Hindi in modern era
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Jan 24 14:08:24 UTC 2005
Hindi in Modern Era
by Raj Shekhar
January 22, 2005
"Kyon Na Hindi Men Likhen?" This question reminds me of the following
lines from Ghalib's Poetry:
"Kyon Na Firdous Men Dozakh Ko Mila Len Ya Rabb!
Sair Ke Liye Thodi Si Faza Aur Sahi !"
These days, this generation communicates in mixed Hindi and English or to
say "Hinglish" and it is up to the individual to maintain the purity of
the language. Of course, it depends on the individual's choice or comfort
with the language to express his or her inner feelings and views in
English or Hindi medium. Someone might find it like nothing but "Heaven"
or "Hell" or somebody would wish to merge the heaven with hell in order to
write Hindi in Roman, the way as one writer recently suggested. But it
would be like an illusion to have fresh air in Hell, for many people who
believe in keeping the Hindi language as a powerful source of medium and
our Indian identity.
Incidentally, as far as our lingua franca is concerned, writing in the
Roman script was first suggested by Subhash Chandra Bose in his first
presidential address to the Congress in 1938 session. In his opinion,
distinction between Hindi and Urdu was artificial one, separated by the
script and Subhash Bose proposed mixing Hindi and Urdu as spoken by large
portions of the country as common language. He was aware that people in
India would strongly favour either Devnagri or Arabic/Urdu script and he
was aware that there would be no provision for exclusion of any scripts.
He suggested to adopt Roman script to unite the both sectors as well as to
him a common script would bring India closer to the International
community. Like many younger generations of Hindus and Muslims, at that
time he was obviously impressed by Kemal Pasha of Turkey who, as a
dictator, had forced his modern visions and policy of secularism as well
as using the Roman script as he wanted his country to "elevate" to
European culture in looks and behavior. It is worth mentioning that even
after so many years, the European Union has not included Turkey in its
family group of nations of Europe!
In my opinion any language takes its own time to develop and grow.
Although, it is not possible to bring out in translation the beauty of any
language, using script other than its own would not limit in expression to
a certain extent. However, slowly it will open the door to corrupt or
deface the language itself. The English language adopts foreign words and
behaves as if it belonged to their own lingua franca, which makes it a
very smooth in usage and ends up in increasing its popularity as well.
Similarly, to improve Hindi for non-Hindi speaking population or expand
its uses in day to day work one should work to simplify it by adopting new
words if possible but not at the cost of butchering the language itself.
I am not a linguist or any professional writer in any language, but what I
see in Hindi (books and print media), it has gradually adopted English
style numbers/figures, punctuation marks like period/dot(.) instead of (I)
as purnaviram. In the name of "modernizing Hindi", many Hindi lovers like
myself feel kind of horror when we hear the adoption of the Roman script
now. Probably no literature is richer than the Sanskrit. However, we know
that a simpler form of language from Sanskrit emerged in successive
generations like Pali, Prakrit, and many more in our history to present
day Hindi language. Over five hundred years back Sant Tulisidas was
ridiculed by then Sanskrit Scholars for not writing his RAMCHARITMANAS in
Sanskrit. However it is known to everybody the wide acceptability his
Ramayan in the minds and hearts of millions of people even today, because
it is written in simple language than Sanskrit.
Who knows what future holds for modern Hindi? But any encouragement to
replace the script will be eventually a fatal one as without its own
script any language is not a language but just a dialect.
We are fortunate in belonging to India "a rainbow nation" where there are
so many equally beautiful and rich languages beside Hindi being shared by
millions to communicate expressions and feelings and all these literature
vibrate with vigor and have a place in the hearts and the minds of
One should take further steps, not to just keep Hindi alive but promote
its beauty in younger generation so that we don't find Hindi in the
history books in the future or let this be spoken like like "Bombaiya
Hindi" as spoken by the actors in so called several "Hindi" movies like
Munna Bhai MBBS- Bole to roman men likhenga aur apun bolenga bhi to apun
ko aisa lagta hai bhaay, hindi ko Vat lag jayenga-kya bolta hai?
As they say English rulers left India but the English-ness remained in
India. Another way to look at this angle would be to quote Mr. Atal Bihari
Vajpayee as he jokingly said: "English rulers were not driven out of
India, rather they fled India to save their English language from the
The length of time that English has been in India, its importance and its
range both socially and geographically, its place in sociolinguistic link
could not be ignored.
An estimated over 30 million people regularly use English (to be more
accurate-Indian English) language in India; making India the third largest
English Speaking country in the world.
It is not easy to separate the use of English in India from the general
multilingual flux. In addition to the great variety of mixed and adapted
usage of hybrids, many words from other languages are constantly drawn
into English and today English and Hindi are the link languages in a
complex multilingual society in India as well as many countries with
population originating from the Indian sub-continent.
Keeping these facts in mind, it is very important that there should be no
more pressure on Hindi language to drop its Devnagri script which is like
a backbone of any language to hold and keep the language alive.
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