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Tharoor (A Great Indian Novel), Arvind Adiga (The White
Tiger) and Vikas Swaroop (Slumdog Millionaire). Through
vicarious or limited experiences they spin magical tales of
Indian reality in their ivory towers, mostly cut off from the real-
ities of Indian countryside where most of the Indians live, even
now. Tagore and Munshi Prem Chand brought social con-
sciousness through their Indian language literature, while the
new English-writing Booker prize winners have brought shame
to the country.
Baru cites our economic ascendance as a validation of the
English only policy. I agree that English has contributed to our
prosperity and is essential. But Brazilians are progressing
despite Portuguese, the Chinese despite Mandarin, the French
despite French, the Spanish despite Spanish, and the Israelis
who melded a Diaspora that spoke more languages than were
spoken in the tower of Babel into one nation despite the ancient
language of Hebrew.
Human beings are endowed with the capacity of learning two
to three languages. People who grow with multiple languages
have fiscal and physical advantages over people who speak only
one language. According to Dr Ellen Bialystok, an award-win-
ning geriatric psychologist, bilingualism slows cognitive decline
with age. According to Dr Caccavale, president of the National
Network for Early Language Learning, learning two languages
helps a child increase his or her cognitive abilities.
Yet in India today only one language, English, is being
emphasized. The approach should not be English versus Indian
languages, but English and Indian languages. Along with
English, which is important for global employability, Indian
languages should also be nurtured and taught until the higher
secondary level. Terminating the literary exploration of Indian
languages at an earlier age will deprive them of the beauty of
these languages, and these languages will become colloquial
and pidgin, which is what is happening to Indian languages.
This will also cause an identity confusion that is described most
beautifully by Tagore in Gora.
Children who are proficient in both languages will have inte-
grated identities and will be able to savor wider scholarship.
Vidya Bhushan Gupta
Web site: http://ia.rediff.com/index.html
This is in response to Sanjaya Baru’s views (August 26).
While I agree with Baru that English is necessary in the glob-
al village, we should nurture Indian languages as well. Culture
and language are intricately related. Cultures die along with the
languages that were its bearer.
When I look at the front page of Indian English language
dailies, I see these filled with news about cricket and
Bollywood. This may be the culture of the middle class, but not
of the vast majority that lives in small towns and villages. The
English tomes in India are full of Western paradigms and expe-
rience and lack references to Indian history and literature. With
the loss of literary Indian languages we will not learn our histo-
ry through our prism but through the eyes of our old colonizers.
The worldview of students educated in the English medium
will be shaped entirely by scholarship from Eurocentric
I recently went to see Gwalior fort, which immediately came
alive to me because as a child I had read Mriganayani, a his-
torical novel in Hindi, by Bhagwati Charan Verma. My son,
who is educated in the English medium, was ignorant of it.
The English-speaking middle class youth are more at home in
Levi’s and Revlon and on Valentine’s Day than in Indian appar-
el or on Indian festivals. I am not against the former, but am
against the either/ or mentality, equating the former as moder-
nity and the latter as archaism.
Nissim Ezekiel laments in his poem, The Patriot, ‘But modern
generation is neglecting-Too much going for fashion and for-
eign thing.’ Shanti Nehemiah from Coimbatore wrote in an
essay that Indian ‘students are either ashamed of their mother
tongue or are blissfully ignorant of it.’
This phenomenon will result in the demise of the beautiful
languages that were bequeathed to us by our forefathers. Most
Indian languages have long literary traditions with prose and
poetry second to one. With the emphasis on English, few chil-
dren read or understand this literature, because regional lan-
guage are taught only up to middle school in many English-
medium schools, when the children are not mature enough to
understand fine nuances of language such as similes and
Baru eulogizes our Booker- and Pulitzer Prize-winning
English writers in the global Diaspora, but they earned fame by
parodying their motherland and its inhabitants through magi-
cal realism — Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children); Shashi