The Tamil movement: a global perspective

Recently, this post has been circulating on my Facebook feed, and while I’m on the same side of the fence as the guy who wrote it, I found his post a little hostile. For decades, Indians have been debating the national language issue, and there’s hyper linguistic fervor on both ends. I’ve tried to approach it from a nuanced perspective, but I’m not going to kid myself into believing this will silence all critics.

Chennai won’t speak Hindi. Not entirely true, but it’s truer than saying that of Bangalore or Hyderabad or Bombay. All three cities belong to states which use languages other than Hindi and English for official and government purposes. Are we fanatics for doing so? Not really, but to address this question, we need to look outside our own borders, because humans are capable of looking at other people’s problems more objectively than their own.

First, some facts: Hindi is not recognized by the Indian government as the national language of India. No language is. The official languages of India are Hindi and English, one of which have to be compulsorily used by all central government officials as well as Members of Parliament. States are allowed to add or remove any language of their choosing for state government work as well as in their Legislative Assemblies.

Language is an issue in every country whose citizens speak more than one language and/or are required to adopt global languages to improve their economy and standard of living. India’s linguistic issues are more volatile than many of these countries, but the problem itself is the same by definition: A more dominant language (by number of speakers or soft power) is required to be adopted by speakers of a less dominant language, and this causes disenchantment. Let’s take a look at some of these countries (note that my knowledge comes only from reading many many articles online, and I haven’t been to most of the countries below), but be warned, this will take a while.

U.K.: The country is composed of four states/nationalities, each of which has its own linguistic identity- England which speaks English, Scotland which speaks Scots and Scottish Gaelic apart from Scottish English, Wales which speaks Cymraeg (known to us as Welsh), and Northern Ireland which speaks Irish Gaelic. There are intense political movements for separatism in each of these regions, but they’ve only been able to put up a resistance against the government of England, and not the language of England. This is because English is far too dominant a language for anyone to resist, and so these regional languages have a low number of native speakers who can speak them fluently, and most people have switched to a standard regional form of English which borrows words from their respective languages. Not a desirable situation for the promotion of regional languages, but the political movements have received considerable success. All four regions are autonomous, and the U.K. is a weird combination of nation states. You’ll find separatist sentiments in each region but the linguistic identities of the regions are questionable.

Spain: There are at least six languages with roots in Spain, but only two apart from Spanish have considerable political backing- Catalan and Basque, so I’ll talk only about them here. Catalan is spoken in the Catalonia region of Spain, where the capital city is Barcelona, as well as the Catalonia region of France, where there isn’t much support for the movement. Catalonia in Spain, too, is an autonomous entity, and the Basque independence movement is clamoring for more autonomy as well. The difference between here and the U.K. is that these two regions have preserved the linguistic identities of their cities. The differences between these two regions are the means they used to achieve their ends and the degree to which they’ve been successful. The flag of Spain is routinely burned in Basque region, and they have a hostile attitude towards anyone from Spain or speaking the Spanish language, sort of like Kashmir in India I guess. On the other hand, you can be a Spanish speaking person in Barcelona and live a comfortable life. After various political movements, Catalan is an integral part of the local culture. You cannot be entirely assimilated as a citizen until you learn the language. Has this affected them adversely? Not really. Barcelona is a huge contributor to Spain’s economy, it has a high standard of living, and while the people are demanding a separate country, they don’t resort to violence in order to achieve their ends. They’ve also become a little more benign towards Spain. An indicator of this is that many of the players in the Spanish football team are from FC Barcelona. If you think that’s a laughable indicator, look at how important cricket is to India’s culture. Football is the same thing in Spain. If the region proudly sends its citizens to wear the country’s colors, they’re assimilating at least to some extent. Scotland and Wales both have their own Olympic teams, so that tells you something as well. Also, go read up about the contributions of this football club towards Catalan culture. It’s a huge part of the Barcelona and Catalan identity.

Switzerland: It’s when I look at the Swiss that I get really riled up about the mess in India. The majority of the populace speaks French, German, and Italian. All three languages have equal official status in the central government, and the states are mostly divided on the basis of language. There is near zero friction, and most people are multi-lingual. Each region has its own linguistic identity, and the local governments are free to govern themselves using ONLY the regional language or additional nationally recognized official languages IF THEY WANT TO. In parliament, a member representing a region is allowed to talk in any one of these three languages, and no bones are made about it. If you’re a tourist in Switzerland, English works just fine. If you move to Zurich on a permanent basis though, you will be expected to learn German if you want to assimilate, but you can get by without French or Italian. If you move to Geneva, the same can be said about French.

Here’s what will surprise you about Switzerland. The number of native speakers of German is 64%. Contrast that with 39% for Hindi in India, and you begin to wonder why the huge amount of push to make it a national language was necessary. Switzerland is one of the most peaceful countries in the world because of their neutrality, but it doesn’t have any internal issues either, because despite its linguistic diversity, the members of the major linguistic community did not force their language on everyone else.

Oil rich Arab nations in the Gulf: These countries don’t have much linguistic diversity, but they have huge numbers of expatriates who stay there for a few years and leave, making it impossible for the country to function with Arabic alone. For a majority of these countries, Arabic is the sole official language for governmental work, and that’s fine because that’s the only language their citizens speak. However, if you’re an Arab living in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, it’s impossible for you to get around with only Arabic. Literally everyone in the service industry is an expat who doesn’t speak Arabic. If an Arab goes to a shopping mall or grocery store in his own country, he’ll probably need English to communicate. If he takes a taxi, chances are the taxi driver comes from Pakistan and he might even have to know a little Urdu. There isn’t a political movement behind this as far as I know, but most Arabs are very pissed off that they need to know a foreign language to survive in their own country.

If you’re a middle-class Indian, chances are you have a friend or relative who’s lived in the Gulf for decades and yet can’t speak any Arabic. Contrast that with an Indian who moves to France or Germany to complete his Master’s degree, and you’ll find he speaks at least broken French or German within a year, despite the fact that his course is in English, and the fact that the French and Germans speak excellent English. This is what the soft power of a language is. It doesn’t threaten you, but it makes you feel left out of society at large if you don’t speak it. What you see in The Gulf and Western Europe are completely natural human tendencies. You don’t do something unless you want/have to.

Hindi’s soft power is much greater than Tamil’s, and yet you won’t find it spoken much in Tamil Nadu. This is because while its soft power in Uttar Pradesh is much greater than Tamil’s in Tamil Nadu, Hindi’s soft power doesn’t extend into Tamil Nadu. When people tried in the past to force us to speak Hindi, that wasn’t soft power. That was a harsh move which would’ve resulted in increased soft power in the future. We didn’t let them extend that soft power into the state, because that would’ve reduced the soft power of Tamil. Allow me to explain how. Today, just like western Europe, we’ve made ourselves a society where you can be a tourist and survive with languages spoken in other states and countries, but if you want to live a full life and be regarded a “local” of the land, you need to know the local language. That wouldn’t be the case if everyone spoke Hindi. The debate that goes on is whether such a society is good for the nation at large and the region in particular.

