Indian citizens living in the US and India who supported Modi and his Make In India pitch and who also –
- depend directly (either works in the US on an H1-b or aspires to work in the US on a H1-b)
- or depend indirectly (works in a sector which benefits from H1-bs)
are now tasting their own medicine.
However Modi’s Make In India pitch is wholly about sustaining India’s economic growth while the new US president’s Buy American Hire American (at least the Hire American part) tone reflects not only genuine realizations to create more american jobs but also a certain xenophobia of his support base who voted him to power.
People like to hear and say what they like. While completing my college and living in a campus close to New Delhi many years back I had to face several arguments about this topic. I had varied responses at different times at times countering and at times brushing aside the comments from the other side. Chances are that in school I had read the same civics books as those who believe Hindi to be the national language of India and not just one of the many official languages. However both sides in this case were confident me probably more from the inside because I had a recollection of those lines from the New Delhi based C.B.S.E. text book and the teacher’s words. It may not be accurate to say that the other side faked confidence as they grew up in the cow belt or in Punjab/Haryana/Rajasthan/Himachal/Uttaranchal where the patronage for Hindi is far greater than from where I come from. It also goes without saying that teachers will always provide a subtle emphasis on the interpretation they like i.e. India has no national language [period] or that India has no national language but Hindi is the most widely spoken language. This matters when said to an audience of impressionable teenagers especially in the years gone by when we used to learn more at home and school than from the TV and the internet.
In this blog post I am not undermining the depth of Hindi activism as a whole. The Hindi heart land of India has many independent languages and dialects like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Awadhi, Pahari, Bundelkhandi, Braj Bhasa, Hariyanvi, Punjabi, Marwari, Mewari etc. Many people who vouch for a more dominant role for Hindi may not speak Hindi at home and with friends as it is not their mother tongue and they may be versed in multiple Indian languages. However it is also very true that for many Indians India means an experiment with secularism and equality, of the plurality and coexistence of cultures, religions and languages and friendship between people in spite of different cultures, languages and religions not friendships solely based on sameness. It is this idea that many cherish and find hope in.
However irrespective of what India’s constitution lays out in terms of lingual equality activism related to Hindi is unsettling to those who do not subscribe to it. At the same time other Indian language speakers and enthusiasts can take inspiration from the Hindi movement and promote and produce literature, movies, music, business dealings, e-commerce in their own mother tongues and realize that there is a world outside English. Outside Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 shades of grey, Avatar, Prometheus, Inception, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn etc. Too bad that I am blogging this in English too [lol]. But I like catching up with the latest Bengali movies in the cinema halls when I am in Kolkata or online [paid sites only; say no to piracy] and read the news in Bengali frequently. At the same time a side effect of a growth focused era needs to be stated. A society highly focused on economic growth will more likely seek a uniformity in spoken and written language as it is merely a method of communication in this context. Just like an individual a society makes its own choice of how much cultural baggage it caries, how much it keeps its shoulders free to sprint forward. It remains to be seen hence what happens to all that is non english in the decades to come.
Reader Digest appeals to a niche category of readers. It is sad that it has filed for bankruptcy. It reveals a trend about what we are today and what we like and do not like to read. It is a unique magazine since it is able to bring true and endearing stories of human endurance, love, faith in life and the art of survival. I remember reader digest as one of the magazines which I read during my teen years and those stories of people surviving natural and man made disasters, adventure trips gone wrong, heart touching romances where people waited almost a lifetime to discover true love or stories where fate reunited childhood sweethearts to be with each other till old age had cast a strong impression on my mind. I wonder that if the die hard romantic in me today owes some of its inspiration from what I read in RD.
Having followed news headlines on Kolkata /West Bengal for more than one decade it is evident that it is only hope that it survives on. There seems no signs of a face-lift neither a silent revolution. For every news headline announcing the completion of something there are ten headlines announcing that something is being promised as being done and another five headlines announcing the cessation of good things. The only silent movement has been the migration of talent and labour to other states and parts of the world.