Friday, December 4, 2009

2 States?


Genre: Blabber

No, contrary to what the title may suggest, this is NOT going to be a review of Chetan Bhagat’s latest novel narrating a cross-border love story between a Punjabi boy and Tamilian girl fighting regional bias to unite. I read the book at one go yesterday night and somewhere down the line, I felt like the point he is trying to drive home and some of the clichés he has mentioned are very true even today in Indian society – we Indians, intentionally or unintentionally, have created bias amongst ourselves based on language and geography and this is passed on from generation to generation.

One look around and you’ll know what I mean. Even today, most people in Maharashtra/Gujarat refer to everyone living south of Mumbai as a ‘Madrasi’ who eats idli-dosa for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the same time, folks in Andhra/Karnataka/Kerala/Tamil Nadu desist from learning and/or communicating in Hindi and call it “language of North Indians” conveniently forgetting the fact that it is the National Language first.

I don’t even need to remind the case of two desperate political parties in Maharashtra that have been going around creating divide among Mumbaikars by branding residents from “UP-Bihar” as aliens and their typical “North Indians are stealing jobs of Marathi people” rant. And the worst part is, a sizeable cross-section of the society even justifies this state-based division.

Forget about politicians, I found a glaring example of this linguistic bias right here in Blacksburg. Every now and then I hear that there is a “Tamil Potluck”* or “Telugu Potluck”  and the likes being organized over the weekend and I didn’t understand what was the point of adding the linguistic condition. This is something that baffled me at first. I had come expecting that here in an alien nation, 15,000km from our motherland, all Indian students would be living as one united group representing the country as a whole. Someone might argue that we ARE united, but the fact remains that our linguistic bias refuses to leave us even here.

Another example- the moment I mention something about a South Indian movie, an army of ardent lovers of these movies will shoot back “Your Hindi movies are no better” as if I own the Hindi film industry. Why can’t we give up this “mine” and “your” and look at it as “our”? Is it that difficult to unite as Indians first? Have we forgotten our history when British took advantage of this very fact and successfully implemented their “Divide and Rule” policy?

It’s high time we realise that above 28 States and scores of languages, we are a part of ONE NATION. Making one billion people realize this is a Herculean task, but someone has to do it. WE have to do it, like Krish and Ananya did. To start off, we probably need to look up to Sardar Patel for inspiration for this. If he could unite 522 princely states to form a single entity called India, we can definitely unite and bring 28 States together and make one UNITED STATES OF INDIA.

* “Potluck” is a dinner party where everyone brings one dish to share.


  1. hey buddy! good thoughts.. btw change ur blog bkgrnd re.. ekdum "blue" indian mood main hai kya?? :P

  2. You know, Hindi is not the national language of our country..and this made me realize that probably the problem is even deeper down and more technical.
    Although I agree with you that we need to 'change' our current way of biasing ppl based on caste and creed..but do you think it doesn't happen here?

  3. First thing first, Hindi is not our national language. It is not accepted by the non Hindi states and they were not consulted before that ordinance was passed. It is an anomaly of the constitution. Secondly, there is no such thing as an Indian culture. We are Tamilians, Punjabi's, Marathi's etc. Together we make India. We are united because in this set up our regional and true identity is preserved. We get into trouble when we forget that and begin asserting our regional identity over other regions. That leads to disharmony in this association of different cultures that is India. Which is why, the bogey of "Indian" culture has never gone down too well with the masses. People do not identify with an Indian culture because there is no Indian culture as such. Except perhaps Cricket and the General Elections. Look at this way and things will fall in place. The 28 plus states of India stay together to preserve their (regional) culture. Do not take our unity for granted. Look where the BJP is now. They tried to impose Indian culture and got the boot. There was a strong message in that from the electorate.

    Do not worry about the Thackerays. The Marathi's instinct for self preservation will teach them a lesson like they did this elections.

  4. @Jagged Edge

    So glad to see you here in spite of your super-busy schedule! >:D<

    Background will be changed as requested by you :)

    @ Thought

    Well, atleast officially Hindi IS the National Language of India. Just because it is not your and my mother tongue it doesn't mean we can overlook the facts.

  5. @ Anonymous

    As I said above, officially Hindi IS the National Language of India, like it or hate it. Everyone would want his/her mother tongue to be the National Language but is it possible? The Constitution provides for a National Language so that it can act as a bridge for communication between people of different mother tongues. So, why don't all the non-Hindi people (myself included) take an effort to learn Hindi rather than sticking to "my-language-is-superior-to-Hindi-so-why-should-I-learn-Hindi" attitude?

