Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Do we need a common national language in India??

As I am not particularly busy at work for the past few months, I thought of doing some study about birth of our civilisation. But, I came across a lot of regional chavnistic posts in the web and started to start a blog - with a vision to unite India!!

BTW, I am from India. I would like to stop it here as I don’t want to be identified as a Punjabi, Marathi, Tamilian …

I did have the feeling that I am Indian while I was in India.But, when I came out for work here (Australia) I started interacting with many other Indians. I realised that when you are out of India, regional identity matters a lot.
That is the reason that many westerners ask me which part of Indian I am from.
They can very well identify the subdivision among us.

I haven’t had a chance to learn Hindi during my childhood and I never felt bad or inferior about it. But, whenever I meet an Indian over here (Australia) and while they try to converse with me in Hindi, I need to say “Sorry, I dunno Hindi. English please!!” .They get so annoyed with my request, immediate response would be “Why can’t you learn the national language of India?”. (There are some people who would respond to my request politely. But, 90% of the time you can expect this type if reply!!). Whether you are from either four of the southern states (AP,Karanataka, Kerala, TN..) or from any other north-eastern states this is the response you would get of you are an Indian who doesn’t know Hindi.

Ok. Fair enough!!

First time I thought, “How come I didn’t even know that Hindi is the only national language of India?”. There comes my quest to find out the answer.Finally, I found the answer, “Hindi is not the only national language of India. There are 23 other national languages recognised as the national languages by constitution of India”. Hindi and English are merely the official languages of India. (Which means it is used by the government for documentation purposes)

So, I am relieved by the fact that what I learnt in my school days is correct. So, at least some factual information regarding the basic language stuff about India is not corrupted in my academics.

My worry didn’t stop there. What I also came across in the web was hatred comments on a regional basis in most of the forums and blogs.Not surprisingly there are chauvinists on both sides (Hindi and non-Hindi). I had the intention to learn Hindi (merely for watching Bollywood movies), but dropped that idea after realising it was merely imposed on non-Hindi states in India.

Ok, here is my justification that you should learn your regional language instead of Hindi.

How many film industries are there in India and how many films do they produce?

The answer that springs to my mind is Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood , Bengal, Punjabi, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati… (ranked based on approx.size..)

As you can see from my answer, number of films produced in north Indian industries is considerably lower except Bollywood. I read somewhere that only 7 movies are produced in Gujarati industry a year in recent times.
Where we like it or not, movies are one of the major factor that contributes to the culture and region. If all the people in southern India knows Hindi basically 4 industries Tollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood,(sorry dunno the name for Karnataka film industry..) will eventually die.

After few years, there will not be any Malayalam songs for a Malayalee to hear, no tamil songs for a tamilian…

One might argue that movies are just a part.
But, movies songs are of a greatest contribution to a language these days.

How many of you read a book with poems written by the greatest scholars who contribute to your language?

I would say it will not exceed maximum of 5%.

If the major factors that contribute to a language die, then language dies.

So, if Hindi is imposed on any other non-Hindi speakers basically you are seeding the death for that language.If you think that is Ok, I think you are not a patriotic Indian as you are not accepting the basic Indian motto “Unity in Diversity”.

If you are learning English, why can’t you learn Hindi?

This is the second question that sprouts to the mind of the Hindi speaking person.
In my opinion, you are not even entitled to ask this question if you are a Hindiwalla who knows English. And, fortunately or unfortunately 99% of the people I interact with know English. If someone asks me this question, my reply would be “If you are learning English, why can’t we?". You want the whole of India to learn Hindi and want to send your kids to learn English. This is simply not a “fair go” policy for any Indian citizen.

Reasons I prefer to learn “English” instead of “Hindi”:

- People prefer to learn English than “Hindi” because simple answer would be “It was never imposed on us”.
- Hindi is as alien for us as English. If English was brought to India by British, same with Hindi from some or other forms of foreign invaders. ( It is less influenced by Sanskrit)
- It is not Anti-Hindi and it is merely Anti – Hindi Imposition. People are free to learn Hindi in all the non-Hindi states if they wish to. Just not compulsory as part if the curriculum

English is only for literates, how about an illiterate?

This might sound like a valid debate. But, let me tell my points:

- Hindi is as (or more) hard for an illiterate to learn as English. From my understanding, Hindi is no way similar to any of the Southern languages.
- If a non-Hindi speaking illiterate need to learn Hindi why can’t a Hindi speaking illiterate learn English

I think these explanations are sufficient to justify why there is no necessity to learn Hindi to be an Indian.

I really support the leaders of Tamil Nadu( thought I am not a fan of their atheistic principles or corruptions) in promoting affinity towards Tamil language among Tamilians. I regret such thing is not done in other regional languages and hence they are in decline. (Eg. Would be the Marathi film industries and literature...). It is time to raise voice to protect it !! ( Of course, without hurting the sentiments of others).

As an Indian, I am happy to learn Hindi if I need to work in UP and Kannada if I need to work in Bangalore and English, if I need to work in India and abroad.

Now, to my dear regional people we can definitely be united in spite of comments from some Hindi people as leaning Hindi is no way related to patriotism.
Try to protect and contribute towards your language!!
We can definitely make India contributing towards various literatures and a vibrant culture.(from different regions of India)

Healthy debates and comments welcome!!
No flaming chavunistic posts here ….


