No Urdu, please. And no Hindi too.

Urdu, I heard, is a beautiful language. I don’t understand it though, but those who have dealt with it, like a lyricist friend of mine, have always praised the language for it’s beauty. But Urdu has always seemed strange to me. A language that sounds like Hindi, yet if written looks like Arabic.

What seemed stranger to me was when people like Justice Katju who is known to have been outspoken and union minister Kapil Sibal battling for the language so much so that they even suggested that it should be taught in schools. It is true that Sanskrit and Urdu have had the fate of being associated with religion and thus keeping some sections of people away from them as Justice Katju had rightly put at an Urdu poetry symposium. But is teaching these languages compulsorily in the schools throughout the country the solution? I don’t think so.

We are already being taught Hindi compulsorily in the name of raashTRa bhaasha, which is of no use to us at all. For somebody who comes from the non-Hindi speaking region in India (and there are many non-Hindi regions in India), learning Hindi is useless. I have learned Hindi from 5th standard onwards, but the language is of no use to me now. I don’t even remember the words or grammar that I learned in the school because it never made to the daily use. I speak Malayalam and I use English at the personal and work spaces. What purpose does Hindi learning serve to a non-Hindi speaker if he is not living in the Hindi speaking part of the country? (And now they are teaching Hindi from 1st standard onwards!). Any language other than the native language and English should be treated as an optional subject in schools. Why make compulsory?

So what I would like to tell Justice Katju and Kapil Sibal is that we are already fed up of the compulsory mode of Hindi in our schools and it’s cultural invasion into our regional space. Please don’t push more as such down our throats. Make it optional if you want but not compulsory. And when you do that, take out Hindi too. It only helps in understanding Hindi movies but even that can be dealt with the subtitled DVDs.

9 thoughts on “No Urdu, please. And no Hindi too.”

  1. I think it always helps if you learn Hindi in your school esp when you travel outside Kerala and TN. Even though i didnt like studying hindi in school it has helped me during my stay outside Kerala. So i would still recommend this to be mandatory just because it is understood by most of the Indians and helps people when they travel outside their states.

  2. Copy/pasting my comment from FB below. Plus, if you want to have a language that helps barring the barriers what other language would be better than English which is also a recognized official language in India?

    I’m only against forcing the language upon the rest. Learning a language is completely based upon the necessity and interest of an individual.

    People from up north assumes that everyone knows Hindi and starts a conversation and continue to speak in it even if the other person doesn’t understand Hindi. That, coupled with the forceful feeding in schools is one reason why Hindi became popular even in south Indian metros. That doesn’t make it right. Imagine if it wasn’t there – people from south or other regions who frequently travel to north or stay there would learn Hindi or people from north who frequently travel to north or stay there would learn the regional language. That would have helped all languages to prosper.

  3. Well said Jo!! Your article reminds me of Innocent’s dialogue in the movie Sandesham. That is exactly how the gosais treat us. They try to force Hindi on us. Malayalis should try to learn English well. The Kerala Govt should increase the standard of English education in govt schools – especially spoken English. Our state gets 20% of its revenue from 10 % malayalis who are NRIs from Kerala . If we want to increase our economy, then English education should be given top most priority.

    If Urdu is to be given more importance, then Sanskrit should be given even higher importance.

  4. On a lighter not Joe, you will be forced to re-learn Hindi soon :P So better refer those old school books. Didn’t get it? More and more ‘Hindi’ people work in Kerala these days. When you go to park your car anywhere near a shop in Kerala, a ‘Hindi’ guy will come near. Go to any hotel, the ‘Hindi’ guy come. Got to textile shop, again, Hindi. Go to the petrol pump, its the same. Forget all, go to Lulu Mall. You will see 90% of the people who work there speak Hindi lolz.