Israel: This is a relatively young country, and their culture and language was developed artificially rather than organically. In 1948, Jews from across the world moved to Israel after the holocaust. A large number spoke Arabic and Yiddish, but many also spoke Russian, French, German, Polish, and English. Since it was a country formed on the basis of religion, they decided to take their religious language, Hebrew (their equivalent of Sanskrit), and make it their native and official language. There was a political movement where the government told the people to stop speaking their native languages and switch over to Hebrew, raise their children solely on Hebrew, and use it for all official work, private or government. The movement was very successful, and a language which had near zero native speakers now has over seven million native speakers in less than 70 years. They went as far as to invent words for complex modern concepts like radar, electrostatics and fluid dynamics and added it to this ancient language. Now Israelis can study university level science and technology in their native tongues.

However, here’s why it wasn’t entirely a good idea, and why it won’t work in India. There are a huge number of native speakers of Arabic in Palestine, and many of them have taken up Israeli citizenship (20% of the country’s total population) and some are members of parliament. They don’t share the same religious sentiments towards Hebrew, so both Arabic and Hebrew are recognized as official languages which can be used in parliament and government, even though Hebrew is the more dominant language in the region. Also, the present day leaders have realized the importance of diversity, so they’ve taken a u-turn and are telling citizens to speak their native tongues at home and use Hebrew in social interactions.

For those of you toying with the idea of making Sanskrit our national language and starting a movement to Sanskritize the nation so our culture is preserved, stop. Israel and India stand for two completely different things. Our country wasn’t formed on the basis of religion. It wasn’t formed on the basis of caste, language, ethnicity or ideology either. It’s a giant piece of land which over a billion human beings call their home, and that’s all we have in common with each other. No uniform rule will work in the entire country, so we might as well go with the diversity preservation option which we pay lip service to and Switzerland successfully implemented.

After this mini tour of the world, what do we see in common among all the differences and chaos? People aren’t content with hearing their language spoken ONLY at home. They want to be able to speak it on the streets, in the shopping mall and restaurants, in their kids’ playgrounds and parks, in schools and colleges, gossip at the office water cooler and strike up a casual conversation with a fellow traveler in a train or bus. They want magazines, newspapers, TV shows and movies, music and literature which can be consumed in their own language. If it didn’t affect their fortunes, they would even read and write research papers and conduct official transactions in that language. Most of all, they want their cities, towns, and villages to be associated with that language. There are different methods people in various parts of the world used to achieve it, and the Tamil way was to keep Hindi as an option, and not a compulsion.

The lesson to be learnt is, if you push a language on another linguistic group, expect them to push back. And push back we did. Now, let’s address the cause and effects of many of the problems people say originate because of this attitude of Tamilians.

1) Chennai makes me feel unwelcome because no one speaks Hindi

There’s a problem with your attitude, not ours. You can very easily survive in Chennai without speaking Tamil, and I have friends who’ve lived here for decades without speaking a word of Tamil. The only trouble they face is that they’re never truly regarded as belonging to Chennai despite living here all their lives, because they don’t speak the language, and they complain about that no end. If you belong to that category, here’s some news for you: the ultimate test of whether or not you belong to any city in India is how well you speak the lingo. People try to prove they’re Mumbaikars by speaking the tapori Hindi of Bombay, and they show-off their Delhi-ness by speaking the Punjabified Hindi of the capital. They show they’re Hyderabadi by speaking Deccani Hindi, and they prove they’re Bangaloreans by inserting a few words like chumma and da while speaking English/Hindi, and some Kannada swear words.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Madras Tamil. If you claim to be from Chennai, we will test your knowledge of this dialect mercilessly to see if you’re really one of our own. It’s got borrowed words from Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Urdu, and has grown completely organically. Chennai isn’t unique in having its own lingo as a metric to measure how “born and raised” you are. We just use the indigenous language instead of borrowing another language, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

In addition, I maintain that Madras Tamil, a dialect we’ve grown to love, developed to the extent it has now mainly because the city doesn’t speak much Hindi. If we had made Hindi compulsory, the same thing which happened in Bangalore and Hyderabad would’ve probably happened in Chennai too, and the lingo would’ve been a southern version of Hindi with a few borrowed words from Tamil. That’s not good enough for us.

2) If you’re not a Tamilian by birth, you aren’t treated as an equal because they’re linguistic fanatics

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If there’s one thing I can absolutely vouch for about Chennai, it’s that they don’t care where you’ve come from as long as you make an effort to assimilate. The Marwaris of Sowcarpet, the Sardars who own auto spare part shops in Pudupet, and the Gujarati businessmen who own clothing and jewellery stores are an integral part of Chennai, and are considered true blue citizens, even if we address them as “Seth-u” or “Singh-u”. We also call Tamil Muslims “Bai” even though they’re Tamilians, so it’s not a mark of disrespect or xenophobia. It’s just a community identity, which sadly everyone has in India.

It’s also amazing when you see a Sardar speaking Tamil fluently, and they’re one of us as soon as they start learning Tamil. Those who’ve been around for a couple of generations marry into their own community like everyone else in India, but they prefer other members of their community who were born and raised in Chennai, because they’ve become Tamilized to some extent and aren’t comfortable marrying someone from the other end of the country. Most of them love Chennai and consider it their permanent home rather than a stopgap, and they’re able to do so because they speak Tamil fluently.

That was Chennai, now if you look at the rest of Tamil Nadu, you also have members of linguistic groups living in the towns and villages since god-knows-when. Cuddalore Telugus, Coimbatore Malayalis, Tanjore Marathis, and Madurai Saurashtrians have been around since before living memory, and while they continue to speak their native tongues with family, they don’t expect us to bend to their will and speak their language. You won’t find any difference between their Tamil and the Tamil spoken by a Tamilian living in their city. Walk into their houses and you’ll find Tamil newspapers and magazines on the coffee table, and Tamil serials running on their TVs. Their kids even study Tamil as a second language in school. Ask one of them innocently, “Are you from (insert state)?”, and the indignant reply will be “No! I’m from (insert city in Tamil Nadu).” Now THAT is assimilation.

If you still need any more proof, you can look up our political big-wigs and actors. MGR was a Malayali who migrated to Tamil Nadu to become an actor, and he served as our Chief Minister for ten years! In present day, Vijayakanth is a politician who comes from a Telugu speaking family in Madurai, and he heads the third largest party in Tamil Nadu which has created huge waves in the political sphere. Jayalalithaa, the present CM, is from a Tamil Family but she was born in Mysore and raised in Bangalore before she moved to Tamil Nadu. Need I even mention Rajnikanth?

