Thursday, February 11, 2010

Language Boundary

For a while now, I've been asked to descend from my ivory-tower-philosophical-mind-over-matter topics and come down to the real world and talk about the real stuff. Although I firmly believe that mind-over-matter helps more in day-to-day life than talking about BT brinjal, today I would like to take up a topic that is very important to me because I have seen people very close to me suffer as a result of this.

I have grown up in Dubai, which has an extremely metropolitan culture, in terms of not only people of different states of India living together but having neighbours who are Chinese, African, Arabs etc too. I've seen my parents interact with people of different nationalities with the same respect as they do with our relatives. In the backdrop of this upbringing, I assumed that all educated people in Pune, Maharashtra would be horrified with the MNS beating up anyone remotely non-Maharastran and Shiv Sena proclaiming that Mumbai belongs to Maharashtrans. I am sorry to say that I was way off the mark.

In private circles, a war far more emotional and damaging is being waged. In a supposedly metropolitan environment, Maharashtrans in Pune tend to always stick together. Their easiest and most potent weapon is Marathi. They refuse to talk in any language other than Marathi with their Maharashtran friends. Lakhs of students come from every corner of the country to the "Oxford of India" in order to pursue their higher studies. Thousands of them stay back here to pursue jobs and improve our IT industry. I have lived alone for 4 years in Pune before Mom and bro came back. Even though I was living in my home town, surrounded by ALL my relatives (20 in all), I used to feel lonely. Just imagine, how people from Rajasthan, Delhi etc feel in Pune? They have no one here. The only people they can rely on for companionship is their friends at college, their colleagues at work...

Why do we isolate them? Why do we refuse to talk in any language understandable by them? If we want them to learn Marathi and respect our culture, taking them into our conversations and lives would have a better impact rather than isolating them and forcing them to make their own non-Maharashtran groups. My best friends are from Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi. They are witty, intelligent people and it pains me to see that they never understand the conversation or jokes going on around them. I implore you, my Maharashtran friends, at least consider speaking in Hindi when some non-Maharashtran is around. This psychological warfare is not going to be of any use to anyone.


  1. When parts of Germany were conquered by the French in the 19th century, the first thing the French did was stop teaching German in schools. You know why? Cause your language is your identity. So there is nothing wrong in speaking your own tongue in a different region, as long as it does not become symbolic of the rowdy behavoir of other people from your state. Though you may not be a backslider, you are just as much at fault if you let a small group of people besmirch the name of your entire region

  2. There is absolutely no harm in speaking in a language understood by the non-Maharashtrians. However, 2 Maharashtrians speaking in Hindi is an insult to Marathi. This is not seen anywhere in India at all. 2 Bengalis / 2 Biharis / 2 Tamils always speak in their mother tongue. It is rude to speak in your mother tongue in a diverse group - staying in US has taught me that. Choose the language as per the surroundings!

  3. The language you speak is the easiest way to know where you are from. In India we have so much chaos all around the nation that there are certain black-listed regions. The level of insecurity is so high that to protect oneself, people immediately try to gauge the area the other person is from. Now if Hindi is spoken in elite as well as barbaric areas, people tend to assume the latter and that is the source of al evil

  4. People talk of politician induced regionalism and hatred. However, something same is present on a much larger scale in US where Americans are jobless in their own land and non-Americans flaunt expensive cars. If you are rich, its cool. Why to boast around? And that too where the sons of the soil are facing hard times? Isn't this the reason why we decided to get independence in the first place? Worse, if your irresponsible behavior gets associated with the region you hail from, you are not entirely blameless to let it happen

  5. @Chinmay: All extremely valid points. I have generalized and that's my mistake. I will write a follow-up post to explain my point more clearly. Thanks for the comments! :D