cash cows, i[...] c[...]

zydenbos at zydenbos at
Mon Nov 18 15:29:02 UTC 1996

Replies to msg 17 Nov 96: indology at (Mahendra Verma)

 mau> Robert Zydenbos' follow up, and reiteration of the earlier
 mau> belief about Hindi,
 mau> and the further elaboration of it needs a brief response:

[I apologize again if I have been repeating things stated in (the) earlier 
discussion(s). I had disjoined INDOLOGY for a while because I was touring
around without a computer, and I rejoined only very recently.]

 mau> 1. It seems a fashion from time to time to talk in terms of
 mau> " Hindi as a tool
 mau> of oppression". It may be a legitimate question to ask such
 mau> a research
 mau> question, but totally meaningless to base judgements with
 mau> no backing of
 mau> sociolinguistic research. It is not a question of making a
 mau> politically
 mau> incorrect statement, but of making statements which are
 mau> based on impressions
 mau> and heresay.Where does the data on 'hate' and contempt'
 mau> come from ?

Not from the 'Hindi belt', nor from teachers of the "cash-cow language", for
sure. In southern India one finds clear expressions of this. I am very highly
surprised indeed that this matter can at all be spoken of (and apparently
dismissed) as a mere "fashion" (already two persons here have made this
judgment -- without any signs of "backing of research", I may add) and
"hearsay" [Sorry, I suppose you mean "hearsay" - unless you mean "heresy" ;-)]
in INDOLOGY, which I thought was a list of mainly Indologists. Yes, as another
list subscriber has remarked: there is a lot of bizarre stuff on this list.

Anyone who has had an even cursory look at the history of Tamil (sub-)
nationalism will know how much Hindi is hated there. I understand that there
are no longer Hindi news broadcasts on t.v. in Tamilnadu. I do not know whether
this change occurred before or after the Hindi Pracharini Sabha in Chennai
(this city used to be called Madras) was bombed. "Hindi imperialism" is a term
used in Karnataka ("hindi saamraajya~saahi" in Kannada) by authors, scholars,
at least one vice-chancellor of a university, etc. I have made some mention of
this, with references, in my doctoral dissertation, which, deo volente, will
appear in print by the end of this year (I could not find any publisher for it
for years, because it is about mere Kannada literature. Publishers academic as
well as commercial weren't even interested in seeing the manuscript: Kannada is
not a cash cow).

But indeed: from where does one get data? If Western academia thinks that one
can gain direct access to modern 'India' through Hindi alone (because of its
"cultural spread", or something), then hardly anybody will / can study any
other modern Indian language. As a result, hardly anybody will gain access to
the kind of material that reflects anti-Hindi sentiments, and we have a
self-perpetuating ignorance. And the very, very few people who work in
languages other than Hindi have other, nicer things to do rather than keeping
track of anti-Hindi utterances.

In spite of that supposedly great "cultural spread" of Hindi, farmer's son Deve
Gowda could not speak Hindi when he became prime minister (nor could the
previous president), and recently he thought he had to learn it, for which he
was ridiculed in the press (I cannot speak about the Hindi press. There's one
hint for people who want data).

 mau> 2. English does not, and can not facilitate the vast
 mau> majority of individuals
 mau> and communities in India to carry out discourse. The elite
 mau> and the privileged
 mau> only represent a tiny minority of the population. I am not
 mau> making any claims
 mau> for Hindi other than what Barz has done.

One of my claims is that Hindi hardly does any better, since in practice it too
is an elite language which creates a new privileged minority. I believe I have
already illustrated this, with my first-hand experiences / hearsay / fashion /
whatever you want to call it.

I have here the 1976 figures of new titles published in India in the four major
publishing languages of that year, viz. in English (6733), Hindi (2235),
Marathi (1290) and Kannada (1261) [my reference here says Indian Express,
17.7.1988. Sorry, I have not noted down the figures for the dozen other
official languages of India. But I believe that Marathi and Kannada already
indicate Hindi's minority status in printed discourse]. I find the three last
figures interesting, and invite anyone to look up the official numbers of
speakers of those languages and then to reflect on the relative intensity of
discourse. (I do not know how many of those Hindi books are government

Robert Zydenbos

P.S. 1: (Referring to anti-Hindi sentiment:) Do most Indians really have black
hair? Maybe somebody can provide us with evidence from sociological research
that there is a lot of black hair in India, so that all of us will be convinced
forever. After all, we don't want this to be mere "hearsay" or "fashion". ;-)
P.S. 2: Sorry for the wicked sarcasms, Mahendra and Richard. Nothing personal,
I just had to make them. I do have strong opinions about the subject.

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