Friday, August 21, 2009

Zubaan Sambhal ke

First of all a big THANK YOU to all those who took the pains to visit my blog, and some of them even posted their comments. It has really been very encouraging.

This piece is dedicated to my city – Lucknow, the City of Nawabs, rich culture and eloquence. Despite its many shortcomings, it remains dear to me, especially for the sophistication and refinery of its language. But sadly, now that seems to be changing.

Years ago, we all saw how Pankaj Kapur struggled to teach his students Hindi in the famous TV serial “Zabaan Sambhal Ke”. The striking thing about the serial was its chosen theme – Language. An essential component of our personalities, yet most often we tend to ignore the essence of language or zubaan.

More than a decade after the ordeal of Pankaj Kapur, I’m sure many teachers in Lucknow too would be undergoing the same pain with their students. The city is largely dominated by the Hindi speaking populace but there is also no dearth of denizens who have mastered the Queen’s language. Next comes Urdu, which with its delicacy and grace lends uniqueness to the tehzeeb of Lucknow. But, its speakers are shrinking in numbers and would be far less as compared to the other two languages.

However, the three languages are losing their popularity with the Gen-X (read SMS generation) which is busy evolving its own lingua franca. I see youngsters in the city developing a penchant for a language whose etymology is beyond my comprehension. I can bear with slangs, for you can look up their meanings in dictionary and thesaurus. But, what do I do with words whose origins and meanings remain untraceable despite all efforts. They are manufactured in the factory of these youngsters’ minds, circulated among their friends, who probably understand and appreciate them, and then somehow reach mortals like me, who lack the intelligence and taste to comprehend and praise them.

I’m not separated from this young bunch by many years. But, the change seems wide. When I was studying then too there would be a wide circulation of abusive words. No day would pass in my alma mater when I did not hear the word “F***”, used effortlessly and generously by me peers and teachers alike. It was either my upbringing or self-restrain that forbade me from picking such words. Or perhaps it was sheer hesitation or a strong dislike. But, above all, it was a conscious effort not to include them in my lexicon. Today, however, their usage in conversations is considered “stylish” and is also acceptable.

Words like Saale, kaminey, pagal, bewakoof can still be considered endearing to some extent, but the ones coming from that detestable genre of MC/BC can’t! Worse, there are innovative ones from Hinglish. No dearth of acronyms as well, thanks to the SMS culture. In fact, at times, my younger cousins send me SMSes in such short-cuts that I’ve to often take a long-cut to derive the message conveyed to me.

For a city which has earned a distinctive stature for its tehzeeb and whose communication skills are emulated and adored outside, I see the new invention as an embarrassment. I may sound dogmatic. So it be. Someone aptly summed up this change the other day to me: Earlier, it used to be ‘Pehle Aap’ in Lucknow. Now, it’s ‘Pehle Tum!’

What is worrisome is that adults too do not lag behind. In offices, public places or drawing rooms, you cannot miss hearing conversations laced with the “exquisite” vocabulary.

So, is this degradation in language incurable? Is there no Tamiflu (medicine given to swine flu patients) for it? Think before you speak. We were told umpteen times in schools. Then, why not choose before you speak. Choosing words which make the conversations sound decent at least if not eloquent. Perhaps, it’s time we seek some inspiration from the students of Pankaj Kapur, who at least made efforts to make the needful amendments in their language.

Guy De Maupassant once wrote: “My choices are simple. I like the best”. May be, the young brigade can try to pick the best words from the lexicon when they next utter a sentence!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Love Freedom, Respect Nation!

Love Freedom, Respect Nation!

Once again we smell the manure of freedom. 15 August, 2009. Another addition to our independent existence. A long and eventful journey of 62 years. And still, the tryst with destiny continues. We marvel and mourn, grow and groan, wander and wonder, crib and yet live. Mired in controversies, yet rarely tired. That’s India – of you and me.

What is that keeps us going, often in most difficult of the situations? A spirited approach or a reckless living? Perhaps, both. Let me try to explain. We have been traumatized by those two dreaded words – Swine Flu. The rising number of casualties and medical helplessness in curbing it presents a bleak picture for the near future. You walk into any public place and the fear of catching the flu is writ large on the faces. Sneezing, in recent memory, never invited so much public ire as it does these days. And if you exercise caution then it’s wisdom and not a foolish act. For the scare, to a large extent, is valid.

Yet, it failed to dampen our spirits on Janmashtami (which fell on August 14). The sea of people overflowed almost from nowhere on the streets of Mumbai and festivity exploded. The drooping India was suddenly vibrant. Who would believe that swine flu virus and dahi-handi were swaying together in the air. At least, we would. For, we are a nation of paradox and we revel in it.

This is no easy art of living, especially with tags like “emotional country” or a “soft nation”. We suffer yet know how to forgive. Even if someone decimates our population with an AK-47, we ensure that he gets a fair trial. How many nations in the world would appreciate it, leave alone emulating. But, it is somewhere in this weakness lies our strength. We value freedom – ours as well as those of others. Indian democracy has loopholes, but it’s not a failure. Freedom is misused in the country, but it still exists. We hate the khadi-clad but know can’t also live without them.

In short, we know how to live in contradictions. Oxymoron is India’s elixir of life. A nation where one finds the co-existence of Fear and Faith, Optimism and Pessimism, Joy and Sorrow, Hate and Forgiveness. I quote these because they are not identifiable with any caste or religion. Instead, they undeniably run in the veins of each Indian.

It is also beyond my comprehension how we manage to survive it all. However, like many I too complain and regale about such things. Fret and fume, muse and amuse. Still, I love the breath of freedom and also my country. Its patriotic fervour surely has a unique aroma. We tangibly feel it on 26 January and 15 August, but almost invariably breathe it round the year.

To each one of you, therefore, I urge – Love Freedom, Respect Nation. Even in a billion population, we derive our individual existence and identity from these two words.

Jai Hind