Arts & Culture

Diversity out of the Question of Languages

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Following the recent events, we tried to locate what language our nation speaks—of hate or of Mir?

“I knew that language is the most private and yet most public things.” – Arundhati Roy, In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities?

What language do we speak altogether, collectively as a nation? 780, or the ones actually recognised? Of love or of hate? Do we even speak together, ever?

I learned in my history class about imagined communities. Are we just one true imagination that exists with all its hypocrisies with just one name that binds us together? The peculiar curiosity about your identity starts somewhere around our age only, I think India never got out of that phase, she is still trudging the path of curiosity to know all about it.

Being trilingual, I get how difficult it can be to brainstorm with three words meaning something somewhat similar but never the exact same. How does India manage with so many? We read about diversity since first grade. In the language, I read it, “Anekta mei ekta.” At times, I think her diversity could never get out of this essay. It tried and tried, but it was such a high pedestal that returning was never an option, but we found out her invisibility on the streets at times, for we all read or maybe heard it – India: A Land of Diversities.

But whose language does India actually speak? Of Ghalib or of those who went rallying against Fab India when it named its Diwali Collection Jashn-e-Riwaaz, which loosely translates into a celebration of tradition.

The social media went mad with hails of ‘NO Abrahaminsation of Hindu Festivals’. And amidst this, a Markazi Khayal came to me that what word could we substitute for Khyal in Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mei Khayal aata hai? Or maybe what would we substitute when the people actually discover that the words Hindi, Hindu and Hindostan are from Persian Arabic? Did I miss a class of Language partition when the words of Urdu casually entered the conversations and even a bit of Shudh Hindi found its place with slang from the local dialect?

The Partition happened when, during the British era, the Hindustani language broke up into Hindi and Urdu, and since then, the graph has been up and down with the ‘language’ that we decide to speak publicly, sometimes of hate and sometimes of mir.

According to a research paper about the decline of Urdu sounds,

First, the decline of Urdu sounds began in the 1990s, which marks the rise of the Hindutva politics and the beginning of the mushrooming of cable television networks.”

So, this is the language I have been referring to the language that the current hegemony chooses to speak.

A good thing about Grammarly is that you can set the tone of language that you want to deliver your content in, and it rectifies the words accordingly. What would the tone be when people don’t let Munawwar Faruqui perform in Goa for 500 people would set themselves on fire. The organisers received threats from several Hindutva groups, and shows in Raipur, Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Mumbai had to be cancelled. Munawwar was also arrested for a joke he did not tell, and the apex court that granted him release said the tone of the FIR was vague and no apparent reason for his arrest.

Clearly, the cancel culture in our country goes a different way, where the dominant group shuns the language that it does not want to hear, be it just the name of the collection, an advertisement that talks of love bonds, or anything that might prick the forces of Hindutva. Who will be the next Kaifi saheb, perhaps Ghalib or the true sense of diversity that we talked about on pages?

Although Hindi’s victory has been a resounding one, it does not seem to have entirely allayed its keepers’ anxieties. Perhaps that’s because their enemies are dead poets who have a habit of refusing to really die.” – Arundhati Roy, In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? 

There is a linguistic relativity hypothesis that says our language shapes our thought, and Arundhati writes in her essay that a country’s public language is its own public imagination. So, the next time you say ‘ye Ishq nahīñ āsāñ itnā hī samajh liije ik aag kā dariyā hai aur Duub ke jaanā hai’ know that in the current context it literally applies to the word Ishq for someday people might take offence for its existence because of its source.

All this is to say that we in India live and work (and write) in a complicated land, in which nothing is or ever will be settled. Especially not the question of language. Languages.” – Arundhati Roy, In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? 

Kashish Shivani

[email protected] 

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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