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Delhi University Should Innovate

The Delhi University is reported to have denied admission to a girl who had 5 languages as subjects of study, as not more than two languages can be counted for best of 4 subjects criterion for admission. No dispute about the rules, but it is about the outlandish attitude to languages. Instead of encouraging advanced studies in languages and grooming new generation computer linguists, the university is still stuck up with subjects of stressed employment opportunities. In modern times when communication growth has opened up newer opportunities of employment e.g. in broadcasting, television, social media, print media, online publishing, mass open online courses etc the requirements of trained personnel has increased tremendously. National and international corporations, as also legal services, need multi-lingual professionals. In view of this fact, the Delhi University must revise its criterion to admit students with best of the four even in different languages. There are 122 Major Modern Indian Languages and thousands of dialects. The All India Radio broadcasts in about 179 languages. There was the Word in the beginning! Respect the Word. Can the Delhi University authorities please think out of the box and be innovative before others set better example?

A big treasure of Indian literature is available in “oral” format by singers and story tellers. It is slowly wading into oblivion. The governments at the centre as also state levels had extended support to revive these dying languages, but the paucity of adequate funds, besides scholars, has not produced desired results. The advent of the internet has further added to the gravity of the situation as the monopoly of the English language in India has been established by political short sightedness. The craze for English has not helped any MIL (Modern Indian Languages), not even the 14 languages included originally in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India.There is no doubt about the beauty, usefulness and facility of the English language, but that hardly deters full development of Indian languages.

It seems the political class is happy in treating the the pool of Indian languages as “vernacular” (meaning perhaps derogatorily that they are inferior and nowhere near the English language and can never achieve that level in future). This mentality has serious social, cultural, religious, political, economic and security implications for the country.

The only problem is that there is no single English language. The Delhi university (as other universities too) teach English literature of Great Britain (Shakespeare, Pope, Lawrence, Wordsworth) and promote that English. My computer protests at every second spelling and insists on changing ‘S’ to ‘Z’ and vice versa. The British English needs to be translated in to American English and the American English in to British English for native readers in each country. And both need to be translated in to Indian English for better comprehension by students of Delhi/other Indian universities. The harm that it does to the students is at the school level where majority of student are “failed” for misspelling “labour as labor and labor as labour”.Their fate is sealed. They are denied access to higher education.

The budget of the BBC runs in to millions of pound for translating American news in to British news. In Delhi, it is a thriving business for coaching centres to train job seekers in American English and pronunciation. These are products of schools, colleges and universities teaching English language and literature. And yet they are so handicapped.

When Indian students started going to America in the 1960s, why did our educational institutions not devise programmes for them to excel in American English and migrate smoothly and continued with British English? Was it because we didn’t have qualified faculty to undertake the responsibility? Token efforts were made by introducing Mark Twain which created phobia of American English.

Unfortunately, our policy towards language has suffered from our lack of understanding of the value of language. Had we not neglected language, the rich in language society that India is would have been the creators of the internet !

The poverty of the word is the cause of low levels of public discourse and understanding of the problems. The Mahabharat is all about a word or words. Inappropriate, unsuitable, derogatory words cause conflicts leading to wars and loss of lives. Today the Chinese media is using such words and provoking war. It is swollen headed in the delusion of being a superpower, forgetting that history has made the most powerful lick the dust. Language, whether spoken or written or sign language has brought individuals to powerful social groupings, which resulted in building of nations. There is a real threat of most of the world’s languages dying a slow death because of the internet.

Language movements still continue. In Darjeeling in West Bengal there is going on an agitation for recognition of the local language whereas the government has imposed the Bengali language on them. In Karnataka, the love for Kannada is being demonstrated by blackening the metro coaches signboards in Hindi (Kannada, English, Hindi is the order) without producing any world class book on any branch of modern knowledge (other than poetry, drama, short story, novel and articles). The beauty of the city of Bengaluru is that every employee is proficient in more than 5 languages at least! Politics!

Politics in Bengaluru and attitude in Delhi University are harming the development of Indian languages. This results in street fights, fights in legislatures and courts. Finance Minister Arun Jetley has sued Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for civil and criminal damages for using defamatory language. Perhaps, the cause of the offence is only a single word. Kejriwal had employed the highly paid lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who charges 22,00,000 rupees per appearance in the court besides 1,00,00,000 rupees for retainership and much more for conference. In February this year the Delhi government had made a provision of Rs. 3,50,00,000 for the fees of Ram Jethmalani. Now Kejriwal has approached the court that he had not instructed his lawyer to use those word(s). Jethmalani on the other hand says that Kejriwal used even worse language while holding conference with him and wanted him to use harsh language like the words he had uttered.

The outcome is awaited, but the quarrel validates the thesis that language deserves better treatment than given hitherto.

The Delhi University (metaphorically all universities and institution of learning, grooming and training) should immediately amend the wrong and call the girl to file her application and admit her to any language course of her choice or proficiency.

May I share my experience of the year 1972? In Delhi’s INA market, some youngsters had set up stalls selling hosiery products etc. Their clientele was from the nearby government officials colony and the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri. Business demanded conversation  with clients in different languages. They were not graduates but brilliant guys who had picked up necessary words in different languages. I was amused at their linguistic proficiency and business success. For me it was a new experience which I used as a public servant effectively. Is that not the market demand at home and abroad for India the rising super economic power? Can the Delhi university forgive itself for failing to cash this opportunity?

Have we ever applied our mind to use, misuse, wastage, congestion and pollution of and by words. The sheer amount of words printed everyday is daunting. No less than a million pages are printed online and offline daily globally. The amount of pollution it causes is incomprehensible in the absence of any study on the subject. We start our day with tonnes of negativity in the morning printed in newspapers and media. Each word hits our good sense. We fly into rage- Alas ! it is all impotent rage. The world has failed to produce a single new Bible, Ramayan, Koran or any other comparable book of permanent universal appeal. A morning begun with just about 20 lines from any of these contains the power of invigorating you throughout the day, while a few news item have the potential of spoiling your day.

There is not so much negativity as these media tools spread as Nature maintains a scientific balance of everything and words have been proportionately divided between negative energy and positive energy in equal proportions. Much like the environmental degradation and pollution of land, water and air by man’s greed, considered development, emotional pollution has been caused by the media.

It is worth consideration whether we need to write so much everyday and consume it too or we need to exercise restraint and wisdom while consuming language products.

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