On Indians and their Languages

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Decided to write on this topic today, because my previous article on this topic titled “Should Indians bother to learn Indian languages” was much appreciated on Facebook. If you’re interested in this topic, please read my earlier article as well, because this is a continuation, and I won’t be repeating the earlier ideas.

I like to write on this topic because I think of myself as an amateur linguist and love learning new languages and am familiar with seven languages: English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, French and Italian. However, I clarify that I’m “familiar” and not “proficient” because I can’t read/write in all of them, and as for French and Italian, my abilities are very poor right now due to losing touch. In addition, all the ideas I’ll put forward are just my opinions and can be disputed. You are welcome to question them or give me any additional insights.

That being said, I’d like to first start with English. It’s a no-brainer that it’s important to know English to ensure your employability. I’m in no way suggesting that it should be replaced by another language. But, I think the tendency that many privileged Indians have to look down upon or make fun of people who don’t speak English as well as they do, should change. Because, probably the only reason that their English is worse might be because they belong to a disadvantaged background, or because they come from an area where there are fewer English speakers.

Instead of doing this, we could channel our energies on learning our own mother tongue/any other Indian language well. By “well”, I mean proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing. If you are already proficient in all three respects, spend more time reading up the literature in that language. This is important because language and culture are interlinked, and if one diminishes, the other also goes down. However, I agree that there are always elements of culture we need to change to become more progressive, and am not referring to those (dowry, caste, female foeticide etc.). I’m referring to enriching components like literature, arts and music (e.g folk songs) that must be preserved. So, instead of making fun of someone else’s English, try learning your own mother tongue/any other Indian language better.

Apart from preserving culture, this is good because it will enhance your thinking abilities and problem-solving skills. Research has demonstrated that people who are bilingual have better problem-solving skills than people who know only one language, in the same manner, people who are trilingual have better skills than those who are bilingual and so on and so forth. It’s come in handy for me because though I’ve got a knack for getting into problems, am also very good at solving them because I’m familiar with many languages 🙂 😉

Lastly, I want to talk about the evolution of language. It’s interesting that we’re told to follow rigid rules of language like grammar and spelling, but we also know that languages evolved over time! If rigidity is the way to go, how did languages evolve?! That’s why I advocate that you must often break rules and get “poetic” whenever you can (as long as it does not cost you marks in exams).

Lastly, I’d like to state that I’m posting this article without much review and checking – with a large portion probably written in Indian English. I don’t understand why people have problems with Indian English, when they don’t have problems with American English! When so many Indians move to the US to study or work, they willingly adopt American spellings, in the same manner, they could accept Indian English. If we can acknowledge American English and Australian English, why not Indian English? After all, the population of India is much greater than the population of Australia and the US put together 🙂 😉

 

 

 

 

Should Indians bother to learn Indian languages?

 

Recently attended a talk by Prof. Neelam Mansingh (Padmashri Awardee, theater artist and Professor at Panjab University), found it very inspiring and informative, and would like to share the gist of it with you.

Prof. Mansingh started by talking about how studying or spending time on “art” might not get you a job or stop a war, but can lead you to appreciate and understand the finer elements in life and ultimately make us all better human beings. She probably explained it all much better in much better words, but that was the gist of it 🙂 🙂 However, what I found most interesting in her speech was that she spoke later on about the relevance of Indian languages and the second-hand treatment they get from us Indians, compared to English. I have been thinking along the same lines for some time and found it very interesting that she chose to speak about it.

She has been active in promoting Punjabi language and theater and has received many accolades for it. She recounted about how she had organized a play in Amritsar long back for her friends, most of whom happened to be convent educated like her and was taken aback to find them embarrassed that the play was in Punjabi rather than in English. Most of us won’t find this surprising because we happen to be more proficient in English rather than in any other Indian language. That’s fine because English is the most lucrative language to learn from a career point of view.

However, what’s really upsetting is that many of us are taught to look down upon Indian languages or consider them inferior. For example, in my school, we were strictly forbidden to use any mother tongue during breaks. It was done with the intention of encouraging kids to speak English, but many teachers would poke fun at kids who spoke in Kannada or Telugu etc. This attitude has damaging implications because language and culture are totally inter-related and inseparable. When you treat a language as inferior, you subconsciously also start to assume a culture as inferior. By that, you are depriving kids of the immense cultural wealth and literature that come with knowing a particular Indian language.

We Indians are not the only ones who are guilty of this attitude towards our own languages. When I read Tolstoy’s novels, was surprised to learn that many elite Russians of his era spoke in French to each other because they assumed French to be a culturally superior language compared to Russian! Of course, we must continue to learn and excel in English, because it gives us a competitive advantage in many ways, no doubts about that. But I think it’s equally important to stop having a derogatory view towards Indian languages.

And, it would be great if we could encourage our kids to excel in at least one Indian language (whichever is most convenient, depending on where you are), because it will enrich them and make them proud of their roots, by allowing them to experience the great culture and literature. I feel bad at times that I can only read Telugu (my mother tongue) with difficulty and cannot write in it 😦  That’s because growing up in Karnataka made it compulsory to study Kannada and Hindi in school, and learning Telugu separately would have been too tough. But, I feel so much the better for knowing Hindi and Kannada, and feel that much more enriched. So, it was really wonderful to see an accomplished artist and academic like Prof. Mansingh speak up for Indian languages (in perfect and impeccable English). 🙂 🙂

It’s good to be a Spendthrift!

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In general, we end up discovering that most things in life that feel good (eating sweets, drinking alcohol, staying up late etc. ) are bad for you 😦 😦 However, I’ve finally discovered something that feels good, is good for you, and for the economy – spending!! A man who spends contributes more to society compared to the man who mostly saves! It might sound counter-intuitive, but its true. Below are excerpts from the essay “In praise of idleness” by philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell that explain the concept.

