The rapidly changing Hindi language could well be a bridge between the two nations

Quietly, though not so imperceptibly, Hindi is undergoing a change. Not just the spoken language but even the written word. Gone are the days of chaste Hindi, the times when the language drew heavily from Sanskrit, then settled to be the preferred mode of discourse in the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. Of course, the days of the language rich in Sanskrit tapestry had themselves succeeded those of Prakrit and Pali before yielding place to a new order. The era of Hindi which refrained from borrowing words of English and regional languages seems long gone. A bit of Punjabi added here, a bit of English there, and a bit of Sanskrit sandpapered away. That is the newHindi, authors and broadcasters often happily drawing from the font of other languages, in the bargain reflecting rather than formulating public taste.

Gone are the days when nuances mattered the most, when every ‘matra’, every ‘bindu’ was sacrosanct. ‘Ardhviram' (semi colon) and 'poorna viram' (full stop) matter not. The essence lies in the spirit, not the letters anymore. That is the constantly evolving language, as manifest in the works of authors and poets as in media circles. Poetic soirees or periodicals, Hindi is on an expansionist streak.

Not that the transition is without hiccups. Overzealous writers have made a mockery with expressions like “paani ki qillat ki kamin se log pareshan hain” (people are in strife because of the dearth of water scarcity!). Or, “Aaj subah main morning walk par gaya” (This morning I went on a morning walk). It is not uncommon to see the pure Hindi cede ground to a flawed Punjabi-ised version, with little concern for grammar. A phrase like “Mataji aa rahein hai” (The mother are coming) rather than “Mataji aa rahi hain” (The mother is coming) is a part of social expression. Much like some words used by the Hinglish-speaking crowd, a linguistically mobile group borrowing from multiple sources.

All along, though, Hindi has adapted itself to local dialects and come to be an umbrella for many other languages. Terms like ‘mobile’ and ‘sms’ are very much part of Hindi, making it richer in expressions with varying connotations in different parts of the country. For instance, a term like “khadoos” may stand for “determined” in Mumbai; in North India, though it means “obstinate”. Some call it affable assimilation, others though feel it is muffling with affection.

However, not every thing is hunky-dory. Among those striking a note of caution is seasoned poet Kailash Vajpaye, a man so humble that his disagreement with the transformation of the language comes cloaked in words not easily discerned by all. His disapproval sounds almost like disengagement. Even when he feels that what we are witnessing today is more of a break-up than development of the language. “The way people speak Hindi is an assault on one’s ears. It is as true of newspapers as other works. Writers have taken to writing the language spoken by the common man, quite in contrast to the times when they moulded public discourse,” he says, showing angst at a term like “ghazal” mispronounced as “gajal”.

And not too long ago, seasoned author Mridula Garg bemoaned the condescension which greets Hindi authors. “They lost their moment under the sunshine long ago,” she rued, adding, “Speaking Hindi is considered infra-dig in metropolises. Writers are fighting this discrimination.” Indeed, newspapers may have space for Hindi films, Hindi heroes, but not for Hindi books and authors. In the world of culture, India and Bharat are not exactly on talking terms with each other. India pretends Bharat does not exist and Bharat sees in India an aspiration model. Emerging Hindi could well be the social bridge.

Keywords: HindiIndian culture