Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why Chennai Needs A Hindi Lesson

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This blog post is in response to this one (please read it first) - Why Chennai can't and won't speak Hindi

Tamil is a beautiful language. Just like any other language that is old enough to have the privilege of being cured over generations of poets, writers, etc. One should learn Tamil to be able to understand the beautiful poetry that can only be understood in the language in which it was written - I have been read translations of a few by my friends and even those are a joy to listen to. A lot of other languages have beautiful words, poems and writers. Tamil has many more of these because it is that old - compare this to a library, the older the library the more chances of it having more valuable knowledge.
It is absolutely legit for a tamilian to take pride in her own language. It is in fact absolutely necessary to do so. If our future generations are to gain from the knowledge that has been collected over so many centuries, we need to protect the medium in which that knowledge flows forward. However, while pride is welcome and necessary, ego is NOT. And quite a few ignorant tamil folk that I have interacted with seem to be flirting with the pride-ego border quite a lot when it comes to Tamil (the language and the culture), even when they are such humble and modest people in all other respects.
So, why does 'Chennai need a hindi lesson'? There are 2 reasons:

#1. Chennai needs to become more accepting of other cultures in the country. If you have ever been to Chennai, you would know that as a city it is not very accommodating of others' cultures. While I agree with the said blog post that there is no need for Hindi in Tamil Nadu, one must understand that being instantly rude and judgmental of a person because she speaks in Hindi is not something that any city should be proud of. It is NOT OK for an auto driver to cheat a person because she would not be able to speak Tamil. And it is NOT OK for the others observing this to play along (the cops included) because the person being looted is a Hindi speaker. Chennai, my dear friends, is hostile to Hindi speakers and this makes me sad because I love Hindi.
Also, there are quite a few people (like me) who try to pick up Tamil when they come to Tamil Nadu. Trust me, we make a very genuine effort but it is a tough language to learn. We give it a try but it takes time, effort and a good amount of support from the native speakers of the language - the support that Hindi speakers rarely get. I have been lucky to have found friends who could lend me that support and encourage me to learn the tiny bits of Tamil that I know.

#2. Tamil is a lovely language and that is why Tamilians must learn Hindi and other Indian languages. There is so much that Tamil can contribute to literature. Why must we build a cultural wall around something so beautiful? Culture is curated by being assimilative and inclusive. A culture that closes it's doors to outside influences would eventually suffer. I'm not asking the Chennai folk to integrate the rough and rude attitude that Delhi brings into their culture. I'm asking them to integrate the 'attithi devo bhava' of a punjabi home, I'm asking them to add the sweet smell of the gujarati kitchen to their homes, I'm asking them to add the nascent enthusiasm of a Bihari youth into their culture. How can one enrich their own culture with a closed mind and a repulsive attitude towards anyone who would not speak their language?

I compared Tamil to an old, invaluable library earlier. What good is a library if it closes it's doors and only those who are inside can make use of it? A good library let's the curious mind to step inside its doors and let's the enlightened step out to spread the knowledge!
I'm very thankful to my friends who could help me in understanding the Tamil culture (to a certain extent) by letting me explore, by letting me question, by letting me fail so many times with supreme patience. But, I must tell you that most of these were people who understood other cultures themselves. They understood Hindi (as a language) and wanted to learn new things themselves. These were people who were curious to know how my part of the world worked. We both gained tremendous knowledge and this is how things should function. Inclusivity must prevail, even if it comes at the cost of a rotting ego that fuels political ambitions and cultural divides that all of us have come to love so dearly that we would go to any extent to protect it.
Let's open up and be more accepting of each other. Let the ignorant UP wala bhaiya live in Chennai and learn a thing or two about computers and let the lungi clad Chennai anna teach delhi how to make good sambhar. This is the only way we all can progress as a nation!

PS: Comments are welcome. Please do not be hateful. Please be logical.