Unity in Diversity. Or not?

For the longest time, this was one phrase that was representative of India for me. I am not sure if I picked it up from TV or if it was in my History or Geography books in school. Or perhaps the Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiya short that was screened on Doordarshan.

Whatever the origins of that phrase were, I believed in it. I thought then and still do that India is an amazing entity, one place where we have multitudes of languages, religions, culture, cuisines that co-exist in harmony. Moving from TamilNadu to Karnataka I embraced the changes in language, food and customs rather than be intimidated by it. I am sure if I had moved to Rajasthan or UP, I would have been happy to imbibe the local culture rather than live in my microcosm.

Why am I rambling about this on a sleepy Friday afternoon? K’s friend Raj had sent a forward (something he had written himself) laying out the rationale for why Hindi is not/should not  really be India’s National Language. He does have a point. Rather several valid points. I agree with his reasoning but can’t help asking: Why not Hindi?

The alternative really is English or Tamil or Telugu or Marathi or any of the indigenous languages spoken by the peoples of India. Given a choice I think English makes most sense given our obsession for a pardesi tongue that seems to drive our economy. ;p

So, folks, what do you think? Chip in with your thoughts. Been feeling rather quiet here.

6 comments

  1. I don’t think it matters one bit. The rationale for Hindi is that more people understand this language than any other in the country (and Bollywood has done more in popularising Hindi than any official notification). But it could have been English and I am not sure anything would have changed. People say English is a foreign language…but hey in this country, what is foreign and what is not is a matter of debate. The critical part I believe is non-imposition…whatever be the language.

  2. I am nostalgic. Good old days! I used to love this short movie. Also remember mile sur mera tumhara?

    Hindi seems to be common everywhere in India other than the 4 southern states. Is it true about Karnataka also? Maybe not, I am not sure. In general, in the south, we switch to English as our common language. Anyone thinks the same?

  3. I agree with small talk. It does not matter which language you choose. The basic idea is to make communication easy, whether it is Hindi or Gujarati or Tamil, that is not the issue. Majority of people in India are comfortable in Hindi and hence the choice of that particular language as our national language.

  4. When I learnt the phrase “unity in diversity” in school, it was like a light bulb moment for me. I have lived all over India as a child and for me that sort of anchored the whole thing together. I also picked up communication in different languages ( I do not think I mastered any, so cannot say I learnt them) and it was great. I think that now with the TV and bollywood being so all pervasive, Hindi is probably the most known Indian language.I have no problem with ‘our’ english being the national language either … at least it gave us an edge over the chinese in something!!!!

  5. Friends, I also side with Small Talk on this issue.
    Some of you have commented saying that since Hindi is spoken in Majority, it is the national language. I believe you all forgot or do not know that INDIA (and Indian Constitution) has NO NATIONAL LANGUAGE.
    If any one argues Majority Wins, then I will vote to make HINDU as our National Religion and as one of my good friend mentioned to me, CHAPPATI will be our national food(even though I will fight to make Dosai as our national food)
    Now that Laksh has stirred the hornet’s nest, there will be a good amount of response, both good and bad (Good being the ones I agree upon). Lets see what others think.

  6. @SmallTalk: Absolutely agree. We had a good discussion about this over email with a few friends which is what prompted me to put it up here in the hopes it will invite discussion.
    @slk: I would think so! Definitely it is true for me. I tend to use English if am not sure what the other person speaks. There are times though when I see K favoring Hindi over English even though both of us are not native speakers of Hindi.
    @Shalu: I guess the point of contention is whether majority people actually follow Hindi in India. 🙂
    @SuchiSmitha: Welcome here. You have a neat blog and agree with you.
    @VillageBoy: Guess the discussion we are waiting for is not happening. 🙂 Gotta take it offline.

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