Monday, January 9, 2012

From the South of the Tropic of Cancer

The first week of the New Year has been incredibly busy for me, for I've been traveling nearly 100 km twice daily, between Dubai and Fujairah, thanks to my internship. Whilst I do somewhat enjoy the drive, there's no denying that the journey leaves you rather tired, especially if you need to travel every other day. But this post isn't about the difficulties of road travel.

While traveling, I like to listen to music, in particular, south Indian movie songs, with a specific liking for Kollywood. Notice the phrase 'south Indian'. It isn't because I'm parochial or myopic. (I'm not!) It isn't because I'm against other languages just because I speak a couple of southern tongues more fluently. (I'm not!) It's simply because that is what I'm used to, a sense of liking that has been derived from habits gathered over nearly two decades. So this is what happened during an evening ride back home after a long days' work...

The previous day I requested the uncle, who had kindly consented to take me back, to switch on the radio. Then he had asked me which FM I preferred, to which I said, the Tamil one. He usually didn't listen to anything, so I definitely was not forcing my choices upon him. The next day, as we were returning, I requested him to switch on the radio again. And voila, it was a popular Dubai FM that catered almost exclusively to Bollywood music. No problem, anything to listen to, so that I can relax and de-stress, I reasoned to myself. But a few minutes later, I realized that I couldn't hum along and found myself yearning, somehow strangely, for the familiar tunes of namma ooru dappankuthu. So I requested uncle to change the FM. (Does this make me a fussy co-passenger? I hope not :/)

Now, it should be kept in mind that uncle is not from India, and is amongst the large group of people that believes that Hindi is the national language of the country. So, he turned to tell me, 'Isn't Hindi your national language? Shouldn't you be learning it, and hence, listening to Hindi also?'

In my half baked Hindi, I stammered that Hindi was not really a national language. It's more like an official language. I wanted to quote the fact that you would do better to ask for directions in English, rather than Hindi, far down south, for example in Tamil Nadu. Moreover, I also wanted to explain how, despite the fact that I had learnt it till grade 9, I still cannot speak it fluently, largely because no one at home speaks it. But, I was tongue tied, and found myself wishing that my thoughts could speak for themselves out loud. As the familiar songs from Kollywood blared out of the stereo, I found myself thinking about the linguistic diversity in the motherland.

Talking about linguistic diversity, I recall an incident back in NUS. I was returning to my hostel with a Malaysian friend, and on the way, I met one of my Indian friends, to whom I spoke in English. Upon seeing us talking in English, my other friend asked me why we were talking in English, and not an Indian language- this is so because, apart from English and the fact that we're Indian, there's nothing really common between us, linguistically. It is indeed an interesting scenario!

Anyway, learning Hindi has been an interesting experience. I could always count on Hindi to pull up my scores in middle school- Ironically, I don't think I've ever scored below 90% in this subject, a tongue which I can barely speak. I guess the fault lies with me- I never took an active interest in trying to speak the language- and that was simply because on the southern side of the Tropic of Cancer, there are other languages that people prefer to speak, languages that have been a part of their lives for centuries, something that has evolved along with them, down the ages. I just wish people who insist that you need to know Hindi, in order to fall into the category of being an Indian, would remember that.

2 comments:

  1. You know, I've seen this a lot, people criticizing south Indians for not being able to speak Hindi. Well, I feel it's all just another means of prejudice and the 'you-should-do-what-I-believe-is-right' attitude.

    This reminds me of an incident long back when someone asked me, 'What kind of an Indian are you??' when I told them that I hadn't watched the movie Lagaan.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're bang on the money; the very fact that we use English and not Hindi / other regional languages as the link language by itself shows how diverse and vibrant we are as Indians; this is a point that many will disagree on but I completely concur with your POV.

    I faced a very similar situation in my dorm when a group of us(Indians) were talking in Hinglish and a German neighbor asked us if that was Indian English because there was more English than Hindi :P.

    Wonderfully written, could relate a lot to it.

