The problem is, Nilekani isn't looking outside

Nandan Nilekani has the following to say about English in a recent discussion on a topic well outside corporate governance and software project management:
"Today it is a language of integration."
What Nandan really means is that Hindi can only disintegrate us, but English can integrate (this is something he says in his book, too).

One language can never achieve national integration in India

While it's true that Hindi can only achieve national disintegration, not integration, neither English nor any one language can achieve the integration of India.

English can remain as the language of communication between different states and in the union cabinet in future only under three flawed assumptions: (1) that Indian languages don't have what it takes to get out of the kitchen, (2) Language translation professionals, software and hardware can never do a sufficiently accurate job, and (3) one country necessarily requires one link-language. That all three assumptions are flawed is being increasingly understood by people all over the world.

Hindi, of course, can occupy that office only under one assumption: that Indians are going to remain stupid.

All the national languages of India can and must be used in matters of the central government and between states - just like in Europe. That is the only true integration of the Indian sub-continent which is so linguistically diverse. When dealing with foreign countries, any Indian language must be deemed equally fit. It should come as no surprise if Veerappa Moily talks to Barack Obama in Kannada through either an interpreter or a piece of translation equipment. We mean surprise to Hindi Impositionists or Infoscion Thinkers; Obama won't give a damn whether it's Hindi or Kannada or English as long as communication can take place.

The bigger problem with Infoscion thinking

The question of language entails an issue closer to the hearts of Indians than national integration: food. Here too, Infoscion thinking (which term we now use for "English is all" thinking in general) proves inadequate. According to Nandan Nilekani and his friends who put their hand in the fire for English, English is also the only language of food, the only language of education, the only language of employment, and the only language of globalization. That's the problem with this Infoscion thinking: it implicitly considers India as an English-language call-centre writ large.

English creates a have-havenot divide within each state, and therefore in the whole of India. That divide doesn't exist inside Infosys because of the way Infosys is defined. It exists outside. The problem is, Nilekani isn't looking outside. That divide doesn't exist within the 7% Indians who are proficient in English, but it exists outside. The problem is, Nilekani isn't looking outside. He only seems to be.


Venkatesh said...

Moily speaking to Obama in Kannada - Indian constitution would create a law to term that as illegal.
Moily has to resign his office if he insists that he speaks in Kannada.
We are living in Indian union not in Karnataka. Moily will be charged under POTA kinda law.

sandhya said...

Today I over heard a conversation of two mothers in a bus. They were probably villagers from some village near to Bengaluru who had put their kids to a boarding school. One of them was saying that now my son knows english and hindi!! they are not at all allowed to speak Kannada in school!! he is improving now!!

I really felt very bad about this. Just look at the system that our country is offering to us. We are 2nd grade cos we speak our language!! Is this improvement??

Jai Veerupaksha said...

Instead of looking at just shortcuts that our thought leaders propound, lets try to approach the problem from a different angle.

While no country can ever match India in its linguistic diversity, let us take a small country Switzerland that has some linguistic diversity nevertheless and see how things work there (would rather say how they have made it work there). This is definitely a better reference point than say US or UK which our thought leaders seem so addicted to use.

Switzerland is broadly composed of 4 linguistic parts- The Central and Eastern German part (62%), the French speaking Western part (22%), the Italian speaking Southern portion (9%), Romanisch speaking Regions around the Chur area (1%), others (about 6-7%). The important point to note here is that German is not the unofficial National Language unlike Hindi with just less than 36% speakers has been forcefully propounded in our country. There would be a blood bath in what is one of the most peaceful countries of the world if that is ever attempted. I have seen Germans picking up French in less than 3 months when they move from Zurich to Geneva or the French picking up German likewise instead of such crap as a common national language. Employment patterns also in these respective areas clearly show that there is not too much of criss cross movement from one language dominated area to the other and even if it happens it is assumed that the person who has migrated will pick the language of his host in no time though they are part of the same country .

