Is ‘Education’ English?

Hima – Top in running, not English

SOME PEOPLE troll others just to get attention, because media, social or otherwise, notice negativity more than positive words.

When Hima Das won a gold medal for running in World Athletics and was interviewed on camera, the girl from a village in Assam spoke in broken English. The Athletic Federation of India, commended her for her spirit and commitment despite her being not so fluent in English.

Then came some trolls slamming AFI for insulting the athlete for not being fluent in English. Huma herself took no offence and defended AFI.

It did not matter to the trollers that the girl, as Prime Minister Modi said, brought tears of joy to everyone who felt he/she was an Indian.

It was a running race, not an English exam. And she made us all proud.

The incident brought into focus the way most people equate education with mastery over English. If you don’t know English, you are looked down upon – you are considered rustic and uneducated – a ‘gavar’ – uncivilized, uncouth.

Decades ago as a cub reporter, I recall interviewing a highly paid UN expert from Japan who did not know any English.In sharp contrast was the way the sons and daughters of Lalu Yadav, the Bihar leader, tried to show off by replying in English to questions in Hindi in a TV interview.

And they are from the family of a leader who deliberately speaks rustic tongue and claims to be a follower of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia.

Also crowding my mind were memories of many interactions with ‘doctorsaheb’ (as Lohia was called) in which he would shun English as the common man in India did not know it, though he was one of the best speakers of English in Indian politics (anyone who read ‘Wheel of History‘ or ‘Interval in Politics’ by him would know it). Yet, doubtful of a teenager’s ability to translate his Hindi correctly for my English daily, he would dictate to me in English. He was not dogmatic – language was only a means of communication.

This practice of equating English skills with education is deprecable. It has become fashionable for all who want to be considered modern, civilized and polished, to speak in English.

And thinking in English has its flip side. A friend used to say that when a person is being discussed and he/she comes you wish him well, saying ‘Sau saal jio’ (live a hundred years) in any Indian language but abuse as devil (think of the devil and.,.) in English.

It is the propensity to flaunt mastery over English words that made Sashi (Cattle class) Tharoor join the group of Congress leaders scoring self-goals for that party – like Mani (neech admi) Shankar (chaIwala) Aiyer, Renuka (HaHaHa) Choudary and Digvijay (Diggy RaJa) Singh.

Wait for Tharoor to dig out some old obscure, flamboyant, word for that syndrome – unless you already think it should be ‘Pappuism’

(Written on phone)

Published by

B. Someswar Rao

60 years of journalism, from the age of 16, and two books later, life has so much more to offer, there is no looking back. Not yet. Unstoppable after 70 is a simple expression of my thoughts, my triumphs, my failures and everything that makes this journey incredible. My books: - A TOWN CALLED PENURY- the changing culture of Indian journalism - JOURNALISM - Ethics, Codes, Laws Working on: - 'THE OUTHOUSE ON THE FIRST FLOOR - Coming of (Old)Age in India'

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