Comments on: Keep your distance, speak English Perspectives on South Asian politics Thu, 02 Jun 2016 08:03:22 +0000 hourly 1 By: Robert MacMillan Wed, 26 Dec 2012 18:11:18 +0000 Thanks for the thoughtful and lovely response!

By: Woman21 Tue, 25 Dec 2012 14:24:22 +0000 How do you handle these linguistic differences?
Never given a thought to it. But I am proud of the diversity. As a kid of course I had some trouble. My mother tongue was Hindi because of which I only knew two languages. But my friends from other states could speak three and even four languages (that is if the parents were from two different states). Naturally, I was jealous.

Why do you use English in certain situations and not in others?

Well now that you brought this to notice I agree that in most formal situations I tend to use English and in informal conversations Hindi. But there is no hard and fast rule. 90% times when I have to discuss my work with the colleagues I have used English and 10% times Hindi, and when I have to discuss work colleagues ( ah! okay gossip) , national politics I will use 80% times Hindi, 20% English.

But this division is not very difficult to understand. English is a second language something we acquire at school and it takes times to be proficient in it. Whereas mother tongue is the first language we learn. All our important demands in the initial years are made in the mother tongue. In fact, some schools had punishments if we were caught talking in the mother tongue. This was to make us proficient in English (draconian I agree). So even as kids while we will tend to have most intimate conversation in the mother tongue, our homework- essay in English, history, science etc. tends to be in English.
May be that’s why English is kind of a work language and mother tongue is for more intimate sort of banter.

Is it ever OK for me to struggle through Hindi, Urdu or Bengali with you because I’m a student? Or is it artificial and weird to depart from English, the language that we know we both speak?
I don’t think it’s a crime.

Finally, how much does language reinforce the notion of being separate people — and in a way, separate countries — inside a democracy whose borders were drawn by other people many years ago?

Good question. It only matters to politicians. See even if we are diverse there is something that unites us. I don’t know what. Indian nationalism has puzzled scholars too. While one may admit British to have brought us together, there are important puzzles. Like British India also had Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma (Myanmar). But somehow these were never assimilated. Whereas right from the start the three presidency- Bombay, Madras, Calcutta had separately formed Indian associations which before the rise of Congress actively participated in protecting Indian rights. They thought they are Indians! I may discuss Tamil question someday, but not today.

Happy Festivities!

By: ImamHaq Mon, 24 Dec 2012 04:43:21 +0000 “Robert” wrote: “I don’t know about the origin”

This is the beginning.

“I dont’ know”.

A lifetime of learning.

Is called for.

And yet not enough.

To know.

Even with the internet.

And Google.

By: Robert MacMillan Mon, 24 Dec 2012 04:09:34 +0000 I don’t know about the origin. I also appreciate your words regarding “communal.” I’ve learned something now, and will be more careful in the future.

By: ImamHaq Mon, 24 Dec 2012 01:55:12 +0000 Robierat Wrote: “Justice Markandey Katju wrote about the value of learning communal languages such as Hindi and English”

This statement is ironic because the author has used the word “communal” in reference to something that Katju wrote.

Who said the following?
“80% of Hindus are communal, 80% of Muslims are communal, and 90% of Indians are idiots”

The word “communal” in Indian English is a strongly negative word. It is always used to imply segregation & divisiveness and hatred. For example, an Indian journalist might write, “The BJP’s communal politics has led to an increase in communal violence”. Perhaps the author should brush up on Indian English, lest he go about inadvertently confusing his Indian readers.

Here is Katju’s article in same Newspaper that the author has referred (The Hindu) is which Katju uses the repeatedly uses the word “communal” and always in the negative sense that is standard in Indian English.  /katju-says-90-indians-are-idiots/artic le4178819.ece

PS: Roubiert, do you have any idea about the communal origins of name “Katju”? For example, MacMillan is a name originating in Alba, so what is the equivalent region of origination for the name Katju? Is that a Kankubhji name? I know it sounds like it has something to do with the practise of circumsion in the Semitic-speaking lands to the west, but I don’t think it is a foreign name. I wondered if you had any insight into its origins? If you hear anything, please let your readers know. Thank you.

By: nikks Fri, 23 Nov 2012 07:34:06 +0000 I agree to it.English is an international language.Now a days there are places where english is prefered langauges like airports,coffee shops,restuarants,pizza shops etc., I always visit coffee shop i have practically learnt how to order a coffee in english with videos like this one

By: Robert MacMillan Sun, 11 Nov 2012 20:07:48 +0000 Thanks for your comment. I don’t think that that is what Narayan was saying. I think that she was trying to say that she used English as a matter of formality, and that the intimacy that Tamil would generate would put off her husband’s colleague. Had he spoken English in a land where everyone spoke Tamil for formal communication, she would have stuck to Tamil. That has nothing to do with the intricacies and subtleties of either language, of which, I suspect, there are many. And after saying all that, how I wish I could speak Tamil! But I will have to wait on that one, I’m afraid. Thanks again for reading!

By: Chandugopal Sun, 11 Nov 2012 15:22:44 +0000 I agree with Ms Narayan. English rarely convey intimacy like Indian languages. hen-names-lack-intimacy.html

By: Robert MacMillan Fri, 09 Nov 2012 14:51:55 +0000 Thanks for the response. Do you think that she was interested in maintaining the distance, despite her words? And that she projected her desire onto what she imagined his desire would be?

By: KNatarajan Fri, 09 Nov 2012 02:57:12 +0000 Ms. Narayanan says she used English to maintain a social distance between her, the “boss-mans’ wife”, and her husband’s Tamil-speaking colleague. I submit that her justification for speaking in English to “maintain a distance” is intensively offensive. What was her husband’s colleague’s transgression? He simply wanted to invite her to his wedding! From the way the story is narrated, he has behaved with more class than this Ms. Narayanan. If she knew Tamil, she could have switched to Tamil after a few words in English. This would have made this “nervous young man” feel at ease and would have shown her class. Instead she wields English as a weapon to put this man in his place. To be able to speak fluent English in the Indian context is largely an accident of birth. This requires no great individual accomplishment and does not reflect intellectual or moral superiority.