Musings on “Language Endangererment” on International Mother Language Day


I came to know about “International Mother Language day” through a flyer sent to me by Aligarh Muslim University Students union (AMU SU) cabinet member Gowtham K. Today AMU SU rganized a program on this occasion. I am so excited to have attended the program  organized by AMU Students union today to create awareness about the program. It was attended fairly well. It had students across disciplines and linguistic groups. UG, PG and research scholars enthusiastically participated in this. This was coloured by short talks by faculty members Dr. Amina khatun (Bengali section), Dr. M Jahangir Warsi, (coordinator LAMM), Dr. Pallav Vishnu(LAMM), Dr. Kasim (Telugu section) and Dr. Tamil chelvan (Tamil section), . This was followed by recitation of poetry in many languages like Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Assamese, Telugu and Arabic. AMU SU honorary Secretary reinstated how AMU allows the living of multi linguistic set up. The competition to identify the language of the song played was interesting! AMU is truly proving that it’s an institution which is confined not alone for academics but for enquiry beyond books. AMU SU cabinet member Gowtham K and officials of Language Of Advertising Media & Market, AMU has to be really congratulated for taking pains in convening this programme in LAAM, AMU.

International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. UN website[i] cites that Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. As raised in the programme, One of the key challenges of post colonial nations is the question of indigenous languages and mother tongue. With the expansion of globalization everybody wants to talk in English, walk in English, sleep in English and do everything in English. More so with the blooming of management and Engineering Industries where any language other than English is being counted as “non-professional”. Though we need a link language to interact between cultures and communities it should not become a threat to the existence of indigenous languages.

What is my mother tongue is a question in many educated cultures. Growingly English becomes the language of conversation in homes due to the influence of so called “professional jobs”. Endangerment of mother tongue is a great concern. Though on the one side there is the colonization of English language on the other side we also have the colonization by standardized languages. For example Hindi language colonization is killing many languages like Maithli, Bhojpuri, and so on.

Feeling cannot be always spontaneously addressed in standardized language but in one own “mother dialect”. I come from a town in Kanyakumari district which shares its border with Kerala. We have a unique dialect sometimes called as “Vilavancode dialect”. When I was speaking to my son in this dialect, some of my friends exclaimed “you are speaking an uncultured language”. What made my own mother tongue uncultured? Same is the plight of Bhojpuri, Bundelkhandi, Awadhi, Braj speakers and many others. On the one side mother tongue is endangered by global language and on the other side standardized local language too pose threat to mother tongue. I strongly believe we should let our children learn multiple languages like English, Hindi and so on. Children also have the innate ability to learn multiple languages. Let’s not compromise on mother tongue.

Religion can have a powerful impact in language. Sanskrit takes predominance in Hinduism and Arabic in Islam. But I found a variety in  Christianity because of the vision in Bible  where there is a reference to a gathering of people which has representation of people from every linguistic group. It will not be an exaggeration to call Bible translators as pioneers in preserving  various indigenous languages. Their effort has also  brought popular literature in indigenous language to the wider community.

May the coming together of all institutions like universities and colleges, home (the greatest primary education institution) and religious institutions be the antidote to the mother language endangerment.

What effort would you take to preserve your  mother language?


One day Patriotism

Happy Republic Day. I am happy to meet you all after a long gap on the occasion of Republic Day. Republic day is the day when we remember and honour the day in which the Constitution of India came into force, ie. on 26th January 1956. Independence Day and Republic day are two prominent national celebrations. While the former has to do with the celebration of free India, the later has to do with the adaptation and coming into effect of our own constitution.

India is a nation where festivity is very much part and parcel of its fabric. But the sad reality is that day based festivity is short lived. If we talk about campuses Republic Days are marked by good opportunities for students to exhibit their talents and thoughts in the form of art, music, drama, dance, exhibition and so on (leave alone whether they subscribe to them or not). Some students prefer to stay at home and take a good sleep. While others will be interested in festivity in its real sense. They will take motor-cycle Tiranga (Tri-colour India flag) and shout loud slogans. This festivity may also end up with alcohol consumption and fight at times.

All festivity goes in the air just on the following day. Nation on the air, ones whims and fancies rules daily activity. For the progress of our nation we need to progress from one day patriotism to having patriotic attitude every day. Celebrations on the republic day should not be mere lip service but they need to be powerhouse for implementation of the lessons learnt from and about constituition.