So we don’t just make you one of us; we’ll actually let you rule over us and decide our futures if you learn our language and become one with the local population. If that’s not good enough for you, nothing ever will be.

3) Auto drivers cheat you in Chennai if you don’t know Tamil

We apologize for our auto drivers. No one should be made to go through that, and we will not defend them for even a second. However, their Tamil identity is not the reason they cheat you; they’re just crooks in general. We’re not much better off with them just because we know Tamil. A hapless soul from Trichy can get off a train in Egmore station and climb on to an auto without asking for the going price, and that itself is a sure fire way to get cheated. In addition, if he says Anna, naan oorukku pudhusu” (brother, I’m new to the city) in perfectly good Tamil, he’s not going to receive any brotherly love from the auto driver. He’s going to be taken for a spin around the city and charged four times the regular price, just like you.

The only way out of being cheated is asking someone who knows the going rate for that distance, and drive a hard bargain before you get into the vehicle. There are people I know who don’t speak any Tamil but know their way around Chennai, and they manage to avoid getting cheated.

Any reform attempted by the government against the autos fails, and Chennai’s autos will continue to be horrible in the foreseeable future. If you’re planning on moving to Chennai and want a fast means of transport without getting into crowded buses, I would seriously suggest getting your own scooter or bike. It’s the best investment you’ll make when you’re around.

4) I work in the service industry in Tamil Nadu and I’m being forced to learn Tamil

First of all, no one is forcing you. It’s just a necessity for you because it’s your duty to make your customers happy. Secondly, Good for you. You’re learning a new language, and your assimilation process just sped up 10x. You’ll also make more money, and I’m sure you’re not complaining about that. We’ve grown the soft power of Tamil within our region and we’re proud of it.

A Tamilian at home happily speaks Tamil, and he’ll learn English and Hindi if he wants to or needs to. If he moves to any other state, he doesn’t expect Tamil to be spoken there, and he surrenders completely to the local culture. On the other hand, a Kannadiga in Bangalore, a Maharashtrian in Mumbai, or a Telugu in Hyderabad just can’t survive knowing only his native tongue. He’ll keep finding himself in situations where he needs Hindi, and he’s as pissed off as the Arabs in Dubai. When I studied engineering in Karnataka, I learnt Kannada purely out of an academic interest. Otherwise, I could live a perfectly comfortable life knowing Hindi and English. In Chennai though, I can walk up to a U.P. or Bihari employee at Adyar Ananda Bhavan (a fast food chain in Tamil Nadu) and place an order for pani puri in Hindi, and he’ll reply in Tamil, because he knows he needs to learn the language. North-Eastern Indians can be found in huge numbers in Tamil Nadu, and many of them pick up Tamil within a year or two.

5) Tamilians are anti-national

No, you’re a hyper-nationalist who thinks being Indian means speaking Hindi, and that was the exact reason for the anti-Hindi movement in the first place. In 1946, R.V. Dhulekar, who later became a Member of Parliament representing Jhansi in U.P., declared in the Indian Constituent Assembly (drafting board of the constitution): “People who do not know Hindustani have no right to stay in India. People who are present in the House to fashion a constitution for India and do not know Hindustani are not worthy to be members of this assembly. They had better leave.” Statements of this sort were what elicited strong reactions from Tamil Nadu and its leaders, and could’ve avoided a lot of trouble for all of us.

We are a very patriotic people, and we are 100% Indian, but we will not let anyone hold us hostage to calling ourselves Indian only if we learn another language. If you don’t consider us Indian, you’re the separationist, not us. We hoist the flag high and sing the national anthem proudly, even though it’s in Bengali. Talk to your friends who are in the armed forces and you’ll find that we have significant representation in the Indian Navy. Politicians in Maharashtra and Karnataka both have a history of beating up and abusing migrant laborers or other immigrants from neighboring states for “taking away their jobs”. We don’t do that and hopefully never will, because we’re secure knowing that Tamil lives strong.

6) India has 22 recognized languages. How will we communicate without a common language?

We are aware of that issue. We’re a small region and our economy isn’t self-sufficient. That is exactly why we’ve accepted English to a large extent (the difference being WE chose English whereas Hindi was chosen for us by someone else). You can go to small towns in Tamil Nadu and get by with very little difficulty if you know English. The only people who find it impossible to navigate the state are the ones who know neither English nor Tamil. They tend to be from states which are in the hinterland of central India where there isn’t much penetration of English and the attitude is that everyone should speak Hindi. I’ll be ok because I can speak Hindi, but someone who knows only English and Tamil will not be able to navigate Gwalior, Allahabad or Patna. The onus is on the citizens of these parts to learn English, not because it’s their duty to help us (we’ll manage) or because they’ll need to come to Tamil Nadu at some point (they may not), but because they need it for themselves if they want to live a fuller life in today’s technology oriented world. No one can stop the force that English is right now.

7) But what is your problem with Hindi?

Nothing at all, as long as it isn’t forced upon us. I can speak for myself and many of my friends when I say that we know just how beautiful a language Hindustani is, and how much it has contributed to art in India. Apart from Hindi, there are three regional languages in India which are also known for their literature and poetry: Malayalam, Bengali, and Tamil. They are also found in the three states of India where you’ll find lesser Hindi, to varying degrees, compared to other states. Bengalis are a very intellectual crowd, and are not opposed to Hindi, but their language is very rich in literature, so there’s a “pull” factor for them to learn it. Life isn’t difficult in West Bengal without Bengali, but it makes things a lot easier if you know it. Malayalis also have a history of prolific writers, and they write powerful philosophical tomes in their native tongues. It’s more difficult for them to learn Hindi compared to Bengalis. They didn’t have any political movements against it, but it’s still very difficult to get by in Kerala without knowing either Malayalam or English. Tamil is one of the oldest surviving languages in the country, and it has a body of work that rivals Greek and Latin. I’ve already explained in detail about the state of Hindi in Tamil Nadu. Despite being so rich in heritage, not many people who aren’t native speakers try to learn any of the three because they are regional languages. The only thing we can do is try and make the migrant population at home speak our language by whatever ethical and legal means possible, and all three regions have achieved considerable success with the same.

So you may ask, why can’t we be like Malayalis or Bengalis? They’ve promoted their languages without opposing Hindi. My answer is a question: how many Indians look at Kerala or West Bengal as viable destinations to immigrate to? They have a history of governments which opposed industry and development, and large numbers of their own populace have left home for greener pastures because they couldn’t find jobs. Their languages continue to be a large part of their cities’ identities because there aren’t too many Indians from other states living there. Tamil Nadu is unique that way. We have very strong manufacturing, IT, and service industries despite the fact that Hindi isn’t spoken here, and the same model can be implemented elsewhere if they try. If you graduated from a decent engineering college in India with quality campus placements, chances are at least a few of your friends were posted to Chennai/Tamil Nadu, which shows how many jobs are available and continue to be created here.

