations, such as a ban on other languages, in order to promote the State’s language.

Living in India, which is supposedly a democratic country, don’t we have the right to choose the language in which we would like to study in? But, let me tell you, as a child I had absolutely no bias against languages. I am well versed in three languages and I had absolutely no bias against any of them.

But when State Governments bring in these stupid rules, is it not bias?

If I was forced to learn through the medium of, say Kannada or Telugu, frankly I would have dropped off, never to complete school. And let’s say that’s just me.

B.S. Yeddyurappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka, made the following statements after Kannada was accorded the hallowed “Classical Language” status by the Union Government, subject to High Court decision. He announced a special Rs. 25-crore package for the development of Kannada including grants to all the nine universities to set up research and development studies in Kannada, a Rs, 1-crore assistance to universities in the country and abroad seeking to set up a Kannada chair, a Rs. 2-crore programme to develop Kannada software with the advice and support of experts, a Rs. 1 lakh prize to each successful candidate who wrote the IAS, IPS and IFS examinations in Kannada and Rs. 50,000 to each successful candidate passing the Central services examinations in Kannada, and the appointment of special Kannada teachers in all medical and engineering colleges to teach the language to non-Kannadiga students.

He said that the State Government had taken up several steps for the development of Kannada, including mandatory use of Kannada in administration, display of Kannada name boards, priority for Kannadigas in jobs in the private sector and development of border areas.

He also said that a fine of Rs. 10,000 would be imposed on owners of shops and establishments who refused to display name boards in Kannada.

My grouse here is why wait till the language is given a classical status and then announce all these schemes. These could have been implemented earlier. Being accorded a classical language is just a matter of pride and nothing else. It’s just a piece of paper containing the Government’s Order (GO), with some Government official’s signature, filed for obscurity.

Certainly Kannada or any other language does not need a certificate or a GO to affirm its classical language status. But it’s a big ‘Yes’ if monetary rewards are to be taken into account.

The four criteria are: High antiquity of a language's early texts- recorded history of over a thousand years; a body of ancient literature, which is considered a valuable heritage by generation of speakers; The literary tradition has to be original and not borrowed from another speech community and the language could be distinct from its "later and current" forms or it could be continuous.

Looking at the above said criteria’s which only a handful of languages would meet. Apart from the monetary benefits, it’s nothing but just bragging rights, but of no avail. Our Government has spent lots of time and money on this issue of according classical status to a language. It would have been better off, if it had concentrated on more pressing issues at hand. But hell, what do you know! It always happens like this only in India.

What about “a fine of Rs. 10,000 would be imposed on owners of shops and establishments who refused to display name boards in Kannada.” If a name my groceries shop in Greek, because it sounds cool and funky, I have every right to do so. It is my fundamental right to freedom of expression. But like I said earlier, India is supposedly a democratic country. Reality is that it’s a jungle raj out here and people in power control everything and anything.

It’s a crooked version of Communism that we are trying to pass of as Democracy. It is also sad to see that we are oblivious to that fact. Even if we are aware, we just ignore it. It’s like “If it is not happening to me, why bother.” But when it happens to you, you silently suffer, cause no one else bothers.

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