Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: India’s north-south divide has been clear and glaring in terms of language, culture and even politics. The state’s south of the Vindhyas have a typical aversion to Hindi, the language that is spoken by a majority of people in this country. Irrespective of whether of you accept it as the national language of the country or not there is no denying the reach of Hindi among the masses.

But the Hindi-English debate has been going on ever-since the country achieved independence. In fact, it had erupted before that with some of the leading lights of our freedom movement being votaries of English even though they could speak Hindi fluently and used it as the medium of communication with the masses. But having been educated abroad it was English, the so-called language of the elite, that they were actually in love with.

Considering that every country, however diverse geographically, should have a common language of communication there have been repeated attempts in India to accord Hindi that coveted status. But opposition to Hindi being made the national language has been equally strong. People in the southern states, in particular, have been averse to what they call imposition of Hindi on them. They see it as an attempt by the politically dominant north to thrust its language on them.

Partly Hindi chauvinists have been responsible for south’s aversion to the language being made the national lingua franca. These rabid followers of Hindi made some crude attempts to impose it on the southern states without making any effort to popularise the language among the people of the region. A majority of these chauvinists were the votaries of sanskritized Hindi which is hard to understand for the masses.

The fanatics trying to promote Hindi in this manner forget that the best way of making a language popular is to make it easy to understand for the masses. Bollywood has contributed significantly to the popularisation of Hindi with songs and dialogues from Hindi movies gaining currency throughout the country. The dialogues and songs of Sholay, for example, are equally popular in north and south India. There are many such examples.

Bollywood succeeded where Hindi chauvinists failed because the moviedom made the language easy to understand and presented it to the masses in an entertaining manner. Honestly speaking Bollywood has been purveying Hindustani ( a mix of Hindi and Urdu) rather than sanskritized Hindi which is not common man’s cup of tea.

Any language that seeks to connect with the masses should be easy to speak and understand and should be accommodative of experiments. For example, Urdu that was the language of communication for the army during the better part of Mughal rule in India, borrows heavily from Persian and Hindi and uses an Arabic script.

It is a commonly held belief that Urdu developed in the army camps of the Mughals who, consequent upon their consequent of India, were forced to maintain a large army. This force, drawn from various parts of the country, needed a common language that was easy to understand. Urdu fulfilled that need. It was easy, graceful and accommodative at the same time. No wonder it clicked and later even overshadowed Persian that used to be the court language of the Mughals. Hindi needs to do a Urdu in-order to become acceptable to the masses both north and south of the Vindhyas in this country.

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