english

English Slaves

For over a two decades in government service now, i have noted with humor the love of the entire bureaucracy towards English. However, erroneous it may be, their love and their English that is. On the one hand the official policy of the Government of India is to promote Hindi as the Official language. Ways and means are found with ingenuity and impunity to bypass the same and yet boast achievement of achieving the target of working in Hindi. (Please read my earlier blog post titled “A Farce called Hindi Pakhwada“).

Surprisingly enough, the entire government machinery loves to communicate (atleast written communication) in English. The noting, the letters, emails and other communications are all in English. The quality of English differ from the writer to writer. And each one thinks he ranks just next to Williams Shakespeare in his command over the language. I have seen one boss reading his letter and smiling to himself and boasting me about his prowess of English. Now, the English, in official communication and especially in subjects like administrative topics comes with common sets of words and there is little or no room for experimentation. Most of the colleagues who find it difficult to express in English just read earlier communications and write the newer one, some even don’t understand what exactly they mean to say. However, there are exceptions, one such boss who was a vernacular educated man and who had spent his entire life in administrative department had really good command over his written English.  Another boss who was Head of our Office wrote beautifully using expressive language. Both these gentlemen are now retired. And i feel the experience they carried lost. For the newer generation of “bosses” do not have grip over basic communication. They fumble writing even leave applications. I wonder whether this decline in good quality of officers is pervasive all over, and, if so, its a bad sign for our country. It does reminds me of another boss who too has retired now, calling me atleast couple of times in a day on my intercom to first inquire whether anybody was around me, if nobody was around, he would ask me the spelling or meaning of a word. One such newly recruited boss from northern belt uses google translator, he neatly types the letter in Hindi and translates it into English. Now, though google translator is a good tool, its yet evolving and you cannot rely on its grammatical perfection. One such boss scored a paltry 35% in his schooling days, now carries ego of an Oxford educated man. His type of English drafting makes me laugh. However, i have stopped giving suggestions as these current set of gentlemen come with inflated ego and pre-conceived notion that only they are right, moreover, they are rigid enough to change now. I apply the ever tried and tested formula of boss is always right, while chuckling about their knowledge of the language or loss of it.

The pertinent point i am trying to make over here is why this mental slavery towards a language which is alien. The language was imposed on us by the British to make you slaves and they succeeded, for even after nearly seven decades of our independence we all feel a sense of pride using English language. Using or speaking vernacular language is seen as a kind of shortcoming. Hence, the persistence of the North Indian boss i referred to above to use google translator to translate his good Hindi letter into broken English.

Have we as Indians become slave to an alien language which is used only in a handful of countries? A country where its countrymen start feeling shy about their own language will find it difficult to reach its pinnacle with the aid of a foreign language. The beginning should take place from the Government, its Offices and its Officers.  People should stop feeling ashamed about their own language and the false pride in alien language must be done away with. This should atleast begin with the younger generations, but, the kind of onslaught of internet and media, i find it very tougher..

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