Katie said...

I appreciate your thoughts towards uniting india. I would like to add some.
- I bet none of the average indian could talk continously for 30 mins in their mother toungue in his day today life
- None of the indian language is enhanced with the vocabulary to cope with the growing world
- It is a fact that an average indian knows and speaks lot of english words in his day today life
- It will take the same amount of effort,difficulty and time to learn english when compared with hindi. Then why not learn english!!
- It would be overkill to expect our next generation to learn three languages(Mother Toungue, Hindi and English).

Anonymous said...


India does NOT have any national language !

Nice blog !!

Priya said...

Sorry for my late reply. I agree with what you have said.

Southern languages are completely different from Hindi and I don't think we should impose an additional language on our future generation.


I agree.But, even some people from South are fooled to believe that "Hindi is the national language of India". If all the non-Hindi people know this fact atleast they have a counter argument.


Nagesh Mahadevan said...

Priya, At last I found one person who argues sensibly on this topic. None of them who argue that Hindi is the National Language of India, can define What is a National Language. In the Indian context one cannot define because India is a multilingual state. No language will fit the definition. Hence the framers of the constitution refrained from declaring Hindi as National Language. For that matter many things which do not fit the definition of National have been declared so inappropriately. Hockey, which is a game not founded in India has been declared National Game merely because India won Olympics Gold Medal 6 consecutive times. Now India is nowhere in hockey. North Indians keep proclaiming Hindi as National Language not because they sincerely wish so, but because they want to feel comfortable wherever they go. They want others to undertake the pain of learning their language and make them feel comfortable in others' regions, while yet they will not adjust with others in others' region. Their proclamation is aimed only to argue their case. Their minds have been conditioned and programmed. Their hypocrisy is revealed by the fact that they take pride in speaking Hindi artificially with American accent while yet they can speak with native accent. They imitate and ape americans in everything including Hindi. Again there are numerous variations in Hindi such that not one is declared is standard. When a foreign game is declared a national game, why not English be declared National Language. After all it was the English who united us a nation.

Mitesh Ashar said...

Check out:

In this article I and Rishabh have written about the following:

- How we discovered Hindi isn't our national language
- The orkut discussions and polls we conducted after finding it out
- Why it does not seem to us that it is a very big issue that India does not have any national language

Priya said...

Hi Nagesh,

Thanks for your comment.

Only now people are starting to understand that their langugaes are going to die. That's why parties like SivaShena are targeting Marathis to promote it, after Marathi being neglected in Mumbai.

I think in a democratic country government trying to promote a single language is not fair.

Might be it is because of Anna and other Tamil leaders atleast Tamil is surviving in Chennai, when compared to Kannada in Bangalore or Marathi in Mumbai.

But, not many people favour our opinion and unfortunately most of think we need to learn Hindi.(even South Indians)


Priya said...

Hi Mitesh,

Conducting a Orkut poll is a good idea and I enjoyed your post. I also read your post :http://india.targetgenx.com/2007/09/14/no-hindi-please/

I would like to ask you some questions:

1.Why are you not worried about the fact that people are not talking in Marathi in Mumbai?

2.Did you realise that it is because of Hindi Marathi is neglected in Mumbai?

3.Both English and Hindi are causing the death of native tongues. So, your concern should be why not native tongues used instead of English?

4. How is English dominating Mumbai different from Hindi dominating Mumbai?


Nagesh said...

Hi Priya, One of the main reasons why Indian languages are dying is that Indians do not feel proud about their own language and culture. On the contrary Indians feel proud of anything FOREIGN, especially AMERICAN. Many Indians desire to speak their own languages not with a native accent but as americans speak and they feel proud about it. You will find this practice rampant among the anchors, VJs and hosts on indian satellite tv channels. Indian Men and Women, especially the present younger generation, dress and project themselves like americans. Indians are the only people who blindly imitate and ape the westerners. The most shameful is speaking our own mother tongue as americans speak. This is the root cause of erosion of our native languages. Basically it reflects a crippled mentality and mindset. Every Indian must learn to feel proud of his/her mother tongue first. Again the debate about National Language and Hindi arises only when a Non-Tamilian from outside Tamilnadu visits Tamilnadu and finds himself uncomfortable. He expects people in TN to speak in Hindi but is disappointed. Everywhere else they speak Hindi. His question is why not TN also speak Hindi; after all it is the National language. His mind is conditioned and programmed to assume that Hindi is National Language. He does not want to accept reality. He does not understand that people in TN are not obliged to speak any language other than Tamil. He wants to impose and thrust Hindi on TN. He will not adjust in TN but he wants Tamilians to undergo the pain of learning Hindi at the cost of their comfort and make him feel comfortable in their region saving him all the pain. This reflects a selfish, narrowminded, mean mentality and mindset. He wants TN people to compromise while yet he won't compromise. It is a futile attempt to drive sense into a North Indian's mind. They are stubborn. They will not accept facts. First Indians must change in their mentality, mindset and attitude. Only then our identity will be conserved and saved. Only then we can check the erosion of our values.

Priya said...

Hi Nagesh,
I totally agree with you. I think our genes are programmed with some sort of inferiority complex. Also, because of our population we are dependant on the developed countries. Though they are dependant on our resource pool, still we are getting paid from them. So, we try to imitate and impress them as lot.
If you notice, foreigners never change their dress habits when they visit India. But, we try to dress in western style while working abroad. One of my friend, went in a colourful salwar to her work place in US and to them it seemed like a Halloween dress. So, might be in order to avoid such comments we try to imitate them.