In short, we succeeded where the Welsh, Scots, Irish, Arabs, Kannadigas, Telugus and Maharashtrians have all failed, and we avoided the side effects which the Basque, Malayalis and Bengalis are suffering. You can’t expect us to apologize for being successful, and we won’t. The only other place in the world which has achieved this more successfully is Catalonia in Spain, and even they did it only by threatening to form a new country. Chennai is no Barcelona, but that’s only because India is no Spain. The reason we succeeded was because we faced the problem head-on before it got out of hand. Political parties in Maharashtra and Karnataka resort to violence against immigrants to achieve the same end, and fail. These parties only lose the vote of their own linguistic groups and get a tarnished image with the media because while the people want to promote their language, they don’t condone violence. In any case, violence doesn’t get the language to be spoken more often in their cities. Tamil Nadu’s power-houses tackled the problem at the centre as well as the state, and formed a strong opposition to the national language brigade which said Hindi alone should be used as an official language in India, and rightly so. Our leaders are the main reason why you still have the option of carrying out government work in English instead of Hindi, and I’m sure many of you agree that’s for the best. Imagine the nightmare of filling out a driving license form or bank document in Hindi.

So move to Chennai, and we’ll welcome you with open arms*.

*subject to terms and conditions.

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88 responses to “The Tamil movement: a global perspective

  • Anonymous

    I 100% agree with this article and i am very proud to be born and lived out of Tamil Nadu. mPlease note that my mother tongue is Telugu but i have no relations with Andhra. I work in Bangalore for last 16 years and i proudly say that my mother tongue is Tamil when someone asks. Period.

    • aniramzee

      @Anonymous: I know many people just like you, and you guys are frikkin awesome! It just goes to show that Tamil Nadu will claim you as one of its own, but only if you claim to be a son of the soil in the first place.

  • koperstraw

    That was very nicely written, thank you. My sense of laughter, romance and philosophy are (is?) nourished by Tamil in it’s own special way. It’s the language which houses my innermost thoughts – which is true of anyone’s childhood tongue, I think. We have trouble enough communicating sense with each other in this country of ours without having to add language elitists to the mix.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and a neat formula a friend and I came up with auto bargaining – x, x/3, 2x/3. If the autowalah asks x, you ask for x/3 and he’ll settle for 2x/3. Works in most cases 🙂

  • kathir

    This is very nicely written.
    I really admire the way its been justified with genuine comparison with the foreign countries with their brief history, their language & their culture.
    I also have a small doubt when you said “”Bangaloreans by inserting a few Kannada words like chumma and da while speaking English/Hindi.””
    I think the words ‘Chumma’ & ‘da’ are actually Tamil words & not Kannada. I have heard many people using these words while speaking English/ Hindi Or even Kannada. Anyway this entire explanation of yours gives a clear idea about the culture of Madras & the rest of TN for a non-Tamilian or a non-Chennaitte/ Tamil Nadu and also provokes people to learn to learn that local language where ever they are.

  • kathir

    & forgot to mention..
    ‘Thanks’ …
    ..for this GK !

  • Vignesh

    Chennai is where the true india lives!

  • innamburan

    I welcome this excellent article of yours, Badri. May I write a Critique?
    Innamburan

  • Nash

    well written machan

  • Karthik

    I might be wrong but, the so-called anti-hindi movement was more of political gimmick that few people used to get power.. back then i guess there werent many issues that they could have fought with and they made this as an issue.. Had the parties, which raised slogans against hindi, been in power, i guess there would have been a smaller movement against hindi.. that said i dont think this movement evoked any new linguistic fervour.. it was already there… al it did was to emphasise the fact that u can survive without hindi.. and fortunately or unfortunately culled the growth of hindi as a language at schools..

    • aniramzee

      @Karthik:
      You’re not wrong. It was a huge political opportunity and they took it, but I wouldn’t dismiss it as a gimmick. There was a lobbying group in Delhi which wanted to remove English from all government and official work for central and state governments. That had to be opposed and it was. It was more than just anti-Hindi. It was pro-English too.

  • gnani

    there is a factual errror . it is not true that india does not have a nationa language.the government of india as per the constitution of india has recognised more than 14 languages as national lanaguages. hindi, tamil, bengali,malayalam etc are all national languages. hindi and english are the official languages. normally the official language is confused with national and vice versa. and to add one more fact of history : when hindi was thrust on the whole country as official language it was resisted mainly by tmailnadu and jawaharlal nehru officially declared in the parliament that along with hindi, english will be the ofificla nd link language as long as the non-hindi speaking people o f india want it that way. – gnani, writer and journalist chennai

  • Ashok

    I would say that rather being a global perspective on The Tamil Movement, it’s a narrow minded and biased approach to it. If the writer feels that it is because of language, TN is a viable destination for ’emigration’, I would say “buhahaha”… Well you might want to look at the success story of Gujarat (btw without opposing any language)…

    • aniramzee

      @Ashok:
      Narrow minded? Are you saying all the other countries I mentioned in the article are narrow minded? Agreed, Gujarat didn’t oppose any language. But come down south and compare the level of English spoken here and compare it to English in Bihar, Gujarat, or Uttar Pradesh. You can’t survive without Hindi in Lucknow, but you can survive with English or Tamil in Chennai. Would you call the entire Hindi speaking hinterland narrow-minded because they haven’t promoted English effectively? Or would you say they needn’t learn it because they speak the national language? If you think the latter is true, you’re more narrow-minded than any of us.
      Also, I said Chennai is a viable destination DESPITE the language issue and not because of it.

      • Ashok

        @aniramzee:
        This is where you get narrow-minded. Who said you can not survive in Lucknow without English? (Unless you went there in 70s :D). My point is language should not be a tool to play politics and to create hatred among people. Learn your mother tongue (whatever it is, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil…), and learn English as the common language. But things have to be made complicated for politicians to divide and rule, and you and me fall prey to it… 🙂

        • aniramzee

          Yeah, I admitted that was false in another comment. Care to read it? There’s a difference between being narrow-minded and not knowing something. Even if Luucknow, a state capital and a big city, does speak English, the amount of penetration of English in U.P. is lower than in most other parts of the country.
          Who said anything about creating hatred? This was about individual choice.
          And the only way you can prevent yourself from falling prey to politics is by not taking any interest in politics, and hence the affairs of your nation.

  • Ashok

    PS: emigration is in quotes because I think the writer meant ‘immigration’… Well in that sense, the writer might be correct… 😀

  • Don'tCare

    Reads well. Great research. Thanks!

  • Vijay

    Hello Mr. Gnani,

    The constitution talks about “Official Languages” and recognizes “Official Languages” at the Central and State level – Chapter XII, Article 343. As far as I can tell there is nothing specific in the constitution that explicitly defines “National Language”.

