Millennium Post

Enfeebling creative genius

In the second week of September every year, like several other annual rituals, we also follow the rite of ‘celebrating’ Hindi as our official language. Since the Constituent Assembly on 14 September 1949 adopted Hindi as the official language, it has come to be celebrated as Hindi Divas (Day) year after year. Since 14 September fell on a Sunday this year, I wonder how many government functions in government offices were actually held to celebrate Hindi.

Nevertheless, the absence of ‘sarkari’ (government) celebration of the official language gave opportunity to news channels to replace their mundane Sunday shows with a variety of discussions on Hindi language. The discussion on one such channel, ABP News, which had a very popular panel (it’s with purpose that I have not used the word eminent for the panel) of discussants and also a well-read audience, only went to reiterate my opinion of ‘Hindiwalas’ being the biggest enemy of the language.

My description of the status of the panel may annoy Professor Sudheesh Pachauri, the pro vice-chancellor of Delhi University, who during the discussion towered over others but he had a very faulty premise to begin with.

How can any language grow in eminence by denigrating the practitioners of any other language, English in this case, as suggested by professor Pachauri? A language can grow in eminence only through its own strength and not belittling any other language.

In fact Hindi continues to suffer at the hands of its popular practitioners, who in turn are seldom able to overcome the Adonis Complex that they suffer from. Giving symptoms of Adonis Complex, psychology texts say that it is remarkably influenced by the opinion one’s immediate surrounding holds about a person. No wonder the ‘wah-wah’ culture of Hindi poetry sessions greatly influence the make-up of our Hindi poets, which leads them to believe in their eminent attractiveness; power to charm; and sensation of one’s exclusiveness.

The mediums of television and social media have only furthered the attributes of Adonis complex in poets who have been made famous by these mediums. If I were to present a case in point, I would without a second thought give example of Kumar Vishwas, who was the other panelist with Pachauri on the channel. He once said, ‘If my committing suicide were to do good to nation, I would do so.’ Now such people cannot be expected to be the harbingers of respect for Hindi language among the discerning.

There cannot be something more untrue than the line taken by likes of Pachauri and Kumar Vishwas, who claim that the Indian elite has refused to accept Hindi. I think they would find a negation of their theory in the success of their co-panelist Prasoon Joshi (the adman lyricist) and Neelesh Misra (the story teller on the radio). Joshi’s poetry and Misra’s prose have found success in the patronage of the elite (defined by the other two as English speaking) and not the promoters of ‘putrid iconoclasm’ which likes of Kumar write and Pachauri appreciate.

Either you can be a plebeian poet or your poetry can be for a more charmed circle. You cannot be looking for recognition in ‘abhijatiya varg’ (elite class), when your poetry is targeted at rabble-rousing.

As rabble rousing cannot help Hindi, so would’nt official patronage. To grow, Hindi has to be left to itself, freed of the apron strings of official patronage, as provided for under Article 351 of the constitution. The article says, Hindi language, to develop as a ‘medium of expression for composite Indian culture of India should assimilate the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.’ In its attempt to mollify diverse opinions in the Constituent Assembly, the makers of the constitution did a big disservice to the language by asking Hindi to take along style, form and vocabulary from as diverse and incompatible languages as Hindustani and Sanskrit.

The makers of the constitution further jeopardised development of Hindi through insertion of Article 344(3), which said that while promoting Hindi due regard would have to be given to ‘the industrial, cultural and scientific advancement of India, and the just claims and the interests of persons belonging to the non Hindi speaking areas in regard to the public services.’ In other words, it agreed Hindi could act as an impediment to ‘the industrial, cultural and scientific advancement of India.’

Hindi will grow through its own genius and it’s no small credit that today Hindi and its dialects are spoken by nearly 35 crore (350 million) people in India. No wonder the film and entertainment industry which draws sustenance from Hindi had a turnover of Rs 1600 billion during the year 2013.

When a language is capable of producing such economic activity, the question which arises is -- does it need official patronage?

Hindi gave its best during freedom struggle, when likes of Munshi Premchand lived and wrote, as did his several illustrious contemporaries. Several years later, Munshi Premchand’s son Amrit Rai in his seminal work ‘A House Divided: The Origin and Development of Hindi/Hindavi’ somewhat decried the government’s language policy, which failed to enrich the language making it supine rather than giving it the sinews to stand on its own. A language’s genius lies in its diversity. Let’s not standardize Hindi through an official vehicle, let the language do it on its own through its acceptance among people.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post

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