But, my wish is atleast among Indians we shouldn't try to talk in fake accent.
The whole world will become western clone and everyone will speak some sort of English in the future.

Regarding TN, they criticize Chennai for not-speaking Hindi, but they don't realize TN people can't learn a language for others visiting their place. This whole idea of Hindi will unite us is a bullshit. If states like TN hadn't opposed Hindi in the past, then we will all be learning in Hindi medium as they tried to abolish English altogether. Though English is foreign we can't deny the fact it was opened door for our economic growth.


Nagesh said...

Hi Priya,
There are certain elements hard to understand. More than half a century has passed since we won independence. Indians are shining in every sphere of activity. Why should we still carry an Inferiority Complex? Don't we boast about our varied heritage, culture etc., during debates? As regards dressing, a dress is designed to suit the varying weather conditions and climate of a place. It is okay to wear a western outfit in western countries. Why should we wear an alien dress in our own country when it is not necessary? Understandably our dependence on westerners for remuneration and for utilizing our resource pool has compelled us to impress them in our work place. It is alright to emulate them in virtues and values. But that does not bind us to imitate them superficially. Why should we continue to put on a mask on leaving office premises? After all once we are back from work, our interaction is with general public, the vegetable and grocery vendors. We have to return to reality. It is said 'Blessing comes in disguise'. Don't you think 'Curse also comes in disguise'? I think true education will open the eyes of the deluded Indian and stem the deterioration, decay, degeneration and erosion of our languages, culture and values. A vigorous revolution and reformation movement alone can achieve it.

priya said...

Hi Nagesh,

It is true that we are more than half the century post independence.
But, still we are in the list of third world countries due to poverty, corruption..

It is predicted that even if our GDP reaches the first place, our people will be suffering in povery.

The reason we try to imitate westerners might be due to the differences within ourself. In any cosmopolitian city in India, the language that unites us is English. It serves the main purpose of a language ie. communication.

Imagine a shop keeper in Bangalore is trying to communicate with a non-Kannadiga in Kannada. Obviously, there is a chance he might lose the customer. So, he tries to communicate in English to everyone. So, it unites us there.

But, as you mentioned there is a difference between just communicating and imitating. As far a I had noticed, imitation is mostly among the educated IT youth. Probably the first thing they teach you in a BPO centre, is to talk with a fake accent that is relevant to the client location. Might be that's why they couldn't get rid of such things in their native accent as well.

And we feel very happy when a westerner comments "Your accent is flawless".

And if we don't wear alien dresses in our own country we are considered conservative, traditional ...

As you mentioned, I believe true education would mean teaching people the richness of our languages, culture etc..
But I am afraid that if we start learning that we will see much more differences within ourselves.

E.g. Edit war in wikipedia sometime ago, regarding which langauge is older (Tamil or Kannada)

We have so many cultures in India, learning the importance of every tradiiton and languae might have so many biased information.
E.g. I learnt in school that all Dravidian languges are derived from Tamil. I am not saying that it is not true, but we don't have a proof for that yet. So, what I had studied in the school might not be true.

I think we are proud of our culture in general.
Apart from dressings and other external habits, most of us argue in favor of arranged marriages and talk great about our family values to westerners. Don't you think so?

Don't you think we might have still believed in Caste System if we haven't interacted with the westerners/outside world?
I am from a village and I can say still caste system is practised to a large extent in India. Even most of the educated youth, believe in it.
Though I am against it, I can't avoid it when I visit my parents place. Obviously, I don't have time to do a revolution in my village.

Nagesh said...

Hi Priya,
Inferioriy Complex among Indians indeed existed for some time as hangover after independence. But I don't think it exists now. Indians have excelled in academics, sports, arts etc., and they have impacted the world. Two weeks ago an Indian was the richest man in the world. Today(16th November) every English daily reported that India has 40 billionaires, the most in Asia and Africa put together. Indian businessmen are swallowing foreign industries. Lakshmi Mittal, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya to name a few. An Indian woman is CEO of an american company. India had the first woman prime minister.

True, the educated youth of India on the whole, not just the techies, are imitating american styles. It is not at all a compulsion of circumstances. Exhibitionism, Snobbery and Vainglory have got ingrained into Indians. Indian youth want others to certify that they look american. They just want to project so. I don't know if such a complex has a name. Perhaps the term 'Approval Addiction Complex' would fit. I think these attitudes cannot be possible with an inferiority complex.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in speaking English with an american or british accent with americans and british respectively. For that matter it is worthy of praise to learn to speak any language in the accent of the natives. Speak French as Frenchmen speak, German as Germans speak. Likewise speak Hindi as Indians speak, Tamil as Tamilians speak. But speaking one's own language as americans speak exposes a crippled mentality and mindset. It is alright to emulate the Americans in their positive traits. But Americanism in anything and everything is degeneration. The foreign clients do not insist on their native accent but a neutral accent. Indeed every BPO employee is given training in neutral accent.

Retailers who speak English to retain customers are rare and few. Again these few communicate in English with an objective to facilitate the customer more than a motive to mobilise customers.