Constitution of India talks about 11 fundamental duties of every Indian citizen. I would like to draw your attention to the 10th fundamental duty as per our constitution. If in case you would like to go through all the fundamental duties you can see it here: 10th Fundamental duty goes like this:

“to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement”.

This point of our fundamental duty is very important for a student. If our nation is not progressing well, improper shaping and molding of students is one of the prominent reasons. I would like to show case an obvious Indian scenario. There is a student who is very patriotic on the republic day and shouts all sorts of patriotic slogans and reveres the Indian national flag and is in full high of his celebration on the Republic day. But the very next day on, he bunks his classes. Finally during exam time they will pressurize their teachers to somehow help them get minimum attendance and they pass the exam some way or other. The student was on the high of his patriotism but is he striving towards the excellence in all spheres? If this is what he is practices during his student days what kind of work culture and productivity can we expect from him? How will our nation rise to higher levels of endevour and achievement?

It is high time we have to grow beyond one day patriotism. I definitely believe Independence day and Republic Day celebrations are very important. But the values remembered on that day should be implemented 24 X 7.

Why is it that our students that our students do not study from the perspective of nation building?

Why growingly “chalta hai attituide” is driving our students and not commitment to studies?

An ancient Scripture said ” The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Don’t you think a renewd mind and pure heart is imprtant for our students to ” To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement”. What can fecilitate this?

Child beggar in the Contour of Knowledge

Girl beggarBirthdays are always exciting; all the more for students. College life cannot be full without birthday parties. Today I went to a birthday celebration in a popular hangout in BHU campus, Varanasi. All students gathered one after another and were eagerly waiting to have the cake cut. As we were waiting for one more student to join us we were alarmed to see a group of students who were walking towards us. I got afraid and thought to myself if they were coming to attack us telling that cake does not belong to our native culture and we are to be hanged! I was wondering if DJ night incident will repeat with IIT students. Certain friends were murmuring that these students look like the inmates of Birla hostel who according to them were responsible for all turmoil in BHU & IIT.

All of us gave a sigh of relief as we noted that they were not walking towards us nor were they to harm us. But we could see an unwelcomed visitor in our midst. She inquired when the cake would be cut and she needs some. As I closely gazed at her I found that she has not clothed well and seemed to be a minor. As she started begging to a passerby, I could understand that she was a beggar. My interaction with her revealed that she stays with her mother and 3 siblings in a nearby place. She replied in negative for my question if she goes to school. She continued that she would continue begging as long as she lives. It was time for us to cut the cake; and two more similar children came. Others much younger to her and were selling balloons.

This was not the first time I see kids begging in BHU and IIT. It is like being in deep water for BHU when it comes to restrict general public into BHU . People from nearby villages come to collect grass, BHU main roads are used to commute by the settlers who stay in and around BHU. Also BHU attracts pilgrims to its Vishwanath temple. Though restricting general public may be difficult in the present scenario I think strong measures has to be taken to counter begging inside BHU campus or any campus for that matter.

Begging inside a campus that promotes knowledge is an oxymoron. University is a place where ideas are supposed to be generated, issues in the mainstream universe gets solved and progress of the universe is visualized. Presence of such social evil in such institutions would tarnish the sanctity of the institution and the very purpose of education. We are kept in dark as to these children are encouraged to beg due to the predicament of the family or are remain as the victims of child trafficking racket. University has to take up a project wherein these children are properly studied and measures being taken to ensure their education and minimum support mechanism for the dependents if any. Leaving such children as they are is costly. We are encouraging a generation of beggars. On the other hand we may also be indirectly opening avenues for theft.

Why is it that a temple of knowledge is not affected by children begging in its own institution? Why universities to which the nation look for solutions harbor such evil in themselves? Are universities becoming hypocritical? Is our education system being reduced to skill development and employers producing machines which has nothing to do with the deeper questions of the society? Can some BHU students join together and voice to the administration and bring shine in the face of the ones who beg?

Birthday girl cut the cake; Friends enjoyed. Will this birthday and this encounter with child beggars open our eyes and  encourage us to do something so that these begging children can celebrate their birthday with dignity?

Placed IITians speak!


f7ecda04-63c9-4dd3-a69b-e2e1fe1302a8                “If winter comes can spring be far away?” said Shelly in “Ode to the West Wind”. We are about to enter February. We are approaching the season where juniors bid farewell to their seniors. In Varanasi the placed IITians has already started the bash. Among the outgoing students there may be some lucky ones who are placed in good companies and have their future secure. No wonder their class mates watch them with  jealousy as they are less tensed and care less about their academics and are day dreaming the day they leave IIT  to get into a new phase of life.

