English – necessity? convenience? lifestyle?

Ever since I returned from villages, I am trying to get out of a cultural shock. One of them is finding everyone speaking in English wherever I go. Last weekend when I went to Kamani Auditorium for this concert of Raja Radha Reddy, there too I noted that almost everyone spoke English only. This reminded me that last time when I was at Kamani to attend Kucchipudi concert organized by Indian Government. The compere spoke in English, all the guests and ministers addressed the people in English. Question is WHY ENGLISH? I am not one of those self-appointed preservers of Indian culture who propose that anything ‘non-Indian’ including English language should be done away with. But I do question the use of this language to communicate when there’s no absolute need. For example, at Kamani, consider any two girls or for that matter, any two people. You will find them chattering in English. Did they not know Hindi? I doubt. Did they find that more convenient? This could be a possible reason for them to speak, because other possible reason could be pretense or attempts to impress. But these other reasons can’t explain this behavior of so many people. Only a few could be pretentious or were in the process of impressing someone. That brings us to the first possibility. What made it inconvenient for people to speak the language that so many people around them spoke while they grew up? If some Indian grew up outside India, it is understandable. Again, not all those people who come to Kamani grow up in Singapore or US or UK. Is it the upbringing itself? I see a clue here. In many families residing in India, English is the common medium of communication even at home. Kids are talked to by teachers and parents in English. Siblings speak with each other in English. Kids talk to each other in school and outside in English. That can certainly make it inconvenient for such children to speak a language other than English when they grow up.

While discussing the dilemma with this female from UNHCR, she narrated the incident of a 5 year old kid asking her to open a tap in a restaurant because, “I can’t reach the tap you see I am small”. In fact I also had mentioned in a very old post that I had observed few years back in Bangalore, kids learning Hindustani classical music with सा as Sa and रे as Re!

Further questions can be raised now. What is the need to create this atmosphere of English language around a growing child? If this continues, this will have a ripple effect or chain effect, the new set of parents that will take birth in few years, will find it completely natural to see English being spoken everywhere. It will no more be need based. In fact I guess, already there must be many families, that have this cultural setup at home and outside homes with natural ease. Result ? The Indian languages will be phased out from chains of such families. Of course that will never lead to dying of Indian languages, particularly the popular ones, because such families constitute very small percentage of humanity. 70% Indian residents still reside in villages and speak the different variants of those popular languages. Even in cities and towns majority of people speaks Indian languages.

In that case, this growing proliferation of English, spacing out Hindi and other languages from those families should not be a concern, RIGHT? I have one concern though. Many people in our country who matter, who decide the policies for the rest of the country perhaps belong to such families?

By the way, Shree mentioned that Madhuri Dixit was the last Indian actress to speak Hindi with correct diction and grammar. Should it matter if most popular cinema doesn’t use the most commonly spoken language correctly? Well no. Because most common people anyway do not relate to such ‘popular cinema’. Or do they?

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