I am not promoting conservatism. After all we make traditions and customs and we change them as we please. My appeal is to be in step with the times, neither behind nor ahead in an illusory future. Dress in accordance to the occasion and as suits the region best. We must be natural and not artificial. I think that is cultural maturity. But in India, it is 'When you are in India Do as Americans do'.

I work in the most popular IT organization in South India, where on Mondays and Tuesdays the management insists men to wear business dress. The dress code as per our organization's specification is full sleeved shirt, tie and leather shoe. The reason is such an attire is professional. At least 2 people of our organization, have figured in the top 40 billionaires in India. Is this broadmindedness. Professionalism is not necessarily in western outfit, but more in character and conduct. Even in India there are costumes which are formal wear, suited to our weather and climate. Imagine wearing tie and shoe in hot summer. Even the schools in India compel small kids to wear a shoe and tie as uniform putting them to immense discomfort. Is this true education? What is educatin when it does not build maturity in every aspect? You will be amazed to know that when our British and American clients visit our organization on business purpose, they attend business meetings wearing pyjama-kurta. They purchase indian dress and carry back with them, to wear them during their summer.

On the one side we are engaged in petty quarrels as which language is old. On the other side we find pride in aping the west. Don't you think this is a perversion complex. We want to be a super power. We project ourselves as ultra modern. We also want to hold on to age old, primitive customs, caste system etc. Don't you think this is hypocrisy? Don't you think it is possible to sport a distinct culture while yet changing and reforming in synchrony with times.
All that it needs is an open broad mind and will power.

Priya said...

Hi Nagesh,

Sorry for my late reply.

I am not saying that inferior complex exists among Indians. But, Indians always looking upon westerners might be due to IC.
I may not be correct.
We are proud that an Indian is the richest man in the world. But, shouldn’t we also be worried by the fact that the poorest man in the world might also be an Indian. Let us compare ourself with developed countries. There is a lot of scope for development in India.
First women PM in India doesn’t help the women of India in anyway. We also should look into the fact that Indian ranks 2nd worst in treating women.

Regarding imitating others,

It is also important to note that such (accent) approval comes from your peers(not westerners).
It is hard to mould yourself into different forms as we are diverse among ourselves. It is ok to talk in Hindi as they speak in Delhi, but only if you are living in Delhi. It is altogether a different topic and we will discuss it later.

Might be what you are saying can be true with retailers and I agree.

Dress Code,

I agree with view points that we should dress according to our climate, we shouldn’t merely absorb western behaviour. We have out traditional styles of dresses that suits different weather conditions.
But, we as Indians don’t have a common dress code across different cultures. Eg. Type of dresses we wear during summer in TamilNadu might not be same as they one we wear in Maharastra. So, in an IT company where cross mingling of Indian cultures happen what would you call as the typical Indian dress for summer.
As you had mentioned let us take for example, IT companies are making pyjama kurtas as the dress code for Summer, there might be group of people in your IT company who opposes it.
Certainly, I might oppose if they make Saree as the dress code for women. That doesn’t mean I am not respecting Indian tradition, but I might just feel Salwar Kameez( or any other decent western outfit) more comfortable.
I am not saying that we should dress in western style, I am just questioning the options a company has to implement a common dress code reflecting Indian traditions (Offcourse, we can dress in casual and that might solve the issue)?

Threat to our traditions,
I don’t think we are sticking to age old customs. Most of the educated youth just pretend in such a way to convince their parents. As I said, I will not follow any caste hierarchy, but really can’t change my parents. I hope we will and are changing slowly. But, this change also brings in some other changes that might destroy our culture.
The issue is we have such a rich tradition and history, but also we have a shady past with regards to caste, women etc…
While we are currently trying to get rid of the worst features (caste system..) of our society, best(traditions, literatures) things also goes way with it. I really don’t think there is a way we can make people realise these things.
These types of discussions merely end up being lunch-room discussions. I am glad and thankful to you for discussing it in such detail.
Most of us don’t give much thought to these things at all.
We are happy if our kids sing rhymes in front of families and friends. We don’t teach them a word of our literatures.
Might be simply we don’t find any advantage in teaching them or we don’t want to give them additional burden.
Yes, we need an open mind and will power to so many things.
But, how do we go about achieving that?
What are the options we have to make us realise this across India?
Of course, few people like us can take time and teach our kids, but still it might just end up as a wish because our busy schedule.

Nagesh said...

Hi Priya,
IC may exist but it is not widespread in India. But I don't think IC is cause for deterioration of Indian identity. Even I find it difficult to pin point the cause of degeneration in India. Yet I think I can narrow it down. I think it is our attitude towards changing circumstances which is one of the reasons Indian culture is apparently becoming extinct. I am not sure if I am using the right words. Correct me if I am wrong. We should always maintain the right attitude, mindset and mentality. We should not permit circumstances to influence our mind. We can bend to changing circumstance but not necessarily bow. I think if everyone understands this, we won't need to imitate others. We can be natural and yet impress others. We don't need to be artificial and put on an act. Don't you think so.

As regards culture, it is a vast subject to discuss. Briefly put, culture is common to Human race in general. To dress wearing clothes is culture. To communicate by means of language is culture. I think culture ends there. What dress we wear, what language we use may differ from place to place. The type of dress we wear may change with people groups, with time, with circumstances, with climate, with region, with occasion etc. But every cultured person wears a dress. For instance my sisters changed to full skirts and half saree when they reached puberty. But my nephews changed to salwar kameez or chudidhar kameez when they reached puberty. Here the type of dress changed and this was a necessary change. There was a change in accordance with time but the Indian identity is not disturbed. Even language undergoes changes within, over time. We don't use the same words our ancestors used. This is inevitable. Yet the language is the same.