    “Nation” in a legal sense references a group of people with common Language or Religion or Race. India is a Union of multiple nations and not a single nation. By its very definition, people who speak a common language have a national language and this means there is more than 14 national languages.

    In the constitution, the term “Official” is used and not “National”. “Union” is used to reference the Central Government and not the “Union of India” as a whole.

    http://www.constitution.org/cons/india/p17343.html

    -Vijay.

  • Vijay

    Correction:

    PART XVII, Chapter I, Article 343 🙂

  • Ashwin

    Thank you for such a nice article. I would like to add my views on the usage of regional languages and economic development.
    I personally feel that promotion of regional language will promote local economic devrlopment. I would speak atleast in a narrow sense, “economic development through technology”.
    A technology based economic development will require wide spreading of technical knowledge among the masses. We can either do it through a single language, in the case of india, logically, through english, or according to largest spoken language, hindi or in regional language. instead of pointing out the pros and cons of doing it in english or hindi, i will say the pros of doing it in a regional language.
    Point 1:
    We will develop core competencies in different parts of the country, therefore avoiding a situation of putting all our eggs in the same basket.
    Point 2 :
    The last person in the technology chain will be able to analyse the technology with more depth when he does it in his mother tongue.
    Point 3:
    A large number of innovation is probable and products which are optimised for local requirement will lead to advancements in technological prowess.

    Point 4:
    It will be difficult for multi national companies to dump their technology on us as they will find it difficult to economically enter each regional market basically.

    Point 5 :
    The gap between the university or academic world and industry will reduce to a large extent. This will lead to universities taking part in industry relevant research.

    Point 7 :
    Technology advancement in regional language will lead to growth of liberal arts education to spread the technological knowledge to the masses creating growth in different sectors of the society.

    Point 8:
    The class system will break down in the technology industry sector leading to advancement of the whole society and india will not lose its precious human resources to western countries
    Now is this possible?
    Yes. Look at europe. Each country works on its technological research in its local language and they are now the best in many fields of technology with enhanced quality of life.

    When we have such a wide range of advantages in promoting regional languages only within technology, imagine the benefits on the society as a whole.
    I would like to hear other people’s opinion on this.

    • aniramzee

      @Ashwin: I agree with every one of your points, but the sad thing is we missed the opportunity. It was the laziness of my grandfather’s and my father’s generation which has led to us using only English for academic work. To spread technology in a regional language, you need to make some improvements to the language itself. In the case of Israel, they sat down and invented words for “computer”, “fluid dynamics” and the like, so they’re able to perform research in those languages. Technology based education has arrived relatively recently in India. If we had made a conscious effort to develop our own languages instead of using the existing infrastructure which English provided us, we could have benefited from everything you just mentioned. That’s not possible anymore though.

      • sp

        Anirudh: I have a different opinion here. Though it MIGHT be good to ALWAYS invent words in Tamil, I think a better approach will be to use a combination. 1. Find Tamil equivalents if already available. (I am not competent to know if we have original Tamil word for dynamics. Let say it is x, then fluid dynamics = thirava x). 2. Invent Tamil words where it is easy. (I think it will be words which have a source or etymology or construction. Eg: Computer is from compute. Similarly, use the Tamil word for compute to create Computer. Kanithal to Kanini. Most important: 3. ‘Tamilicize’ words which are tough. That is Convert the words into Tamil sounds – just stick to the Mellinam, Idai.inam, Vallinam sounds. (Eg: Kaapi is easier than someone sitting and creating Kottai Vadi Katti Neer. (It is difficult for a small bunch of scholars to sit in Thanjavur or Madurai or wherever and try to invent words for every new word and get people to use it). This way Tamil will grow and at the same time contribute to diversity (through its soft sounds – we have ka but not ga, ta not da, etc.).
        Now on to why I think avoiding Hindi has been good. 1. I don’t have much experience or knowledge – but I find alliteration to be used widely in everyday communication in Chennai. That’s so beautiful and fun as well. And this I think is unique to Tamil. Also, I think the success of Tamil comedy channels and programs (esp. cinema variety) in Chennai is partially because of the wonderful language – ka.ka.ka po. As already mentioned, the soft sounds is melliflous and probably the language renders itself well to alliteration. (Though this alliteration is so widely used in tamil films, I see people constantly trying to construct it.) Again not sure, but probably we are the only ones whose enjoyment of patti manrams is partially because of the language (solomon papaya – ennaya, arumaiya sollitaan).

        • aniramzee

          @sp: Deivame! That made so much sense, I can’t think of even one point in argument. I agree we should develop the language while keeping its soul intact, and at the same time make it easy for everyone to relate to the new words.
          However, what is your opinion on providing higher education of technology intensive subjects in a Tamil medium?

        • Anonymous

          I especially agree with the Tamilicize part. That’s what the Japanese do too, with many of the words. Like ‘stereo’ is ‘sutereo’ and Taprerecorder is ‘Tēpurekōdā’. It makes learning the language MUCH easier. I do believe we do not compromise on the quality of the language in anyway by doing this! Hats off to you, for all the points you mentioned. This is a wonderful strategy indeed.

        • sp

          Anirudh: My opinion: We should give it a try as I think it leads to diversity, which makes life more enjoyable. For that, effort has to be from multiple sides. (We should not have a situation where a Tamil medium BE comes out and finds it difficult to get a job.) Now, what effect it will have on our economic growth (assuming we will have) – that needs a separate discussion.

    • Promote Linguistc Equality

      Very well written dude!!! Direction for our future is this, which can’t be done over night, it takes time. First of all we must strive to remove this idea of power language in the minds of people… The power language must not decide the future of real talents in every field, instead their ideas must speak. Language should not be hurdle for peoples recognition, that’s what happening in this country… To march towards civilized solutions, first we must achieve equality among languages in our country…. You are most welcome to join our group and guide us.

      “Promote Linguistic Equality” Facebook group, which is run by Telugu, Malyalam, Kannada, Tamil and Marathi friends…

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/PromoteLinguisticEquality/

      https://www.youtube.com/user/LinguisticEquality/videos

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Ashok,
    The IMMIGRATION into TN is not BECAUSE of tamil. The article merely states that Chennai/TN is OVERALL a desirable place to move into because of its industrial growth, at the same time it also preserves its languages. Whereas Kerala and Bengal, while being more tolerant to other languages is not all that great in comparison with TN with respect to industry development. That is why a lot of people move into Chennai rather than to Kerala, despite having to learn Tamil.

    And your pointing about the EMIGRATION error was a VERY ‘loser’ move.

    • Ashok

      Mr. Anonymous,
      Oh I did not realize this article was about “Industrial Growth” and not about language !! 😀
      You are correct about the “Emigration” part… why should we bother about the semantics of the word for a piece of ‘literature’, ri8? 😀

  • Anonymous

    Anirudh,

    Your effort was just fantastic! I would also like it if you could write on the pros/cons of having a neutral language like English for the entire country for communication in general. Whether we need it or not.