“…..As long as a man spends his income, he puts just as much bread into people’s mouths in spending as he takes out of other people’s mouths in earning. The real villain, from this point of view, is the man who saves. If he merely puts his savings in a stocking, it is obvious that they do not give employment………..If he spent his money, say, in giving parties for his friends, they (we may hope) would get pleasure, and so would all those upon whom he spent money, such as the butcher, the baker, and the bootlegger……..”

If you still have doubts, check out “The paradox of thrift” in google. The paradox states that if everyone tries to save more money, then aggregate demand will fall and, in turn, lower total savings in the population because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth.

So friends, go ahead and take that extra vacation, buy that designer dress or the latest gadget. Make “security” and not “wealth” your goal. There are very few things in life that feel good and are good, spending is one of them 🙂 😉

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_thrift

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell

Anti Black Money Day

Today is the first anniversary of the Demonetisation in India, announced on Nov 8 last year. Had posted many articles a year ago supporting the move, and am pasting one of the more “liked” ones below.

Still continue to believe that it was a great and necessary first step to curb corruption and root out black money. We’re able to observe some of these concrete benefits now:

1. Rising tax compliance
2. More fear in tax evaders
3. Growing digitization of transactions
4. Crackdown on shell companies used to launder black money
5. Large increase in PAN (Permanent Account Number) registrations
6. Decrease in terror funding


Managing “Change” (When you don’t have cash!) – Posted on my FB page Nov 26, 2016.

Hope you’re all having a Great Weekend! And sincerely hope that the current demonetization is not troubling you too much. Do share your experiences during the current demonetization, both positive and negative. And, if possible, do try to help those around you to transition to digital transactions via cards or mobile wallets. It’s important to transition to cashless transactions as much as we can and help others around us do so. Sometimes, the help might involve something as simple as helping them to open bank accounts. Have myself downloaded the PayTM app recently 🙂 🙂

This is a very unusual and turbulent phase in our country when we are undergoing a lot of “change”. Coping with change (and getting change 🙂 ) is always difficult, and therefore there’s an entire field of study called “change management”. Here’s a “change management perspective” of demonetisation.

The current demonetisation is something that can be classified as a “disruptive change”. Disruptive change causes entire mechanisms and technologies to be replaced by new ones. Sadly, there’s never a pretty or foolproof method to conduct this kind of major change. There’ll always be a few people who are shortchanged or lose jobs in the process. Disruptive change is generally turbulent and inadequate in the beginning, but leads to rapid improvements later on.

Examples of disruptive change: Computers replacing typewriters, email replacing postal letters etc. To illustrate further, this is what Dr. Clayton Christensen (Professor at Harvard University), who’s an expert on this topic says: “Early personal computers were a disruptive innovation relative to mainframes and minicomputers. PCs were not powerful enough to run the computing applications that existed at the time they were introduced. These innovations were disruptive in that they didn’t address the next-generation needs of leading customers in existing markets. They had other attributes, of course, that enabled new market applications to emerge, and the disruptive innovations improved so rapidly that they ultimately could address the needs of customers in the mainstream of the market as well.”

In the current scenario, we’re hoping that an increase in digital transactions will accompany demonetisation and bring about benefits like lower inflation, lower tax evasion, lesser corruption, financial difficulty for terrorists, more money for government to spend on infrastructure etc. It’s therefore very imperative to adapt to cashless transactions. Apart from the knowledge and information on how to do so, mindsets need to change as well.

Many individuals do not want to transition because they’ll need to start paying taxes if they do so. However, we can’t have double standards and expect our Netas and Babus to be honest while we continue to evade taxes. There’s ample proof that digital transactions cut down corruption or make it easier to track. The best example in India is the advent of online railway booking. This step almost eliminated Railway touts who used to book tickets in bulk and cause difficulties to the common man.

Of course, there seem to be quite a few lapses in the implementation, however this is generally the case, because planning for disruptive change is a very difficult process, easier in hindsight. An insight from change management literature is that leadership during disruptive change involves managing unsurpassed levels of uncertainty, because no robust data exists to do prior planning. Constantly adaptive planning is the only way out (as is happening now), it involves studying the results, learning from them, and then constantly modifying assumptions and approaches. Given the extra burden of secrecy in this case, it would’ve been impossible to meticulously plan for every possible outcome.

No wonder many people said that demonetization was a “brave and risky” decision to take. However, the risk is worthwhile if it succeeds, because disruptive change can help you “leapfrog” – get significantly ahead. Most developed countries are mostly cashless and therefore have much lower levels of corruption. So far, it’s a good sign that despite the inconveniences, almost 86% Indians (both urban and rural, according to the recent C voter survey) have remained remarkably resilient, and are still supporting this move. This is a positive outcome and hopefully signals a better future.

Don’t lose focus

Recently came across this wonderful article that has great tips on how to be more focused in life. Nowadays, we have too many distractions – the cellphone, social media, hobbies…etc. and very often, we end up feeling lost. Felt really happy reading this and summarized the main points, so that I can implement it easily. Here’s the summary – hope it’s helpful!

1. Write down your top 4-5 priorities and always keep them at the top of your mind.
– Post those priorities in your office, home and on your bathroom mirror.
– Identify activities that steal your time – figure out how to prevent that.
– Limit screen time, shut down the phone periodically.

2. Schedule the most important tasks of the day – and don’t multitask them with other activities.

3. Try to get more organized.

4. Think positively, and don’t waste time on negative emotions like anger, guilt, regret, etc.

5. Try and choose stuff you enjoy doing, or try to make your work more fun.

Reference: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/270734