Saturday, June 23, 2007

Language, culture and politics

During one of my philosophical musings earlier in the day, I wondered how important language was to our lives. From language, my thoughts drifted to the anti-Hindi agitation of the 1960s in Tamil Nadu. And from there, it turned inevitably to the massive north-south divide that still exists in India. I had blogged once earlier on how difficult it was to find a south-Indian recipe on the web. I had raved and ranted about how India was automatically equated with the North and with Paneer Butter Masala and Tandoori Roti. Today's post is, in a certain way, a continuation of the previous. People's association of India with Delhi and its surroundings makes me uncomfortable. It makes me wonder why exactly the South is so conspicuously absent in popular memory. While I have nothing against the North or Delhi, it makes me upset, sometimes angry that people wonder if I speak Hindi the minute they meet me. I do, but that's not the point. The point is that I don't have to speak Hindi because I was born and raised in Chennai. There is no fair reason for me to learn the language as I get by perfectly well in Chennai with Tamil and English. This said, I would like to issue a disclaimer. I know Hindi, I can speak it fairly well, and simply use English words in place of Hindi ones if I am stuck. Therefore, any possible accusations of Hindi-phobia are entirely unfounded.

A friend of mine told me about a friend of hers, who is coming to France from Greece. This friend had a tough time figuring out the meanings of road signs in Athens because all of them were in Greek. Random thought: Maybe this is what people mean when they say "this is all greek to me!" Anyway, that made me think about the situation back home. As far as I have seen, sign boards are largely bilingual in Chennai. I cannot say the same about Bangalore or Bombay. I remember trying to recollect my Hindi numerals, rather desperately might I add, in Bombay because someone told me to take bus number 63 and I could not figure out how the hell the numerals 6 and 3 are written!

Anyway, this is fast becoming a pointless rant because I have been on this post for so long that I forgot what exactly I wanted to say. Not to mention that I am being extremely random today. Maybe it is a product of the euphoria produced because I am going back home!!

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