When it comes to dress code in work place, we can broadly classify dress into formal wear and casual wear. Work place needs formal wear. The code can be simple to suite the occasion and weather conditions. In my opinion, in India, offices can specify a full pant, half sleeved shirt, quo vadis slippers, neatly shaven face, neatly kept hair etc., for gents. For women, if a saree is too traditionl and uncomfortable, I think a simple salwar kameez or chudidhar kameez would suit. I think all women will agree to this. I don't think women will differ in opinion to this dress code. When our foreign women clients visit our offices, during office hours they uniformly wear plain coloured full skirts or frock, sleeved jackets on top, and sport a neatly kept hair style, not necessarily plaited. This may be formal wear in their countries. They do not wear pant and shirt as our women do. When they return back to the Guest house after finishing work however they change to casuals.

I think intermingling among ourselves has had more positive effect than negative. I can sense more uniformity now than before. Even language barriers are breaking while yet language identity are strong in rural areas. To sum it all up, to educate and reform people to keep abreast of time while yet retaining our identity, we have more facilitators than constraints.

Finally coming to your question "How do we go about doing that? What are the options ..". We may not be able to change the whole of India at one stroke. We can at least educate and reform the people around us. We can make a beginning and watch the ripple effect gradually. We can engage in healthy discussions with others over a cup of tea or coffee, or during informal gatherings etc.

Nagesh said...

As regards teaching our kids native literature, it is happening in rural India. Our villages and small towns are classic examples. They are keeping abreast with the so called modern world while yet maintaining their regional and Indian identity. They use internet and mobile phones yet speak pure and pristine vernacular. On casual occasions they wear jeans during winter and thin cotton pyjama during summer.

Priya said...

Hi Nagesh,

"We can bend to changing circumstance but not necessarily bow"

That's what I am trying to clarify. What might seem bowing to you just seem bending to others.
I am not saying we need to be artificial. All I am saying is, most Indians are moulded in such an extent, so it doesn't seem artificial to them at all.
How many people talking in fake accent would agree that they behave artficially.
Do you think they will agree if you point this out to them?

Our perceptions change a lot based on our exposure and it is hard to control it.
You never realise yourself that you are changing, unless you give much thought about it.

It is just not with language, dress but with everything.

How are we accepting KFC's in India now, whereas we opposed it in 90's.
I agree that liberalisation is necessary. But, only if it is benefiting people of India. And this fast food stores are not benefiting people in any way.
But, still we have it. We pay more than 100 Rs to buy a Mac burger.

It is not because we like it, we are exposed to it. So, we feel like tasting it once or twice.

Same way, we are getting exposed to western culture more and more because of the media and more Indians travelling abroad.
It is reflected in our day to day lifestyles. South was never exposed to Salwar Kameez earlier, but almost all the teen girls wear it now.
Same way, they are getting exposed to western dress style and are starting to try it themselves.
If you try to stop them, you will be named traditional or conservative.

It is just difference in opinion.

The issue is who is going to draw the line here and make others accept it.

Sleeve-less dresses are once uncommon, but not now. People had changed their perception because of exposure to so many things.

"For women, if a saree is too traditionl and uncomfortable, I think a simple salwar kameez or chudidhar kameez would suit. I think all women will agree to this. I don't think women will differ in opinion to this dress code."

I accept this because I like Salwar. But, how come you concluded that all women would accept this?

I might not even follow this unless it is mandatory.
Simple reason:
I have a whole set of western clothing here in Aus, I use for work. When I return and settle in India, i either have to donate it or keep it in shelves.

I don't wear any Indian dress to work and the dress code is formal(suits) here(unlike US). Doesn't mean I will be wearing suits if I work in Chennai(which I know would be ridiculous because of the weather). Just casting an example.

I love sarees and wear it at home very often...
Just not comfortable wearing it in front of others...
I am a person who loves Indian clothes.
But, there are people who like western clothing and it is hard to make them wear Salwar alone.
Might be possible now, but 10 years down the line it will be very difficult unless there is a revolution.

I am not saying intermingling is a negative aspect. It is necessary for us as we are so diverse.
All I am saying is just as wester styles might destroy Indian styles, salwar cameez had destroyed half-sarees.
Don't you think so?

Healthy discussion might make people realise your point but not necessarily bring up a change.

Regarding teaching our kids native literature, please let me know how they are doing it in villages.
Do you think they specifically take steps to teach it or is it part of the curriculum.

If it is part of curriculum then it must be in cities as well.

In my opinion, most villagers want their kids to settle in cities as they get more opportunities there. And no one really worried about teaching our literatures. But, as I said this based on my exposure.

Nagesh said...

Hi Priya,
You seem to have cornered me. I am not denying any of your statements.
'..most indians are moulded in such an extent, it doesn't seem artificial to them at all';'You never realise yourself that you are changing..';'..but 10 years down the line it will be very difficult unless there is a revolution'; that's where the casuality is in India.