    Waiting for more awesomeness from you!

    • aniramzee

      @Aishwarya
      Thank you 🙂
      I’ll try writing about that next time, but my view is that just like Hindi, it’s not possible to get everyone to learn English as well. You won’t find much resistance to English in the south, but in the Hindi heartlands of U.P., M.P., and Bihar, people are satisfied knowing only Hindi and aren’t willing to try and learn English. Are we allowed to force them to learn English when we opposed their pushing Hindi on us? I don’t think we should do it, but maybe their state governments can.

  • Ashwin

    @aniramzee,
    It would be better if you referthe comment that you are replying to, to understand the context of your answers.

    I sincerely understand that we are to start from zero when it comes to developing technology in the regional language. But on the other hand, it will be considered a lost opportunity only if we do not put our energy henceforth to strive for it. I strongly believe that putting in the enormous amount of energy required to be put in developing words for fluid mechanics is worth taking rather to vent our failures on our older generations. Without economy, any nation will fall eventually. In this case, we in India, have lost not our nation in the physical sense, but in the intellectual sense and have made our country purely as a market for the rest of the world (western world, china, japan, east Asian countries).

    • aniramzee

      @Ashwin: Took care of the referencing. Hope it’s good now.
      The thing is, even if politicians and grassroots level workers put in the effort, English is entrenched in the minds of the educated. You can only give Tamil medium engineering education to the uneducated, and the English speaking hegemony in India will never give them jobs and they’ll continue to remain poor, so we’ll be doing them a disservice. It’s a vicious circle, and I can’t think of any effective way to promote education in Tamil without making it compulsory.

  • swamy

    There is one important point you missed it bro. All the north Indian states may not have problem in hindi as everything is derived from Sanskrit. Meaning.. When you learn Hindi, you can read punjabi/gujrati/marathi etc and vice versa. So its an advantage for them. Other south INdian languages like Kannada/Telugu/malayalam are also derived languages and have heavy influence of sanskrti despite having their own scripts. So you may not be able to read other south Indian languages by learning but you can certainly comprehend or converse ( Eg : when you say ‘Telugu baasha/ kannada baashe /malayalam bashe.. the word bashe is actually a sanskrit word which is also used in north India.. Similarly lot of words like namaskar to sarkar ) but its entirely different in Tamil. Tamil is one of the oldest language having its own sripts, grammer & vacabulary. It can survive without sanskrit influence. Thats y tamilians say ‘Tamizh Mozhi’. where the word Mozhi is not derived from any language. So its obviously forcing one alien language to some one else which is not recommend. However, Hindi can be learnt by tamilians provided if Hindi people are forced to learn atleast any one language other than their mothertongue which would give some sort of equality.

    • aniramzee

      There are certain dialects of Tamil which have huge Sanskrit influences. After the movements, there was also an effort to standardize Tamil and use the aboriginal Tamil word instead of the Sanskrit word. Those movements did not happen in the other three south Indian states, and that’s why they have more of a Sanskrit influence.
      And we don’t have to do anything quid pro quo. We aren’t asking for absolute language equality in the country because we know Hindi will be given a higher preference in the grand scheme of things. All we need to do is not oppose any languages and not force any languages from now on, and see how things go.

  • Rapster

    Reblogged this on Loony Goons and commented:
    Some things MUST be shared with others. Points to note – Auto drivers and points 6 and 7.

  • Promote Linguistc Equality

    Nice Article, which discusses Tamil Nadu as the case study, for achieving Linguistic equality in our country.

    Author of the article is most welcome to join our Facebook group, which is run by Telugu, Malyalam, Kannada, Tamil and Marathi friends…

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/PromoteLinguisticEquality/

    https://www.youtube.com/user/LinguisticEquality/videos

  • moonstruck18

    Brilliant post! 🙂
    Just two things:
    1. I can’t speak for WB, but as a Tamilian who lived in Kerala, I did experience mild hostility from (for want of a better term) the not-so-civilized folks there (name calling, mainly). Apart from that, I grew up friends who are from all over India. So, I’m not too sure about how reluctant Indians are to move into KL or WB, but yes, neither Trivandrum nor Kolkata is as popular as Chennai.
    2. I’ve never heard of the Kerala of West Bengal govts placing a blanket ban on Hindi being taught in their schools. Nonetheless, you cannot get by in KL without knowing Malayalam or at least, English- just as it is in TN. Very few people there speak Hindi. Maybe it’s primarily because of that incident, that people find the need to complain about TN, when the same situation exists in other states too…? Just trying to understand what the issue is here (:P) when we’ve been taking pride in our country’s diversity from time immemorial.

    • aniramzee

      @moonstruck18: Completely agree, and edited point number 7 to reflect what you just said about Kerala’s Hindi.
      Also, people aren’t reluctant to move to WB or Kerala, but they don’t have any opportunity to because there aren’t many jobs there.

  • Raj Thilak

    I would like to translate this article in Tamil with your permission. Please do mail me if its ok with you.

  • Anonymous

    A Good and detailed analysis BRO !!! Keep up the good work … Best wishes — Aravinth

  • thendral

    Found this link thru one of my friends who had shared it.
    Well, there are a ton of bloggers who ‘write’ well these days.Not to say that this post was not well written, I am just saying that the ‘written well’ part is implied.
    The content, the clarity of thought in your post is what that has impressed me :).
    It presents itself as a well-thought out, educated, intellectually-stirring and objective piece of writing.I have a read a few posts on this topic recently and have not found it satisfying enough. This one was great.
    Congratulations on succeeding (In my opinion) to answer this complex issue.
    I have been aching to write a post on this myself. My perspective was more on the Historical,Social side though.Anyhow, I am not sure
    if I would have been this successful though. You’ve got yourself a new follower 🙂
    I would be very interested to read comments from the non-tamil side

    • aniramzee

      @thendral: Wow. That was the best compliment I’ve received in a while. I might just print your comment out and frame it.
      I guess I was able to answer it well because I’ve been living abroad for the past two years, and it’s put a lot of my prejudices and political views in jeopardy because I get to view everything objectively as an outsider here. I guess Barathiyar was right when he said you have to travel outside of home if you wanna be able to do something for your land effectively.

  • thendral

    Knowledge/experiences can be aquired. But depending on HOW one processes it, the end-result is different. You can stay abroad for your entire life and still have a very narrow view…lol. You have ‘processed’ it all pretty well and the end-result is great 🙂

    • aniramzee

      @Thendral: Haha you just keep the “feel good” coming don’t you. And I’ve been waiting for some non-Tamil critiques too. So far there’s just been one comment from that side, and that was raging rather than critiquing.
      Do share this post with non-Tamilians who are capable of objective analysis of anything deriding the national language sentiments, and let me know what they say.

