Linguistic Fracas

Languages fascinate me. While Punjabi is my mother tongue and I am proficient in Hindi and English, I learnt spoken Bangla during my work stint in Kolkata. In my early days, I did a one year certificate course in Russian too. Besides, I can read and write Urdu and Gurumukhi.

However, when it comes to the tonal sweetness, ease of speaking and understanding and universality, the erstwhile Hindustani, a simpler version of today’s Hindi, remains unique. This thought specifically struck me yesterday, when I read the Hindi translation of the latest circular issued by Reserve Bank of India. “Updated Harmonised Master List of Infrastructure sub sector ” actually reads as ” Avsanrachna Oop Kshetron Ki Adhyatan Sumailit Master Suchi”. Except for the word Master Suchi, I couldn’t make out of the rest of the terms. I don’t think this was the Hindi we learnt in our schools. Why have we chosen to replace simple words such as “Mushkil/Kathin (difficult), koshish (effort), engineer, doctor, depot” etc. with “Klisht, Prayatan, Abhiyanta, Chikitsak, Aagaar” respectively. If English and other languages have borrowed and are borrowing liberally from other languages, why we are making Hindi so very pure and detached, actually either coining new difficult tongue twisting words or falling back upon Sanskrit for original words?

A good language has to have vast repository of words, representing all nuances and expressions, this repository can be built generously by borrowing good, commonly spoken words of other languages. Engineer, doctor, compounder are fine and so are computer, mobile phone and charger!

While an Indian has increasingly become a global citizen, let’s also aspire to make our Hindi a global means of communication. If it indeed aspires to come close to English and other widely spoken international languages, the way forward may be in simplification and inclusiveness rather than rigidity and ring fencing. After all, what’s in the name – our life giver sun or Suraj whom we see every day is also known as Dinkar, Bhaskar and Prabhakar. Let these remain the theme of grammar being taught in schools or the names of individuals but for day to day conversations Suraj is fine and universally understood.

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