    And for once, if we accept your argument that there is no such thing as India, it is just Tamilians, Punjabis, Marathis packed under a single nation, then in that case shouldn't we go the USSR way and divide India into 28 nation-states so that all different "cultures" are independent? Do you support this?

  6. Good one!!!
    This regional bias haunts us Indians in any part of the globe.

    First of all, its better to stop regional chauvinism and quit this myopic thought process of 'my region is the best'. All cultures and regions are treated as equal by the constitution and it is not biased towards any culture or region.

  7. WTF man!! Sheesh we're Indians goddammit! Wonder what makes people do the your hindi my whatever thingy to each other, especially being SO far away from home!

  8. I had once thought of "CITIZENS OF THE EARTH" identity, instead of any individual IDs, but it seems this wish is sitting at PLUTO distance from the reality, neway nice thoughts ....

  9. Hindi, national language? What a laugh. It wont be accepted in a million years by us south Indians. And I am a very patriotic Indian too. I agree with the anonymous. It is our desire to preserve our cultures that makes us Indians cling together. And that is why it is difficult to break us apart. Our regional identity and instinct for self preservation is too strong. We have learned our lessons from history!

  10. @Sree

    Aah! Here we go again! You provided perfect example of the point I am trying to make. What's with this "we south indian" thing? Do you think you guys are some prisoners of war forced to live in an alien country that you have to talk like a rebel about "preserving our culture"? What makes you think learning Hindi would make you destroy "your culture"? I myself do not speak Hindi as my mother tongue but that does not mean I go around saying I-wanna-preserve-my-culture. Dude, learning a new language doe NOT damage your culture, it only helps to spread the culture further among people who were unaware about it due to language barrier. Okay, I take you point that Hindi might not be National Language, but it is "Official Language" of India atleast, and that is for a reason. The idea behind having one official language to give people of different cultures and different languages a common means to communicate and unite. Don't you agree to this?

  11. As everyone is aware, the fact that Hindi is chosen as the national language is a highly controversial one - one that hurt many sentiments. I certainly support the national integration cause, but the fact is that cultural differences are deeply entrenched in our minds - whether its a good thing or bad, even I am confused. Certainly, I am proud of my culture & way of life of a average south Indian, but on the other hand I am aware of the rich cultural heritage of the entire country. Anyway, many a dissertation has been done in every major US university on this issue - and we can go on discussing this at length, over & over again, without coming to a conclusion ever. But, I guess it makes less of a difference for people like us - I mean , in general the country's educated youth, who travel, read, hear & see the world with a much wider viewpoint. The other set of people (I am not referring to India's illiterate population) - But if you go to Tier B towns in India, & talk to say, an arts graduate, his or her's routine is so steeply soaked in regional elements, that they will find it difficult to shake it off & approve any other language/tradition overnight.

    One such interesting article on India's national language is referenced here:

    Anyway, Karan - it was a good read. Looking forward to more such Gyantalk :)

  12. @Anonymous, Sree, KK

    I fail to understand why all of you have been saying that Hindi as the official language of India is "a laugh" "highly controversial" and "hurt sentiments".

    Here are the figures from Census of India, 2001 depicting number of Indian citizens speaking a particular language-

    Hindi : 42,20,48,642
    Bengali : 8,33,69,769
    Telugu : 7,40,02,856
    Marathi : 7,19,36,894
    Tamil : 6,07,93,814
    Urdu : 5,15,36,111
    Gujarati : 4,60,91,617
    Kannada : 3,79,24,011
    Malayalam : 3,30,66,392
    Oriya : 3,30,17,446

    So, tell me now, if you were given the responsibility to choose a National/Official Language of India, what would be the most logical choice?

    @ KK

    Care to explain how the decision to choose a language spoken by 42% of the country as the Official Language amount to "hurting sentiments"? According to you, what should have been the official language of India so as to not hurt sentiments? Or do you suggest we should not have any official language, there is no need to unite the citizens by a common language because we prefer living as North Indians, South Indians, East Indians etc? Do you approve the idea of dividing India like USSR? Would that, in your opinion, be a good idea so as to not hurt anyone's sentiments?

  13. We have a very huge population base speaking other languages - the figure is in millions. Just because Hindi is majority, probably doesn't justify why you should impose it over people who do not wish to learn it. Learning a language is a choice, majority of people speak in Hindi, so that doesn't automatically empower Hindi as a national language.

