I was trying to teach some written hindi, we came upon the ली, when I was told it looked like a penis with two testicles on the side. I realized that when I read hindi, it always gives me the feeling of reading something sacred, distant and something I should not offend by trying to understand. Its nice to get a fresh perspective.
I don’t think there is a language more moralising than hindi, especially when it comes out of Narendra Modis mouth, or my fifth standard hindi teacher, the poor lady could never sell her language to us. I have always wondered, did hindi borrow the comma, the question mark etcetera from english? Ah, and commas, if only I knew where they went, too bad I never needed to learn to pass my exams in english. If people think english is just a language, just a tool, they are terribly wrong, it divides people and societies, prevents country men from understanding each other, in my school we had the manchester- united worshiping- chilli- pepper- singing- not- knowing- where -the- comma goes -can’t -write- a- piece -of- writing-to-save-their-lives- but- don’t- need -to- to- pass -the- exams group, and the other group, unable to speak to English, or specifically the slangy spoken english, speaking in their minds a much more sophisticated language, that unfortunately didn’t travel as much historically, crushed by the dominance of this job-giving language. “words are the planks on which we traverse the abyss of our minds” said the french author. How do I know why Indian men and women behave this way or that if I don’t know what they are reading as children? What do they find funny? How can I connect if all I feel is guilty about not having read enough Shakespeare to understand 17th century britain? It took me to come to a country that resolutely does not speak english to understand what it is to live in one language, from end of the spectrum to the other, where a language represents centuries of thought about how people live, behave with each other. When these moralizing idiots come at me, I don’t know where they are coming from, and what they grew up on, unfortunately I grew up on the slimy froth that America spat at me through my childhood, spread thin over endless hours of senseless television, and it continues, making me wish I could one day go there to master the twang of their lazy accents, to colleges where “real” education happens, oh what power it is to make someone do something without forcing them, all this which has nothing to do with being Indian, and which reinforces the cultural hegemony sold in the perfumed garb of “open-ness”, “liberal-ness” an “modern-ness”, Oh! if only I could go to United states and be in New York City! Oh! then I can come back and criticise a country I do not understand in a language they do not understand. Isn’t education great?
I hate the word “understand”, it is almost as if someone who knows how to ride a bicycle tells you that you don’t understand how to ride a bicycle. The word “understand” is the biggest farce in the educational system, we don’t understand, we get used to, at different speeds. This is why children can spend hours playing “in the midst of ” pebbles, and find it impossible to play with numbers, because they are expected to understand. An understanding is what other people have.
“Old English understandan “comprehend, grasp the idea of,” probably literally “stand in the midst of,” from under + standan “to stand” (see stand (v.)). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning “beneath,” but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- “between, among” (source also of Sanskrit antar “among, between,” Latin inter “between, among,” Greek entera “intestines;” see inter-). “
I find it upsetting that when I read a book that my eyes are reading it from left to right, but my mind is reading it in unfinished concentric circles, some circles are small, which are quickly completed, but sometimes my mind is too lazy to complete them, and some are longer, but my mind puts in the effort to complete the circles, because it gets excited about completing them, and some circles never complete, too tedious, too unimportant, or so it seems at first glance.. In any case this left to right system of writing needs to be changed. the person who has written the book has perfected, drawn and redrawn the circles in his mind, whereas the reader is compelled to enter very high radius circles unnecessarily quickly in his reading process, this is particularly true in dense books. Perhaps writing should happen in fragments, so the simple circles are quickly completed. The manner in which books are written should adapt to how the mind works, and not vice-versa, a whole new literature, “written in concentric circles” needs to be evolved. This is especially true for books trying to teach us things, so that the vague cloudiness of the mind can juggle the symbols in front of it without having to trudge through it.
Language plays a significant role in sophistication. In the link here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdKAVE0frIM an english actress describes how she played a prank on a friend of hers by placing a bit of chocolate in between the persons buttocks while he was sleeping. Everybody on the set here is very glamorous, well dressed, well spoken, famous actors, this is a 5- minutes bit to show the british and the world public what it is like to be glamourous. The english the lady speaks is delightful to hear, such is the draw of her expression, that one finds the otherwise silly and even stupid story, charming. The expressions used in the middle like “and yet I was still after the rush of doing it”, “and then the horror horror horror”, “and it just sort of unfurled so well”, “no but I loved them dearly but”, “oh…Kate you’ve put chocolate in my bottom” render the récit so fluid, and, o heck why not use the word, mellifluous.You can see here that I am trying, in vain, to make my description sound lovely, and well written too. But thats another (related) problem. My point more specifically here is that I simply cannot imagine this conversation happening in Hindi or another Indian language. A public craves sophistication, it wishes to live via the television, vicariously (am I using this fancy word correctly?) a life it cannot live, it also wishes to be told what sophisticated is, because they see a good in it, to mock it, to emulate it, to envy it, to behold it. Ah! if only my such-and-somebody could be as sophisticated as that actor I saw. There are “fancy” stars in cinema in India, but they dress like the west, they speak english (certainly not as well), but If I think of sophisticated, I see the word “sophisticated”, I don’t know the word in hindi, and I certainly don’t know what the equivalent of this extraordinary display of charm and language would be IN hindi. But there was a sophistication in India, because there were emperors, there was word play, but a bollywood star does not treat himself as an indian emperor, in this context Shahrukh khan is very specifically NOT a badshah, but a poor man’s brad pitt, the equivalent of a talk show in India, is just a bad version of this, there is no mellifluous hindi, no awe inspiring display of charming word play. So if they don’t present us with an distinctly indian sophistication, the adoring fans won’t aspire for it, and everybody will treat this (wonderful) thing as the definition of sophistication. This leads to an alienation of a people with its past, with its sophistication. This explains why I, and many others of my age, were never attracted to hindi, it isn’t the language’s fault, its the glitteratis fault. Even cuss words, I have never learnt a fancy insult in hindi, or heard it said with a sharp, cold and penetrating manner. I wish for an indian sophistication I never experienced, somebody robbed it from my country, the world will be richer for it, I want to also envy a distinctly indian kind of “poshness”, to repeat in my head a particularly well expressed idea, to use it on a friend, to learn to be haughty in hindi. I have had enough of dhishum dhishum and grammatical mistakes, lets go back to the emperors, we aren’t going to find indianness written in english, I don’t care how much they insist that english is a mere “tool” or “vehicle”. I am annoyed with the american centrism of the world, the world would be a much happier place with several cultural centres. They should be made to modify “the sexiest woman alve” to “the sexiest woman alive…in our part of the world”. The fact that we lap up their stuff with eagerness is because the alternatives aren’t real. I don’t like it that we treat indian culture as tourism, as a sort of thing to be preserved, visited, but not to put our hands into and play around with. Culture, in english, comes from the idea of a seed in dirt being watered and grown, not a seed kept in a box, labelled, looked at and earned money off of by selling to foreigners. First step: what is the etymology of the word for “culture” in Hindi.