English is a foreign language, yet it commands so much respect and honour in India, that it dominates social, political and economic life of India, supported by due acceptance by people. Information board on trains, buses, medicine foils, doctor’s prescription, names of consumer articles, bear the details on it in English. There is no logic for it being so, because 70/80 percent people cannot read, write or speak the English language, logically there should have been a revolt against the use of English language in all aspects of life, by at least 60% of people, but they do not. Educated or uneducated whatever, everybody respect the language, anything said in English is widely accepted. Even to the extent, there is a slavery to it.
I want to give some example from my life. In the year of 1976, I was posted in a remote village of West Bengal—almost 4km away from the nearest metalled road, along a muddy , dusty path, in connection with a land revenue job. I was from Kolkata and posted in the village. An old man over 70 years age, once walked up to me and recited a few quotes obviously without understanding the meaning of those quotes, just to impress that he was not less than any city bred people. He enquired about whether I had learnt English. I read from my English newspaper, a book and many other ways to convince him about my knowledge of English, but he won’t listen, he was demanding to recite an English poem from memory. With a lot of difficulty I managed to recollect an English poem, and recited — Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are…… This made him convinced, helped me to pass muster that I really knew English, hence educated. Even uneducated loves the sound of English language.
In another occasion, on my posting in a small town of Shahjahanpur, UP, I required weekly supply of kerosene oil, and for this I needed a ration card, and there would be a lengthy process for it those days. Being taught in a Bengali medium in Bengal, being first time outside Bengal, Hindi was impossible for me. I tried to explain my inability to arrange documents for ration card, in English. Immediately the inspector of the ration office prepared and gave me a ration card, later I realised the inspector was very uneasy with his English. Here my only eligibility was my English that enabled me the ration card. Imagine what would happen to me , and my small child if I did not know English, or the Inspector had his English better than mine. There are thousands of cases in India where English language gives the advantage of the situation to the English speaker, sometimes unfairly. In a job market, job will go to the person to the English knowing competitor, even at the cost of other requirements for the job. A salesman knowing English will sell his wares better than one with lesser skill.
Now English has its varieties. Language is automatic, evolves from its history, culture, climate, food habits, geography etc. You won’t get a word ‘Boat’ in the local dialects near any desert area, simply because boat is not required in those areas, hence no requirement for such word. Language constantly evolves, casting away old skin to grow a new one. Sanskrit was an unfortunate one, trying to maintain its ‘purity’ by not allowing others to freely learn the language, inevitable fate it met, that is, it rightly has become a dead language.
Take the case of English language. It unabashedly adopted words from other languages wherever English people went to rule or conduct their business. Many Indian words found place in the English language and have been in use effectively, some such words are—Avatar, chit, chutney, cummerbund, Dekko, Dinghy, Dungaree, Garam masala, Guru etc. etc. Moreover, due to cultural reason and local factor, a distinctive style of English language developed in India which is known as Indian English. This Indian English is quite popular in India but different from Queen’s English/ standard English.
Thus, Indian English ( teacher sitting on your head?, friend eating your brain?) like African English, Srilankan English, Indonesian English are all English-es fittest for internal communication. Many native English speakers will not understand this English . English people are liberal, they say—It’s OK with your local variety of English, but use it in a fashion so that we also can understand it. A Tamilian ‘ writes the exam’, ‘ go and come’ ( those are literal translation of tamil, keeping cultural component intact ) very frequently, but what those means really , native English speakers will endlessly keep guessing to extract the meaning. Have you ever heard a tamilian pronouncing the word ‘ bud-get’, ‘ lod-ge’ etc. English people will be completely at bay. Words containing the letter ‘V’ is mostly wrongly pronounced by a Bengali, similarly 7,11 pronounced as ‘ sevun’, ‘ elevun’ by a Bihari.
Some side by side comparison between indian English and standard English or queen’s English.
Indian English Standard English
|I did my graduation at the university of London||I studied for my degree at the university of London|
|I passed out of college||I graduated|
|I belong to Delhi||I am from Delhi|
|My teacher is sitting on my head [a direct translation of mera teacher mere sir pe betha hai’||Tell your teacher to get down|
But there is another side to it also. In the recent past, many writers of Indian English, won many international awards for their books. Literary critics say that Indian writers bring a new flavour to the English language so far unfamiliar to native English speakers. Different syntax, different way of construction, different way of presentation, Indian writers bring in from their mother tongue, which to English people a new experience. This made Indian English popular to the British. India is the home of second largest English speaking people after USA.
But same Indian English stretched too far, turned into Hinglish—a wild blend of English and Hindi. It involves a hybrid mixing of hindi and English within conversations, individual sentences and even words . Example—‘ she was bhunno-ing the masala-s jub phone ki ghuntee bugee’. Death kar gayee. Some more Hinglish words are—Badmash, glassy ( in need of drink). There are other similar varieties—Benglish, Tamlish, Punilish and many others. But at the moment Hinglish is in the news because some English students in Portsmouth, UK, will actually be studying Hinglish. It was reported in 2012 that UK diplomats have to bone up on Hinglish before arriving in India. Just imagine how it will sound when a native English speaker spouting Hinglish on our face……………. If our Sanskrit pundit had an iota of the same wisdom, they could have saved the Sanskrit language from extinction. According to many, Sanskrit language could be the most technically suitable computer language today.Hinglish is already in use in our country widely, with international recognition its currency will increase. This Hinglish, has the glamour of English and easiness and familiarity of Hindi—together a great communication instrument for the Indian masses in future, may soon replace Hindi as the national language even.
But there is a catch in it, will the elites and the snobs accept Hinglish for communication amongst themselves??? I believe not, they have to invent their own language which masses feel complicated and uncomfortable, otherwise, how they will establish their superiority over the lower and middle class?? Language helps to divide people to form classes.