    Personally, I have nothing against Hindi - I like Kabir's doha's, Dinakar's thought provoking poems, and Bhishm Sahni's satire of an average Indian's attempt at westernization.

    All I say is, accept Hindi as yet another language, without insisting that it be classified with special powers. Leave it to personal choice.(It doesn't hurt my sentiments anyway, but circa 1962 AD. it hurted many many people in India - surprisingly, including many from the Hindi heartland)

    Btw, what's the official language of Singapore ?

  14. Blue Indian,

    We think regionally but have a national conscience. That is what sets us apart from the USSR. We were not forced to be part of the Indian union. It was a choice as that ensures our regional identity is preserved and our patriotism also stems from that fact. I feel fiercely patriotic because this union keeps my region safe and respects my cultural sentiments. Thats the secret of our unity. Which is why no one can tear us apart. We will fight back hard for our existence is linked with India's existence. Today I can safely say, that disintegration of India will never happen. The last elections proved that forces that promote regional and religious chauvinism will not be tolerated. It was a self preservation instinct. To see that nothing threatens the Union of Indian States. "Unity in Diversity" wasn't coined for nothing. And lastly, todays news carried an interesting article. That English is now the preferred medium of instruction around the country, replacing Hindi. The people of India have spoken!

  15. @KK

    Why do you look at it as "imposing over someone who does not want to learn it"? On the contrary, why don't you look at it as a gateway to interact with people who do not speak your native language? You did not answer one simple question I asked - if you were to choose ONE COMMON LANGUAGE that can act as a bridge for people of India of varied mother-tongues to unite and communicate with each other, which one would you choose?

  16. Karan,

    At the outset, apologies for this delayed and long reply, but this is something I had to reply to since it something I feel very strongly about.

    The beauty of Indian culture (pardon me for using the term) lies in its composite nature. When each region of India has its own unique characteristics, be they language, dress, cuisine or anything else, why should they not be proud of that identity? Accepting one's own ethnic identity can be done without forsaking one's nationality - the first would be a subset of the second.

    At the same time, folks in Andhra/Karnataka/Kerala/Tamil Nadu desist from learning and/or communicating in Hindi and call it “language of North Indians” conveniently forgetting the fact that it is the National Language first.

    Having studied the official language movement and the Anti-Hindi agitations as a part of my history course, I can tell you for certain that Hindi was not a unanimous choice for national language. You will be interested to know that when the Constituent Assembly was debating the official language to be adopted by the union, the Congress party was split down the middle over choosing Hindi or English. Eventually, Hindi prevailed by a single vote. The Congress then voted unanimously in the Constituent Assembly, and the rest as they say is history.

    The problem which most South Indians (or to be politically correct, Indians hailing from the southern half of the country), had with the imposition of Hindi as the 'national' language in 1965 was simply that it was attempted to be forced down their throats, without any consensus or consideration. Remember that for people from this region, Hindi then was as alien a language as English.

    Merely because two-fifths of a country's population speaks Hindi doesn't give one the license to force the remaining three-fifths to accept it as well. That would be analogous to stating that because 80% of Indians are Hindu, India should adopt Hinduism as its official religion and that the remaining 20% should also become Hindu.

    I had come expecting that here in an alien nation, 15,000km from our motherland, all Indian students would be living as one united group representing the country as a whole.

    It’s high time we realise that above 28 States and scores of languages, we are a part of ONE NATION. Making one billion people realize this is a Herculean task, but someone has to do it.

    Unity does not imply uniformity. In order to be part of 'ONE NATION', I see no need to forsake one's individual identity. This kind of homogenisation is what leads to seccessionist movements, insurgencies and anti-national sentiments. If every section of the population has the assurance that they will be accepted as part of the national community, notwithstanding their differences from the 'majority', we will have no problems in maintaining our unity and integrity. Do not the same people who insist on 'Tamil' and 'Telugu' potluck dinners not stand united when they sing the national anthem or hoist the national flag on August 15? Or cheer as a whole for the Indian cricket team when it is playing a match?

    That, my friend, is the true meaning of 'unity in diversity'. And one of the Fundamental Duties in our Constitution states:

    "It shall be the duty of every citizen of India - to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture" (emphasis supplied)

    Only when we truly follow this in letter and spirit, will we be able to achieve complete national integration - when we learn to respect others and recognise that we are not only united in our diversity, but also diverse in our unity.

  17. Manish,

    Well said!!


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