Two potters were given clay. One potter moulded pots with the clay. People purchased the pots, used it for fetching water, cooking food etc. The other potter moulded beautiful dolls. People purchased them and used it as showpiece. Pots remained in the house for long. Dolls did not.

We cannot force those who choose to remain dolls to change. We cannot straighten a dog's tail. We cannot wake up people who pretend to be sleeping.

Include McDonald's also with KFC. Pizzas and Burgers are symbols of pride. Levi and Wrangler are preferred over indigenous KG Denim. That is India.

I agree salwar cameez has replaced half saree in Urban India, because salwar suites the fast urban lifestyle. However in rural India, especially rural Tamil Nadu and Kerala, girls find half sarees more comfortable. I don't think half saree is destroyed. It exists besides salwar. But is it not a solace that salwar/chudidhar is also Indian?

Even while I am writing this to you I interviewed a woman colleague of mine sitting next to me. The following is the conversation:

I : Why do Indian women wear American dress?

Manju : Because it is fashion. We look modern.

I : Is it really because you look modern or is it also because it is comfortable?

Manju : No, No. It is only because we look modern. Of course, it is also comfortable. But most of us wear to give a modern look.

In Australia, you dress as Australians do. It is obvious. That is being natural in Australia. But, do Australians wear to look modern? I don't know. You know it better. Have Australians ever aspired to imitate you? What is modern in the Australian context?

As regards rural children learning native literature, in villages since time immemorial, children are reared that way. That is the way of life in rural India. It is not a curriculum.Parents don't need to take specific steps for teaching native literature. That is hobby for them. It seems to be part and parcel of their lives. Rural children are taught folklore, folk songs etc. Parents have plenty of time during evenings. Unlike urban parents, their time is not wasted in travelling from home to works and vice versa. The parents and children wake up early and fresh in the morning. Tension, Stress is not part of their dictionary. As the children grow up, of course, parents motivate them to keep abreast of urban children. I grew up in a village during my childhood. Rural life is natural life. Now I am in the silicon valley of India swimming in the latest in IT. My role necessitates interaction with Americans most of the time in American accent. I am enjoying all the modern gadgets. I am in a pseudo Silicon Valley. But I am in a fragile illusory world. I have to put on a mask in works.

The days I were in village were real. I was my natural self.

In India, education seems needing in redefinition. I think if those who have slipped into artificiality are alerted, cautioned, educated then Indian identity will be maintained and not eroded by the west. I think Indians will realise then that they don't need to be pseudo-americans. We can also evolve a common language, culture, ethos, lifestyle etc which are distinctly Indian.

Nagesh said...

I am sorry I forgot to add this one. Even if all the sophisticated gadgetries around me are taken away, I won't be missing them. But I am missing my village childhood, the innocence, the unpolluted purity. Of such is natural India. Can an Australian or American feel that way?

Priya said...

Hi Nagesh,

I would like to point out something here, just as we are talking about Indian identity being lost because of western influence, Australian do talk about their native culture being lost due to westerners.

I was really confused and asked them whom do you refer to as westerners.

They said it is the British and the Americans (mainly Americans). I am not talking about the aborigines; I am talking about white Australians.

It is surprising to learn that the even most of the Europeans feel that way.
In France, few years ago they imposed a hefty fine for people using English words while talking.

Aussie don't have much choice to look modern except on Fridays. In most of the companies, dress code is formal.
Modern look for them must be casual as it changes for every season.
It is just not the dress, they tend to fancy having hairstyles of Hollywood celebrities and spend a lot for themselves when compared to Indian women.

In my opinion, Aussies never aspired to imitate Indians, but imitate westerners(to them is Americans) a lot.
This also includes Australians of Asian origin as they constitute nearly 40% of Melbourne population. They are much fond of celebrities than we do.

I am happy that Salwar Cameez replaced half-sarees as I feel it is more protective. I was just casting an example. As an Indian, I am personally happy if that is my dress code.
Referring to the discussion with your friend, why do we define anything that is western as modern? Why is it considered fashionable?

Is it because it is reflected in the movies and the media?

I think whatever celebrities wear is considered fashionable in general.
Celebrities influence people in western culture as well.
I had seen teen age girls carrying photos of celebrities and asking for the same hairstyle in saloons here.


I am happy for your childhood village life. I am from a village in TN and I didn't get to learn much...
I agree that I my life was much quiet and peaceful then.
Infact, I hate even going to nearby towns for shopping as I feel it is polluted.
I feel fortunate to have experienced the village life. It is so pure.

But, these days most of the ppl in villages are migrating to the cities.

All my relatives own land and are agriculturists, but most of their kids are IT pros and I don't think next generation will be cultivating crops.
This is from a place where water resource is abundant. Think of the villages that are getting dry day by day.

Not because they don't make enough money they want the kids to work, it is because they feel life is much easier if you are in a job in which you get paid monthly.

But, I have to agree that only people from villages are worried about these things as they could visibly see a difference in lifestyle between cities and villages.

"In India, education seems needing in redefinition" totally agree.
To Americans, America is the whole world. In each and every thing, they will have quotes saying " largest national park in the world" blah, blah..

Atleast our academics should make us realise our strong contribution.
How many of us know that the number system glyph originated in India? Just small things like this will contribute a lot....

"Even if all the sophisticated gadgetries around me are taken away, I won't be missing them. But I am missing my village childhood, the innocence, the unpolluted purity. Of such is natural India. Can an Australian or American feels that way?"