    Cheers :)

    ReplyDelete

Monday, January 9, 2012

From the South of the Tropic of Cancer

The first week of the New Year has been incredibly busy for me, for I've been traveling nearly 100 km twice daily, between Dubai and Fujairah, thanks to my internship. Whilst I do somewhat enjoy the drive, there's no denying that the journey leaves you rather tired, especially if you need to travel every other day. But this post isn't about the difficulties of road travel.

While traveling, I like to listen to music, in particular, south Indian movie songs, with a specific liking for Kollywood. Notice the phrase 'south Indian'. It isn't because I'm parochial or myopic. (I'm not!) It isn't because I'm against other languages just because I speak a couple of southern tongues more fluently. (I'm not!) It's simply because that is what I'm used to, a sense of liking that has been derived from habits gathered over nearly two decades. So this is what happened during an evening ride back home after a long days' work...

The previous day I requested the uncle, who had kindly consented to take me back, to switch on the radio. Then he had asked me which FM I preferred, to which I said, the Tamil one. He usually didn't listen to anything, so I definitely was not forcing my choices upon him. The next day, as we were returning, I requested him to switch on the radio again. And voila, it was a popular Dubai FM that catered almost exclusively to Bollywood music. No problem, anything to listen to, so that I can relax and de-stress, I reasoned to myself. But a few minutes later, I realized that I couldn't hum along and found myself yearning, somehow strangely, for the familiar tunes of namma ooru dappankuthu. So I requested uncle to change the FM. (Does this make me a fussy co-passenger? I hope not :/)

Now, it should be kept in mind that uncle is not from India, and is amongst the large group of people that believes that Hindi is the national language of the country. So, he turned to tell me, 'Isn't Hindi your national language? Shouldn't you be learning it, and hence, listening to Hindi also?'

In my half baked Hindi, I stammered that Hindi was not really a national language. It's more like an official language. I wanted to quote the fact that you would do better to ask for directions in English, rather than Hindi, far down south, for example in Tamil Nadu. Moreover, I also wanted to explain how, despite the fact that I had learnt it till grade 9, I still cannot speak it fluently, largely because no one at home speaks it. But, I was tongue tied, and found myself wishing that my thoughts could speak for themselves out loud. As the familiar songs from Kollywood blared out of the stereo, I found myself thinking about the linguistic diversity in the motherland.

Talking about linguistic diversity, I recall an incident back in NUS. I was returning to my hostel with a Malaysian friend, and on the way, I met one of my Indian friends, to whom I spoke in English. Upon seeing us talking in English, my other friend asked me why we were talking in English, and not an Indian language- this is so because, apart from English and the fact that we're Indian, there's nothing really common between us, linguistically. It is indeed an interesting scenario!

Anyway, learning Hindi has been an interesting experience. I could always count on Hindi to pull up my scores in middle school- Ironically, I don't think I've ever scored below 90% in this subject, a tongue which I can barely speak. I guess the fault lies with me- I never took an active interest in trying to speak the language- and that was simply because on the southern side of the Tropic of Cancer, there are other languages that people prefer to speak, languages that have been a part of their lives for centuries, something that has evolved along with them, down the ages. I just wish people who insist that you need to know Hindi, in order to fall into the category of being an Indian, would remember that.

2 comments:

  1. You know, I've seen this a lot, people criticizing south Indians for not being able to speak Hindi. Well, I feel it's all just another means of prejudice and the 'you-should-do-what-I-believe-is-right' attitude.

    This reminds me of an incident long back when someone asked me, 'What kind of an Indian are you??' when I told them that I hadn't watched the movie Lagaan.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're bang on the money; the very fact that we use English and not Hindi / other regional languages as the link language by itself shows how diverse and vibrant we are as Indians; this is a point that many will disagree on but I completely concur with your POV.

    I faced a very similar situation in my dorm when a group of us(Indians) were talking in Hinglish and a German neighbor asked us if that was Indian English because there was more English than Hindi :P.

    Wonderfully written, could relate a lot to it.

    Cheers :)

    ReplyDelete