It was exciting to be a part of a party organized by some placed IITians belonging to IIT-BHU. I am proud that my wards are placed! I am so happy that they were mindful to invite their mentors and their juniors to celebrate their placement. Juniors were not slow to revenge their seniors who once asked  them to give their intro and do certain activities. It was expressed by way of quizzing their seniors about their experience, placements, future dreams and so on.

Taste buds near Bhelupura, Varanasi was the place these placed IIT-BHU students chose for their dinner party. Even before the dinner arrived to please the taste buds, hearts of juniors were well treated through the nice words from their seniors. All seniors started sharing their experiences and advices one after another.

The senior who spoke first encouraged others to give their best and not do the things for name sake. He also mentioned how many IITians do not whole heartedly involve in different things; be it studies or event management, or being part of any fest. He encouraged the juniors to involve with their heart and mind. And he also said that their four years stay in an IIT should not be just academics or movies but he encouraged his juniors to explore oneself. Four years of time is a good beginning in ones journey towards self discovery. Avenues are plenty for IITians. He encouraged them to be bold enough and knock for opportunities in new avenues rather than settling in the traditional or routine ones.

The another senior wanted to encourage his juniors to get into core jobs rather than being placed in software companies. He also said that people would be looking at others based on their money, position or placement; but one has to live for oneself which will ultimately give contentment and satisfaction. He also stressed the importance of being part of a spiritual reflection group. In a time when spirituality is either marketed or kicked out irrelevant he stressed how a Bible study group helped him to get focused and not get distracted. He said being a part of the spiritual think thank where scripture is discussed and meditated also helped him to get encouragement when he was at his lowest ebb.

Juniors also did not stop to cease their opportunity to comment about the seniors. One said that their senior was so lazy. He recollected how his senior missed class as he slept off. Another recollected how he played cricket with his senior. Yet another was remembering how his senior used to visit him in his hostel, update about his well being and encourage him. Yet another junior found it apt to hint at the dominating and demanding nature of his senior. Yet another recollected how his senior introduced him to a spiritual think thank which in turn benefited him. Even as the sharing got over all got into peth pooja and nice selfies!

Pongal/Makar Sankranti Reflections

Very happy Pongal wishes to my Tamil friends; Makar Sankranti to the ones in North and Lohri to the one in the North west! Ankita Chobey in her article [i]in Mumbai mirror describes this as: “It is January and for Indians it is the time of the year when we mark the beginning of the season’s end – that is time to bid winter a farewell. This is also the time of the year when winter harvest festival is celebrated. Across the lengths of our country, this festival is celebrated in various ways. While some call it Makar Sankranti, some call it Pongal and some name it Lohri”. Though these celebrations are done across India in different names and different legends are associated with it two things are quite common: Mark of the end of a season and harvest festivals.

Since it is a harvest festival think along with festivities and Pujas it is also important to spend time thinking about the well being of the ones who are involved in the whole work of agriculture and harvesting them. The plight of farmers are getting worse in India which is an agrarian country with 70% of people depend on agriculture. Times of India article[ii] reported that over 12000 farmers commit suicide every year since 2013. The figures are alarming. I stay here in Uttar Pradesh where I constantly listen to issues where the farm lands are taken by land mafias for constructing flats. An article[iii] in BBC notes, “Half of its people work in farms, but farming contributes only 15% to India’s GDP. Put simply, farms employ a lot of people but produce too little”.

All of us get excited when we get fresh crops, see greenery and celebrate festivals. But mundane realities remains the same. I wonder if our economic model has done any serious favour for uplifting the poor. Rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Today as we celebrate harvest festival, can we seriously think about the ones till in the field? Think about what possible can be done for them?

As I conclude I would like to give a glimpse of some of the Agrarian themes in the Bible. Though Christians are not known to celebrate Biblical festivals, Bible mentions about atleast three harvest festivals:  the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, Deut. 16:9-12) which celebrates the early harvest and the final harvest called the Feast of Booths, Shelters, or Tabernacles; (Lev. 23:33-44, Num. 29:12-39, Deut. 16:13-16). There is also a festival which was called festival of Firstfruits which also has to do with harvest (Lev. 23:9-14, see also Exod. 23:18 and 34:26). As I finish I quote few Bible portions:

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth” Psalm 104:14

May the God as per His promise protect our land, give good yield, take care of the farmers and take away the ailments of farmers who got affected by Okhi and other calamities. May He change our heart to be good to be farmers and the land.