I dunno about Americans but Australians love country life and country side is really beautiful around Melbourne.
But what the lack is rich past. Their country is less than 200 years old.

We have that. As you said we have innumerable number of folk songs, dances, festivals etc...

Coming to what you said if all the sophistication is taken away and if you go back to your village, you will be happy. I am glad you said this.
But, due to the ever increasing competition in India,

Even if u are not married, just think of taking all the sophistication from your kid...

Will you be happy if your kid is studying in a government school in a village just to enjoy village life?

Most of us would say "No" and that is reason most of us settle in cities even if we like village life. We just want our kids to be exposed to the latest...

What we believe as latest or modern seems to be influenced by western…

What I am trying to say if we are made proud of our country and tradition while at schools and colleges, then we might be able to see some change… That’s where redefining education comes in.

To me even a small addition seems to be sufficient and that way people learning our literatures will also get some teaching opps.

This will make us use quotes from Thirukural (or any other Indian literatures) than from Shakespeare…

PS: I am not saying government schools are bad, many of the IT pros from villages are from government school. But, we do want our kids to study in a better school than we did.

Nagesh said...

Hi Priya,

I was surprised, rather puzzled, when you mentioned there exists such a thing as native Australian identity. I was under the impression that there is hardly any difference between Australian and American culture because both are originally from England. I wondered why white Australians talk about their culture being lost due to westerners. Are they not cousins with westerners? Perhaps since I am in India, I don't discern any difference between Australians and Americans. I have met white Australians visiting India as tourists. Excepting for their English accent I could not find them any different from westerners on the outside.

If Australians don't imitate Indians it is understandable. It is obvious. Firstly they don't need to. They are not dependent on India for their survival.

Anything western NEED NOT be modern. Anything modern NEED NOT necessarily come from the west. But in India anything american is modern. Of such is the attitude of Indians towards west. Even yogasana became popular in India after Americans patronized it.

If the USA were not as prosperous, if it was not a super power, will Indians imitate the americans? Will anything American be modern then? If the African countries were prosperous and superpowers, won't Indians imitate them? Won't there be darkness creams instead of fairness creams in India? Isn't the Super Power status, Economic Prosperity of the other country influencing Indians? If India were a Super Power, will other countries imitate India? Why are Indians allowing themselves to be influenced by another richer country?

The younger generation in India seem to be perverted. On the outside they project a foreign ethos. Yet they argue, debate and fight in favour of Indian ethos. This is puzzling.

It requires an integral mind and maturity not to be influenced by celebrities. It is a person's own choice. It is not imposed on anyone to imitate celebrities. But such is the perversion and hypocrisy existing among the youth in urban India. Schools and colleges don't teach integrity. They ought to but they don't. Of such is academic education in India. There is no emphasis on character development.

The rural India is uncontaminated by the alien ethos. In TN villages, the prayer during morning assembly sessions in school has not changed. To this day it is "Neeradum Kadaludutha Nilamadanai Kezhizhozhugum..". They sing it understanding every line of it, involving themselves in it and also being proud of their land. Among the rural youth character is built naturally.

True, I will not want my kids to study in villages for the same reason you mentioned.

Responsible parents can monitor their children's character, conduct, behaviour besides their academic progress, while at home. Parents can teach them to be proud being an Indian. Parents can advise them, guide them and guard them from being influenced by anything alien.

Be it rural or urban, could we not draw a line between entertainment and reality; between fact and fiction; between illusion and truth? Indeed in the school curriculum, especially in History textbooks, vernacular language textbooks, there are more than enough lessons on India's varied heritage, on Indian civilization etc, for Indians to feel proud of.

Why can't Indians be natural, maintain their identity and set a precedent for others to follow? Why can't Indians be integral and upright? Why should Indians be possessed with Inferiority Complex? I don't find a genuine reason for Indians to be hypocritical, to be perverted, to be artificial and to feel inferior.

Priya said...

Hi Nagesh,

For us, the difference between Australians and Americans is not visible. Might be because we are culturaly different.
Just as you, I wondered when a TV program was aired in a popular AUS channel regarding this issue.
But when I spoke to the Aussies over here, the first thing they said as a differece was family values.
Most of the aussie kids stay with their parents after 18, whereas this is rarely the case in US.

Things like fast foods, large retail stores are not part of their country and it is all inherited from America.
This obviously is turning Australia into a capitalistic country and they don't like it.
These are few things we discussed, but there might many other differences which is not obvious to us.

To your question, if US is not popular or rich and if Africa is would we imitate them?

I doubt this. From time immemorial, Indians worship fair skin and usually a fair is considered beautiful.
Though some people might prefer brown, Indians don't usually prefer black. I doubt we would use darkness creams...
We might not have copied Americans and remained as Indians.

"The younger generation in India seem to be perverted. On the outside they project a foreign ethos.
Yet they argue, debate and fight in favour of Indian ethos. This is puzzling. "

Atleast, this is good in a way. Because they believe in our Indian values and that's why they are arguing...

"The rural India is uncontaminated by the alien ethos. In TN villages, the prayer during morning assembly sessions in school has not changed. To this day it is "Neeradum Kadaludutha Nilamadanai Kezhizhozhugum..". They sing it understanding every line of it, involving themselves in it and also being proud of their land. Among the rural youth character is built naturally."