  • 5ab

    Boils my blood when someone mentions that punjabi and hindi have the same script. Unfortunately Punjab has not been able to do with the language what TN did with Tamil ( and the reasons are many) and language stands completely bastardised ( not the least because of bollywood)

    Other than my rant, well researched and good reading. Thanks for the effort mate.

    • aniramzee

      @5ab: Yeah I’ve seen a lot of Punjabis get pissed when people think they can speak the language after watching a couple of Bollywood movies. To its credit, it’s probably the most colorful language in north India, and you have a lot of wannabes trying to imitate Punjabi speech and culture, so take it as a compliment 🙂

    • aniramzee

      @5ab: I also just realized something I forgot to mention. Punjabi is no less than the other three regional languages when it comes to past greatness of poetry and literature. However, they’ve been able to sell their culture very well because of the “live life large” attitude of the people. Everyone in India eats Punjabi food, listens to the music and dances awkwardly. However, no one pays any heed to the Punjabi script and literature, and we’ve reduced Punjabiyat to bhangra and butter chicken. Tamil, Malayalam, and Bengali are more understated, so while our culture isn’t widespread, our literature continues to thrive. I guess this is at least partly because pretty much every native of Punjab speaks Hindi, although the Punjabi accent is considered “awesome” while the Madrasi accent is “hilarious”. One thing you’ve got going for you though is that you make everyone else like you. I’ve seen many south Indians married to Punjabis and one of my aunts is married to a Jat. All their kids have turned pure Punjabi.

  • Abhishek K

    You asked for it, here I am, a non-Tamailian. 🙂 I think wherever the issue and the debate started from, it’s gone haywire now. I have never experienced this first hand but as an average Indian, I’ve got many friends and relatives who are Tamilians and non-Tamilians in TN and in other states (Yes, being a north Indian, I think it’s worth mentioning that my family has tied relations with Tamil families, twice). So when I say this, I say it on behalf of almost all those non-Tamilians, “who are capable of objective analysis of anything”, that we just want Tamilians not to disrespect/dislike or have a hatred-full attitude towards Hindi. That does create a problem for so many of us who have to move to TN. And again when I say this, I am not addressing people like you or maybe 80% of Tamilians. This sentiment is for those (as you mentioned earlier) autowallas, shopkeepers, and others who create a fuss and be rigid not to ever speak Hindi and do think of it as something very cheap and of low standards. Even when they know some Hindi already and face a situation where they should respond in Hindi, but choose not to. That creates a problem. And an issue to divide masses. I don’t think the argument was ever about that every Tamilian (or Indian) should and must learn Hindi or prefer Hindi over English or their respective mother tongue. National language or classical language or not, it was all simply about addressing a small group of wrong people, then again another group of small people had to generalize it and screw it further. I don’t think this issue deserved this huge number of blogs, articles, status updates and debates. Still this article deserves every bit of digital space it holds. 🙂

    • aniramzee

      @abhishek: Well I agree some people have a hatred towards Hindi and I don’t condone that attitude. However, let’s not count the auto drivers as a demographic to measure anything because they’re rude to you even if you’re a scholar in Tamil. Some shopkeepers I agree do that but we’ve got supermarket chains where the employees are trained to be courteous, so it’s best just to avoid those shops and let them lose business to the maximum extent possible. They can keep their attitude towards Hindi in the same place where their unsold goods lie. Again I agree it’s not as simple as that but you get where I’m coming from.
      What I don’t agree with is that the issue was always about people looking at Hindi in a cheap way. You need to learn some background about the “one official language” lobbies and their opposition. The Hindi pracharak Sabha and Kendriya Vidyalayas started by central government don’t help either by pushing the “Hindi hamari rashtriya bhasha hai” nonsense.
      So in short, both sides are at fault in many ways, and an attitude shift is required on the part of citizens on both sides of the spectrum till we find a middle ground. But by virtue of the central government itself being de facto on Hindi’s side, I think Tamil Nadu should remain the final frontier of resistance to linguistic oppression.

      • Abhishek K

        I Again will say the same that I’m not at all generalizing all the autowallas or shopkeepers in the same category. I myself have met a few of them, very courteous and trying their best to make the communication easier by switching to how-much-ever Hindi they might know. They even sound cutely funny (in a good way) sometimes when they try their half-cooked Hindi. I don’t talk ‘politics’ much. All the stunts pulled by the central government and Hindi Pracharak Sabha or whatever, I see them as complete politically motivated manoeuvres. I bet, they had no intentions towards betterment of Hindi. That needed to be opposed indeed. That being said, “final frontier of resistance to linguistic oppression” is taking it to a bit too extreme.
        On another note, I belong to Gwalior and you may stand corrected that English has not penetrated there, but it’s still not impossible to navigate or to get by in Gwalior if you know English. It’s fast catching up and already has got enough exposure and now there are generations there, totally comfortable with communicating in English. You will find so many IT workers from Gwalior in every major city and that has impacted the locals too. You can easily shop for anything or get any kind of work done, all in English in almost 80 percent of Gwalior Market.
        Anyway, I rest all my arguments as I said I don’t find this issue worthy of such efforts.

        • aniramzee

          @abhishek:
          I guess I’ll agree with you on that. That statement did sound a little extreme. All I meant to say was that Hindi continues to receive a push, and someone should try and counter that with a push-back.
          Also, I’m sorry if I came across as ignorant about Gwalior. It’s where my mom was born, and she lived in Madhya Pradesh until she married my dad. She keeps telling us to appreciate the fact that we’re able to learn English so easily as she studied in a Hindi medium and picked up English only after moving south. I guess I was stuck in the past.
          My parents made me learn Hindi at a young age. I can see where they were coming from now because they were raised in a pre-liberalization era when everyone aspired to government jobs. Now, Hindi is definitely a bonus but it’s not a requirement if you want a good job.
          These articles aren’t tackling the issue in any way. No change will come in India no matter how well you blog. It has to be tackled only at a grass-roots level and cultural shift. The only thing we’re doing now is informing ourselves better, and I don’t think that’s so bad.

