A Kannadiga with a Dutch wife is a pathological specimen

Anand Soondas makes some usual English-media remarks about language in India in an article called "Are we losing mother tongue" which appeared in the Times of India Crest Edition of March 27th.

Soondas's article can be nominated for the prize of the crest jewel of minority aggrandizement: the aggrandizement of English, the aggrandizement of migrants, the aggrandizement of the market of English speakers, the aggrandizement of mixed marriages (Delhi-based Kannadigas with Dutch wives!).

The first question the article begs is: "Hello, who are we? Readers of the Times of India Crest Edition?" If that is the case, perhaps the article should have been called "Are the readers of the Times of India Crest Edition losing their mother tongue?". Then the answer would probably default to a "yes", and Soondas would probably be covered. But Soondas has no such cover, and many are those who will read Soondas's article online (not caring to buy the Times of India Crest Edition) and wrongly conclude that their mother tongues are dying.

To them is this essay addressed.

The three Ms stink of minority aggrandizement

The central assumption of Soondas's thesis is that...
[i]n an increasingly urbanised India, mother tongues are under siege and facing a sustained attack from the three Ms of migration, market and mixed marriages.
The first problem with the above claim is, we know how much migration there is to begin with: it's not more than 4% on average in India (of course, we're talking about inter-state migration, because that's the one which crosses a language border, if at all). So even if the mother tongues of all those 4% are getting destroyed, it's not as huge a loss as the article makes it seem. Smells of minority aggrandizement?

The second problem is that the article shies away from truth by making the baseless claim that English is the "only window to the outside world, a potent weapon that allows one to compete in a market driven environment". We know that global multinational corporations (anyone heard of Google?) are increasingly internationalizing their product and service offerings by supporting more and more of the world's languages, not fewer and fewer. Stinks of minority aggrandizement?

And then, the third problem is of taking one Delhi-based Kannadiga called Shubhendra married to a Dutch wife called Saskia, or the children of one Kashmiri married to a Tamil with a job in Kolkata - and using them as mascots of a flawed thesis. Make no mistake: these pathological cases do not represent India. They probably represent the readership of the ToI Crest Edition, or even where that readership is headed, but that's it. Rots with minority aggrandizement?

Those who are "fortunately pushing-back" do not represent India

Whatever be the reason why the article seems to lack a central message, it is actually not without one. And that theme lies buried in the final section:
It is this realisation - that a modern India galloping on the strength of English is tearing children away from their languages and roots - that’s triggering a modest push-back.
Again, English may be tearing away the children of those who buy the Times of India Crest Edition, and may be they're pushing back modestly. But all this is besides the point. All this is besides the true India. All this is inapplicable to 96% of Indians who are not nomads to begin with, whose children are not being torn away from their languages and roots, and who therefore don't need to push back.

English is not necessary for knowledge and career advancement

Finally, I'd like to end this post with a message for "22-year-old Krinna Dobhal, an IT professional who’s guilty of abandoning the language of her ancestors":

English is not necessary for knowledge and career advancement. You have been indoctrinated into making that assumption by the education system which you've been in. That system needs to be reformed, and you can help in that reform. Don't be convinced that your mother-tongue cannot give you knowledge and career advancement of the best kind. The Japanese, the Israelis, the French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Greek, the anybody-and-everybody aren't convinced. Get up, stand up, and do what it takes to steer India back on the right track. On the other hand, if you're completely convinced, don't feel guilty of abandoning the language of your ancestors. Throw it away and stop shedding a fool's tears. Culture, folk dances and folk music are secondary. If you love them so much and don't realize the flaw in your assumption, your daily dose of culture and folk dances and folk music will vanish, too.


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