Now how do they manage this diversity- the country is divided into various cantons with a clear demarcation of the language of the region. All official communication within the German speaking region is German, French speaking region is French and so on. All Central Government services are offered in all 4 languages, the railway services, booking services so on and so forth are in all 4 languages...why that, even Swiss Air which is Switzerland's national carrier has the name mentioned in all 4 languages all over the Aircraft.

All train announcements are in 2 languages if it is between 2 cities belonging to 2 different linguistic areas. If it cuts across a 3rd linguistic region and has a halt there then announcements will be in all 3 languages but there would never be a compromise on agreeing to a common language or with English as the common link language. English is also used only for announcements where the trains terminate at the international airports of Geneva or Zurich. The sequence of these announcements are also in line with the linguistic domination of the area that the train is passing through when the announcement is made. Mind you that the entire concept of the European Union for common economic benefits would be splintered if this cultural give and take respect is affected in any way from the present status quo. back to India.... Now does all that mean that we should have all services in all the 14 national languages??? Eg: Rail ticket booking, Air ticket booking, Customer services of Central Government owned services etc. I would say why not??..... Can't we have all Central Government offerings and applications with a front end in all the national languages of the country? While this appears cumbersome, this is child play when compared to educating another 800 million of the population of our country in English. Why can't customer service be in Kannada and English only in Karnataka, Tamil and English only in TN and so on and so forth?

Hinudindian said...

Better not take the opinion of anyone related to Infy, as they seem to have very distorted skewed mental disorder , for ex:
1 The Chairman refuses to sing national anthem in our own state and country just because there are foreign nationals int he campus. I was told by my American friend that they infact respect anyone being patriot !!! I think the so calle dChief Mentor has very screwed thinking in this matter.
2 Lousy attitudes indicated in satyam fiasco, had this been in any other country ...say in US - the corporates stand together and help with ideas as it is question of Country not of a company !
3 They have no freaking respect for Kannadigas, they seem suffer from pseudo-intelluctualism that anything to hate Kannada is the style ! After lal the threatening of leaving our city and State, still they've NOT done it, as they know best talent is available in KARNATAKA !
4 All the charity stuff is bogus drama, as it is all out of stock money which is fee money and also, mostly to get media coverage !
5 The so calle dMentor mentione din BVB College, HUbli that he will set-up Hubli operations if connected by air. Capt. Gopinath did a great job of connecting Bengaluru to Hubli , by daily flights. Even now, he doesn't think Hubli doesn't deserve the IT, he fails to understand his wife is from the same place.

List will go on....let us take reference of some SANE THOUGHTS !

Anand said...

I had gone for couple of days trip with office folks. They were allowed to bring their kids too. One kid to other kid(mind you both are from kannada speaking family).

1st kid: Hey, alli monkey's ide, adu banana kitkollutte.
2nd kid: Illi cows ide, cowsge banana kodona.

Right in the presence of their family. I ensured that that's not the right way to speak any language. whom do you think are guilty?
Kids or the parents who are not ready to correct their kids and teach them proper way to speak it ?

in Hampi a pretty decent hotel had decent share of bengali's & UP guys working as waiters. So what's problem with Kannda folks ? Dont they want to work ? There must be something wrong with us than anyone else..

sandhya said...


Your question is something to be thought about. First of all, who are owners of these hotels? they must be Kannadigas.. (hoping so).. Still they will hire a person from UP or bengal is cos of "money"(these ppl work for less money.. of course they are ppl who even kill for petty amounts..) and there's one more big reason!! most Kannadigas think that these people work better than localites!! This is similar to how most Indians think that some imported product is better than that made in India.. The only solution for such issues wud be to instill the pride back into Kannadiga-minds. To make Kannadigas understand that they are not second to any one else and they need to be united in order to ensure that someone else will not take advantage is the need of the hour

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