        • sp

          Anirudh: I have a bit different opinion on the last point you made. (Apologies I come back only with ‘different’ views.) I think there are three components in tackling this issue:
          1. Government: This is the most important of the three since they can have a huge impact (which is because they have enormous control over many things and enormous resources). Though it might not be too evident, the rule to have business name boards in Tamil and subsidy for full Tamil name movies to a certain extent (IMO) contributes to preservation of Tamil. Recently, Tamil Nadu Govt. placed an order for thousands of Laptop. Imagine if they had said “we want the laptop to have Tamil keyboard” I am sure companies would’ve created and supplied it. An immediate fillip to bring Tamil and IT together.
          2. People: Next important thing is the people. Though Govt. is important, if people are not interested/involved, the effort to promote will fail. Imagine a ruler coming and compelling us to learn Hindi. At the most till his lifetime or may till that dynasty we will learn. After that, the suppressed emotions will erupt and go back to Tamil (though some things might’ve been lost over the years.) If that is the case with autocracy, imagine the state where the ruler has power only for 5 years. No way it will take off.
          3. Business: The final piece is the business. Though this can be reasonably taken care of by other groups (as said earlier, if Govt. had in its tender notice We want tamil keyboards, we would have business creating a Tamil IT or if there is sufficient demand from people, businesses would cater to them) it might not always be the case. Govt. could try, people might be interested, but Swahili keyboard won’t make a business case as of now.
          And this article/blogpost and people’s discussion about it constitutes the second aspect. God knows the tipping point. If we need the other two (Govt. and biz.) to come together or people’s passion alone will create a complete Tamil ecosystem nobody can say. Hence, we are playing a part in preserving Tamil.

  • abcd

    Can some body please tell me how to communicate with my maid,cab driver and the laundry guy who do not understand English and without learning Tamil which will take me at least 6 months..

    • aniramzee

      Well, like I said people are doing it and have been doing it for decades. When you bring in the question of domestic labor, it is absolutely a resident of Tamil Nadu case. A combination of English numbers, dates, and days will communicate deadlines and quantity. Demonstration, sign language, and 3-4 Tamil words you pick up in the first week will communicate the rest.
      After that you’ll start understanding Tamil by “feel” rather than by words and you can either get comfortable where you are in the status quo or go about learning Tamil to whatever extent you’d like to.

    • sp

      As for communication, I think language is not that big a barrier. I don’t know what it is, where it is, or how it can be developed – but I have seen many (US) expats not only communicating but getting people to do what they want. The cab driver (doesn’t know Eng. a bit) had some other work at the transportation desk, but Tom (not original name) wanted to go home quickly and got the cab driver to hurry up without using a word of local language. (Btw, Tom is not a powerful person. He is just one of 100s.) Similarly, I have seen Eliza (not original name) skillfully get a bargain in a market without a common language/words. 1. Tom: Said in a hurried tone – Hurry hurry Urgent Urgent and vigorously and repeatedly pointed to the watch. 2. Shopkeeper says 500. Eliza vigorously shakes her head – No, no, no. 100. Walks off. He calls out she comes back. And ultimately got at a price I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to secure.

  • Sumit

    Very interesting read and nicely researched!

  • Anonymous

    Even though the political parties governed -governing Tamilnadu think that they get some political mileage by objecting and opposing Hindi,many parents want their children to learn Hindi .The major bottleneck to learn Hindi fast for the Tamilians ,compared to other Southern state people is to learn Four types of Ka,Cha, Tha,Pa.Am i right sir!

  • Anonymous

    kudos for doing such an extensive research and taking a rational approach towards this issue.But, I personally feel that though everyone of us have a strong penchant for tamizh only few of us make an actual effort to learn it properly.We have this beautiful language which is more than 2000 years old,so rich in literature and culture,but how many of us read books in tamizh, read the literature or try to understand why our ancestors fought so hard for it.By not doing so,we are curbing a generation from understanding the brilliance of a Ponniyin Selvam or a Thirukkural. Before we crib about learning other languages,we should make an effort to go back to our roots and learn the one we have properly.

    • aniramzee

      Of course, but just think. Many don’t bother about our literature, but they can at least converse fluently in Tamil. Ignoring literature is a trait present in native speakers of pretty much every Indian language, but in other states there are many in the cities who can’t speak their native tongues and have switched over completely to English or in some cases Hindi.

  • Anonymous

    That is true.But arguing for something without knowing what it is actually is disparaging in a way.

    • aniramzee

      True. This is like how people defend their religions without having read scripture. It’s just blind belief, but the religion/language achieves its political end this way. The means don’t justify the end. Do you see any other way out though? Getting people to read Tamil and learn about its great past as well as present glory is a near impossible task today.

  • Anonymous

    Well written blog. Congrats!
    There indeed was an effort to select a national language for our nation. Because Hindi is spoken by more number of people when compared to other languages. The people from non Hindi states did not agree. A common language for the whole country would definitely have advantage. But the effort people would have to put in learning in the first place and the gaining fluency is herculean. This is the reason of resistance.
    Even after knowing Hindi. English and Tamil. I felt like an illiterate and was at loss, when I was posted to Hyderabad. In a year;s time I learnt Telugu: both reading and writing.
    Comment from a KSRTC bus driver that I should “mathadi in kannada while living in Kannada Rajya ” ( As people there knew Tamil, I used to manage with Tamil). From that day I used to speak to Kannadigas in Kannada only and learnt the language ( some who were not able tolerate my Kannada speaking, requested me to speak in Tamil though).
    Three language formula in schools will be successful in developing a common language. But what would you do with people who never went to school. Even if you learn a language, you would always forget it if you are not exposed to it, like I forgot Kannada now.
    It is natural for people from Hindi belt to expect others to learn Hindi, and the non Hindi speakers in resisting it, so long as they can afford to do so.

  • satheeshjm

    Excellently written article! Massive Kudos!
    Reading one of the comments about education in Tamil, I was reminded of an article(by who?) which was in the Tamil textbooks back when I was studying 10th. I think it went like தாய் மொழி கல்வி தான் உயர்ந்தது. ஜப்பான், ஸ்பெயின் போன்ற நாடுகள் தாய் மொழியில் கற்றதனால் தான் முன்னேறினார்கள்.(Education in one’s mother-tongue is the best. The Japanese and Spanish developed their cultures only via education in their mother-tongues). At that time, me and my friends used to laugh at the stupidity of the author. NOW IT ALL MAKES SENSE. How Awesome it would have been if all our science and stuff were in Tamil.
    But it is never too late. Hope one of our governments takes some initiative to bring about such changes. They’ll have to be really long time visionaries(like planning beyond 15 years ) for planning such things.

    • aniramzee

      It takes maturity to understand the depth of those statements. 15 year olds don’t care about any of the profound or simple aspects of life, and go after everything in-between. Unfortunately, it’s at that age that we condition out thinking and start forming our opinions. We’ve missed massive opportunities by educating ourselves only in English and relegating our native tongues to passive conversation.

      • satheeshjm

        Yes 😦
        As of now, to kids, the subject Tamil implies memorizing complex poems and analyzing nonsensical articles by random authors; and that is enough to turn any average kid off.
        We should start with something basic.
        Something which doesn’t affect the current system too much.
        Like we should have a subject called Tamil History, which teaches all about our history.. Make it interesting..

        Anyway, everything we talk here is pure fantasy. Nothing would come of this unless someone in charge really wants things to happen, instead of trying to score political brownie points.
        Maybe instead of ranting our thoughts online, we should become activists! 😀 😀

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