Hindi [was Re: Cash Cows..]

Jakub Cejka jakub at unipune.ernet.in
Mon Nov 25 19:32:01 UTC 1996

> Robert Zyndenbos wrote:
> >What is still more ironic is that, in spite of the bad movies and of the
> >official promoting of Hindi by New Delhi (e.g. through the mass media), the
> >percentage of the Indian population with whom one can have an intelligent
> >conversation in Hindi is very limited indeed. (Personally, I have had more
> >useful conversations in Sanskrit.)
Outside the so called "Hindi Belt" I've been in TN, Kerala, Orissa, W.B.,
Maharashtra. I must second the above. Or rather: those with whom you can
have an intelligent conversation in Hindi do usually know English as well.
Among those who do not know English a great majority does not Hindi either
(or mix it with their tongue, when they speak to an outsider). In
Tamilnadu and Kerala it's hard to find one knowing any Hindi at all and it
is always English what the people know beside their language, if anything. 

> >I wonder whether the Hindi motivation in the western democracies isn't,
> >ultimately, largely ideological too.
I think it is. As is the Govt's pushing for it to be used as National

Richard Barz wrote:
> It's fashionable in some circles, for ideological and other reasons, to
> indulge in Hindi-bashing.  But, sorry, it just isn't true that "the
> >percentage of the Indian population with whom one can have an intelligent
> >conversation in Hindi is very limited indeed".  In fact, if one ignores
> >the artificial divisions between Hindi, filmi Hindi, Hindustani and Urdu
It is not so artificial I think. 
I know little Hindi, but the Sanskritized Hindi, which I find in secondary
literature, TV etc I perceive as quite different from the Hindi used by
it's native speakers and the Hindi used by not-much-educated speakers of
other languages as a lingua franca with. The Sanskritized Hindi, which is
the one printed in Govt. paperwork, is understood only by more
sofisticated people. 

Example of a family (which I know very well):

Bengali speakers living in Calcutta (where more Urdu or Hindi is heard in 
the very centre of city, than Bengali). Father being a WB govt officer,
understands Hindi TV news fully, 
his wife a housewife knows no Hindi at all, his daughter (now doing MSc),
fluent in English understands the news-service partly, but cannot speak
much Hindi. 

I came across many other examples of other Bengalis, university scholars,
fluent in English, who understand the Hindi news quite imperfectly and
can't speak. In W.B. I almost never found Bengali speaker knowing Hindi
sufficiently while not knowing English 
The reason is obvious: Whenever other language than Bengali is used in
school, local office-work etc, it is English in W.B. not Hindi. (Exception
is Darjeeling area, where Nepalis prefer Hindi to Bengali)
In Pune, where I am staying, Hindi is known more than in rural W.B.
ofcourse, but what the shopkeepers, street vendors etc speak with
non-Marathis is Hindi almost as broken as mine :-)
(typical is use of tum forms like "bolo" instead of aap forms like "bolie"
where it would be never used by the Hindi-wallas as far as I have noticed) 

To repeat myself, those who learn "suddh Hindi" find it very difficult to
communicate with the majority of people in India, *including* the native
speakers from the HIndi belt, except the more sophisticated ones, but
those usually know English. The only use of this language is to read the
secondary literature, I think.

Sorry for entering into this discussion unrelated to Sanskrit...

Btw, do  we have any group to discuss modern Indian languages to avoid it
on this "classical" list? 

Jakub Cejka
Dept. of Sanskrit, University of Pune
Ganeshkhind, Pune, India  411 007

e-mail:  jakub at unipune.ernet.in  
(valid till June 97 approx.) 

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