What's the use? Most of influential ppl move to cities and get contaminated at a later stage...

"Be it rural or urban, could we not draw a line between entertainment and reality; between fact and fiction; between illusion and truth? Indeed in the school curriculum, especially in History textbooks, vernacular language textbooks, there are more than enough lessons on India's varied heritage, on Indian civilization etc, for Indians to feel proud of.
Why can't Indians be natural, maintain their identity and set a precedent for others to follow? Why can't Indians be integral and upright? Why should Indians be possessed with Inferiority Complex? I don't find a genuine reason for Indians to be hypocritical, to be perverted, to be artificial and to feel inferior."

All this can be done. But, only through education.
Because only few parents will have time to assert these values.
If it is through schools and colleges, everyone will be exposed to Indian values.

The mentioned history text books contains "Aryan Invasion Theory"(without any proof), "Mughal Invasion Theory" etc.. as well. So, we remember these differences and forget the greatness of Indus Valley Civilization.

If we become a self-sufficient country and start hiring ppl from America then we might not imitate them. They will have to learn our culture, style and imitate us. Just as the British learned our languages to capture us.

Nagesh said...

Hi Priya,

It was pleasing to note that Australians don't like American lifestyle corroding them and they express concern about it. In India few express concern. That's the sad part of it.

True, villagers are moving to cities. Sadly, this is due to agriculture declining. Among those who move, the first generation are rigid and stable. The subsequent generation are consumed into urban lifestyle. Only then they are accepted and approved.

In India, school managements are more concerned about pupils donning western style uniform dress, tie, glistening shoe, load of books on the back etc., and are least bothered about pupils learning.

The British learnt our languages and eventually colonised us. But we are learning their language for sustenance and survival.

Indiputably true, that when we become self-sufficient, we may cease to imitate the Americans. I fully agree. But don't intellectuals galore in India. There is no dearth of philosophers for inspiration and motivation. None in the world can equal the likes of contemporary great thinkers like Aurobindo Ghosh, J Krishnamurthy, Chinamayananda, Sri Sri Ravishankar etc. We will forever talk proud of Vivekananda's grandeloquent address in the World Parliament of Religions. Even "FOREIGNERS" find liberation for their souls drawing inspiration from Indian Spiritualism. There is no natural resource which is not available in India. Rivers galore. Alumni from IITs, IIMs sparkle globally. Is there lack of any resource in India? Yet India is not self-sufficient. India, which had existed since time immemorial, carries begging bowl for Financial Assistance from nations founded hardly 400 years ago. Ironically, that is the Paradox that is India.

I remember reading somewhere, 'RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION'.

I request you also to analyse, how the so called Developed Nations, the so called Super Powers, prospered from scratch. Please share your findings/views with me.

Nagesh said...


Infosys have hired some Americans, British, Poles, Chinese. They visit India for training. TCS and WIPRO are likely to follow suit.

Julie D'Souza said...

I think Nagesh has digressed from the main topic.

In my opinion English is uniting India although a significant population are yet to learn the language. Indians are becoming aware of the importance of English and its importance for personal development and progress in academics and career. With English becoming more popular especially among the present day youth in a few years everyone across the length and breadth of the country will be communicating in English while yet retaining the vernacular language for communicating within the region.

As regards cultural change, I think Nagesh is confining his arguments to how we speak our language and how we dress. As regards the way we dress, we are not aping the west but changing according to times. The whole world is changing. If Nagesh is pointing to women wearing jeans and t-shirt, this is a global trend. Even in some families which were erstwhile orthodox, changes have been gracefully accepted. Every change is in response to need than motivation to imitate.

Only in India, when women venture into changing dress styles, women are accused of breaking traditions. In india someone makes a start, passes through criticism, sometimes even ostracism. However in due course the trend becomes common and accepted. Thankfully there are only few people like Nagesh in india who view change with skepticism and cynicism.

Priya Hyacinth Saldanha said...

Hi Priya,

Thank you for this starting this forum. The controversy about national language has been going on for a long time and still not resolved. I also read the previous posts in this thread. The discussion seems to have digressed to culture, mentality, mindset etc.

I think indians are confusing national language with language for inter-state communication. It was gandhi and nehru who announced that hindi shall be the national language. This announcement by great figures has given the hindi lobby the impetus for their claim. If the great figures had not committed this himalayan blunder perhaps the hindi lobby would not be claiming national language status for hindi. The great figures failed see the big picture that is india. I think they themselves were narrow minded. They saw the hindi belt alone as india. However the great figures backtracked when protests were raised from southerners against hindi imposition. thanks be to annadurai & co.

In my opinion the best language for communication between the different states of india will be English. Had the great figures made this announcement perhaps the hindi lobby would have fallen in line. Every one will be communicating in English while yet retaining the local/regional language for communication within a region. But indians make a slip here. Indians don't distinguish between the English language and English/Western culture. Indians assume we have to be culturally western to speak the English language. We can be culturally indian yet speak the English language. In this area indians have to overcome an inherent weakness of falling slave to anything foreign. We find indians wearing indian costume when speaking in indian languages in public forum. But indians change over to western outfits when speaking in English language. This is double standards. When speaking in English it does not mandate that you have to appear like an Englishman or American. I think appearance is dictated more by place than language.

I request you to visit the following forum and post your comments in the thread.

Thank you.