  5. Ha, one of my pet peeves! Agree 500%. This whole patriotic emotional blackmail has got to stop. I have studied Hindi all through high school BUT I could not use the language competently or simulate any sort of interest in it till I went up North for university. Divorced from context and the cultural milieu in which a language operates it is at best a clatter of syllables, a disembodied voice. Case in point: I have studied French and Arabic and 14 years later, I remain clueless about both these languages. Sure I can conjugate the hell out of a verb in French and count to ten and if I try harder to a 100 in Arabic. I can still read and write Arabic without having any idea as to what the sounds mean. It’s like a muscle, if you do not use it, it becomes irrelevant.
    If it was mere uselessness, I would not oppose so vehemently. If I may, my main arguments.
    (1) In spite of having learnt Hindi from primary school, most of my non-native Hindi speaker friends and I essentially had to learn the language from scratch. These included Tamils, Telegus, Malayalees, Kannadigas, the whole North-East Bloc, many Bengalis and believe it or not even some Gujjus and Sardars. So essentially 12 years of primary education was rendered effectively useless. Also, I could not see a significant difference in the rate at which we picked up the language compared to first-timers like the Arab exchange students, non-citizens etc. This sort of brings me to my second point,
    (2) The Hindi speaking part of the Nation is much smaller than the so-called patriots would like to imagine. Even within these so-called Hindi speaking regions, there is significant diversity. There were many parts of Jharkhand where speaking Hindi got me nowhere really fast. How universal is this language really? How much does it define this nation? When we have languages like Tamil, Bengali etc that have imposing cultural footprints, both in terms of literature, lifestyle and pop cultural reference points, where does Hindi really stand?
    (3) It breeds resentment in non-native speakers. I have seen time and again how much this imposition chafes. Is all the ill-feeling worth it? Especially with how English is increasingly the chosen language of our workplaces, our entertainment, our National ascent and our youth. Why create more anger when we have so many systemic and cultural biases to overcome?
    (4) It creates entitlement in the native speakers. I have seen how many native speakers expect to go anywhere within the peninsula and expect everything to be just as it was back home. They converse in Hindi expecting the poor Malayalee auto-wallah to respond, they whine about coconut milk or idlis or curd rice or fish, they endlessly ridicule other bodies, other languages, other accents and other cultures. So in post-colonial terms, there is this endless “othering” of non-Hindi speakers making us effectively invisible on the national stage.
    (5) USA, the country of immigrants is the closest to India in terms of cultural heterogeneity. Yet even here, people loathe to impose English even though there is a home-grown movement pushing for it. There are many schools where Spanish is the medium of instruction and English need not be taught. Many doctors and government officials pick up Spanish to serve their constituents in these districts. Contrast this to India, where in Bangalore, (a non-Hindi speaking region btw) my husband spent four years learning Social Sciences in Hindi in a Central Government school. Aftermath: A lifelong disinterest in politics and cultural studies. In this democracy, why are the people of the states not allowed to make their own choices?
    I am no Hindi-hater. Learning the language in college was not an imposition. It was my choice. I wanted to blend in, be a part of everything. In fact it renewed my interest in Bollywood, Prem Chand and even got me paying attention to the lyrics of old Bolly songs. But it was a choice nevertheless. The 12 years that went before it however, the forcing of a language down my throat at the behest of the Indian state, THAT was pure hell.
    Also a response to the tired argument that it serves you well outside your non-Hindi-speaking state: Not true. In all the time I have spent travelling around the country, I have had better luck with English and more often. And if all else fails, we have gesticulating wildly using our hands, legs and face. Many an effective and entertaining conversation has been had by me using this universal language:from Calcutta (no way I’m paying you 40 rupees for that chain), Jeddah (No, that is not my baby. I’m 22 for crying out loud.), Frankfurt ( where is the immigration counter? Also, the rest room if you don’t mind.) and San Atonio (that looks delicious. could you show me where that is on the menu?). Knock and the door will be opened. Somehow. ;)

  6. Totally agree Jo – exactly my views on this language. We, Indians, are forced with the tri-lingual education system for no real benefit. Instead of focusing on core-professional topics and subjects, we are wasting time on languages.

    By the way, even English ideally needn’t have to be learned if India was a developed nation. At the moment, it’s a must because of the situation we are in. If we were like Japan or Germany, all that we had to learn was ONE language.

    Ummm… Hindikkaaranaa… Kadham kudha hai ! (Mala’s dialogue in Kanmadam)

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