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Updated: April 7, 2010 19:12 IST

Lost in homeland

Lovejeet Alexander
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Ashok Chakradhar. Photo: C. V. Subrahmanyam
The Hindu Ashok Chakradhar. Photo: C. V. Subrahmanyam

Ashok Chakradhar talks about promoting Hindi that people speak in their everyday life

They become stars overnight by delivering impressive dialogues in Hindi films and then these actors of Hindi cine-industry shy away from giving interviews in Hindi. Hindi probably doesn't match their class. Hardly are any celebrities heard speaking in Hindi. For most youngsters, (and now even toddlers in our metros), the usage of spoken Hindi is considered behind the times. When did Hindi become a language of the old-fashioned and semi-literate? When did we start disgracing our national language?

In a candid interview, eminent Hindi poet, writer, anchor and activist Ashok Chakradhar highlights people's apathy towards our national language and offers practical solutions towards saving Hindi.

In fact, even before you ask him about the state of Hindi, Chakradhar, the vice president of the Hindi Academy, speaks his mind, “I accept that Hindi is losing its prominence and popularity among the young generation. It is said that in 20-25 years from now, Hindi will become the language of rickshaw pullers and vegetable sellers and the like. Still, Hindi has the power to sustain and also spread and ‘truly' become the language of every Indian. All it needs is some serious conscientious thinking and planning by one and all, especially by the Government, linguists and Hindi departments of our universities towards making it a common man's language.”

Sanskrit-laden

Not that English has gained popularity in recent years. Chakradhar says, “We have always had ardent English speakers. Most of them having been educated abroad, even our well-read freedom fighters used to converse in English amidst themselves.” Soon after the British left India, efforts were made to help Hindi gain back its stature in the nation.

However, the immediate steps were not so effective. “The idea was to make Hindi the official language by the year 1961. For this purpose, a relaxation period of 10 years was granted by the Constitution during which all the Government departments and Ministries had to start using Hindi for all correspondence. However, the kind of Hindi language used officially was too Sanskrit-laden and literary and hence, too unlike that of the common man's.” This way, the steps taken to promote and popularise Hindi proved fatal as it led to citizens preferring simple English to archaic Hindi.

A witness to the gradual decline in the popularity of Hindi since Independence, Chakradhar says the times of classical Hindi are far from tover for the masses. An ardent promoter of modern Hindi, he adds, “If they truly intend to promote our national language, it is time the Government, linguists and Hindi organisations switched over to Hindustani, the simpler version.” Citing the perfect example, the poet says, “The only department that has adopted the easy-to-follow version of Hindi language is the Railways. Railway platforms, junctions, stations, coolies etc, are all English words that have now been adopted as part of Indian Railways' Hindi vocabulary. Other departments should follow suit.”

Hindi for net

Technological advancements must also be made for recording and preserving languages. For example, Unicode should be used for documenting languages other than English. “We should also have Hindi social networking sites,” proposes the well-known writer.

The great Hindi lover is quite saddened that there are not many promoters of Hindi language. “Promoting regional languages is never a problem for we always have respective masses willing to work for the cause. Unfortunately, when it comes to Hindi, those willing to advocate this rich language are really few. This is a major hold-up in this case.” The strong-willed man soon regains his composure and focus to add, “We maybe few in number but our love for the cause of reviving our mother tongue is undying.”

So long as we have people like Ashok Chakradhar, there lives a hope for Hindustani becoming the language of every Hindustani as Mandarin is for every Chinese and Japanese (the language) is for Japanese.

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