A couple of weekends ago I attended a concert by Sukhwinder Singh. The man is a powerhouse of talent. I love most of his songs and to listen to him Live was sheer magic. This post is not however about Sukhwinder Singh.
In between songs, Sukhi as he is called, insisted on sharing anecdotes about the various songs on his playlist. In English. Now the man’s English is not what I would call the best. And the genteel, inspired, evolved residents of one of the poshest suburbs in Mumbai chose to heckle him. A gentleman behind me yelled that the singer should refrain from speaking in English please!
This appalled me. On many levels. Firstly, respect for his talent and performance should far outweigh his comfort with the English language. Secondly, why is fluency in English such a measure of one’s social standing?
I get scared by the way parents of young children admonish them to speak in English. The language and the tone that parents and teachers use is enough to indicate to a child that speaking in Hindi is wrong, and clearly something to be ashamed of. And that is worrying. Hindi is our national language. And if we do not instil a pride in this language then where do we stand as a nation?
I heard of people going up in arms over removing of the German language in schools. Doesn’t this strike you as ironic? A German chancellor telling us that we should relook at this decision. Now consider the reverse. Would we insist on Hindi being a second or third language in any country abroad? No. We would be so busy being ashamed of it, that the question would not even arise. Arre, we are ashamed if our own children talk in Hind, why the hell would we try to export it?
Given the way the Indian economy has been moving, and the number of expats I see moving into India exploring opportunities, why not insist on Hindi being mandatory for people to move here or work here? That’s what the Germans do. But the Germans are a league apart. Their pride in their country and their sense of nationalism is legendary and something we could learn from.
It is baseless to say that English is necessary if we are to keep pace with the rest of the world. Look at China. Look at Japan. And look at Germany.
Of course learn English. But not at the cost of making Hindi shameful.
Feeling ashamed of our roots is disgusting. And the way Bandra behaved at that concert was disgusting too.