From the other end of the political spectrum, consider the communist Hiren mukherjee, who was a prolific writer and polemicist in both Bengali and English. A thinker-politician who, at first glance, may seem to have been an aberration is Rammanohar Lohia. To be sure, lohia called for the abolition of English from educational institutions and in public life, and, at the same time, for the countrywide promotion of Hindi. However, lohia advocated not monolingualism but multilingualism. He asked for school instruction to be provided in the mother tongue, but insisted that children must, in addition, learn two other languages—Hindi, and either a foreign language or another Indian language. He saw the need for an international language, to be used in communications between nations, but was not convinced that this had necessarily and for all time to be English. The role had been played by French in the past; and would, he thought, perhaps be played by russian or Chinese in the future.
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Bilingualism was here a vehicle or something larger and more enduring—namely, multiculturalism. In these respects Gandhi and Tagore were wholly representative. Before them there was Sir syed Ahmad Khan, who moved between Urdu and English as he strove simultaneously to make the British more sensitive to muslim interests and Muslims more willing to engage with modernity. After them there was. Ambedkar, who wrote in Marathi for a local constituency, and in English for the rest of India and for the world. Ambedkar knew his tukaram, but also his John Stuart Mill. To take another example,. Rajagopalachari is still admired for his English style; but few now know that he was a pioneering essayist and short-story writer in Tamil. He knew his Kural, but—as he once reminded an interviewer—he had also read administration Thoreau wallpaper well before he met Mahatma gandhi. Savarkar also wrote books in English, as well as plays and polemical tracts in Marathi.
When he visited Germany in the 1920s at the invitation of his publisher, kurt Wolff, his host remembered the universal breadth of Tagores learning, their conversations revealing without doubt that he knew far more of the west than most of the europeans he encountered knew. Tagore had spoken, among other things, of the work. It is quite remarkable, said Wolff, that someone born in India in 1861 should display such an interest in and grasp of an Anglo-American poet thirty years his junior. Like gandhi, tagore learnt as much from about his travels as from his books. He spent long periods in Europe, visited Japan and the United States several times, and also went to China, south-east Asia, iran, and Latin America. Iii, for, gandhi, and for Tagore, the foreign language was a window into another culture, another civilization, another way (or ways) of living in the world. For them, the command of a language other than their own was a way of simultaneously making themselves less parochial and their work more universal. Their readings and travels fed back into their own writing, thus bringing the world to bengal and Gujarat, and (when they chose to write in the foreign language) Bengal and Gujarat to the world.
His important and still relevant essays on relations between East and West were either written in English or translated by a gender colleague under his supervision. Tagore understood that while love and humiliation at the personal or familial level were best expressed in the mother tongue, impersonal questions of reason and justice had to be communicated in a language read by more people and over a greater geographical space than Bengali. By summary writing in English as well as their mother-tongue, gandhi and Tagore were serving society as well as themselves. They reached out to varied audiences—and, by listening to their views, broadened the bases of their own thought. This open-mindedness was also reflected in their reading. Thus Gandhi read (and was influenced by) thinkers who were not necessarily gujarati. The debt he owed to ruskin and Tolstoy was scarcely less than that owed to raychandbhai or Narsing Mehta. Gandhi was also enriched by the time he spent outside gujarat—the several years in England, the several decades in south Africa, the millions of miles travelling through the Indian countryside. On his part, tagore was widely read in European literature.
Gandhi wrote his books in Gujarati, but made certain that they were translated into English so as to reach a wider audience. And when required he could use the conquerors language rather well himself. His first published articles, that appeared in the journal of the vegetarian Society of London in 1891, were written in the direct and unadorned prose that was the hallmark of all his work in English, whether petitions to the colonial government, editorials in his journals. Indian Opinion, young India, and, harijan, or numerous letters to friends. In writing in more than one language, gandhi was in fact merely following in the footsteps of those he had criticized. For Bal Gangadhar Tilaks mother-tongue was Marathi, a language in which he did certainly publish essays. On his part, rammohan roy had published books in Persian and essays in Bengali before he came to write in English (he was also fluent in Sanskrit and Arabic). As for Tagore, this man who shaped and reshaped the bengali language through his novels and poems, made sure that his most important works of non-fiction were available in English. His major political testmament, nationalism, was based on lectures he wrote and delivered in English.
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Tagore pointed out that Rammohan roy could be perfectly natural in his acceptance of the west, not pdf only because his education had been perfectly eastern,—he had the full inheritance of the Indian wisdom. He was never a school boy of the west, and therefore he thai had the dignity to be the friend of the west. If he is not understood by modern India, this only shows the pure light of her own truth has been obscured for the moment by the storm-clouds of passion. Tagores letter to Andrews was released to the press, and read by gandhi. His answer was to say that he did not object to English learning as such, but merely to its being made a fetish, and to its being preferred as a medium of education to the mother-tongue. Mine is not a religion of the prison-house, he insisted: it has room even for the least among Gods creation.
Refuting the charge that he or his non-co-operation movement were a manifestation of xenophobia, he said: I hope i am as great a believer in free air as the great poet. I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off by any. These words are emblazoned in halls and auditoria across India, but always without the crucial first line: I hope i am as great a believer in free air as the great poet. In truth, despite this argument in theory, in practice gandhi and Tagore were more-or-less on the same side.
Gandhi argued that of all the superstitions that affect India, none is so great as that a knowledge of the English language is necessary for imbibing ideas of liberty, and developing accuracy of thought. As a result of the system of education introduced by the English, the tendency has been to dwarf the Indian body, mind and soul. One does not know whether the mahatmas anonymous friend was content with this clarification. But someone who was less than satisfied with Gandhis views was the poet Rabindranath Tagore. He was then travelling in Europe, where he received, by post, copies of Gandhis articles.
Tagore was dismayed by their general tenor, and by the chastisement of Rammohan roy in particular. On the 10th of may, 1921, he wrote to their common friend. Andrews saying I strongly protest against Mahatma gandhis depreciation of such great personalities of Modern India as Rammohan roy in his zeal for declaiming against our modern education. Gandhi had celebrated the example of Nanak and Kabir, but, as Tagore suggested, those saints were great because in their life and teaching they made organic union of the hindu and Muhammadan cultures—and such realization of the spiritual unity through all differences of appearance. In learning and appreciating English, argued Tagore, ram Mohun roy had merely carried on the good work of Nanak and Kabir. Thus in the modern age ram Mohun roy had that comprehensiveness of mind to be able to realize the fundamental unity of spirit in the hindu, muhammadan and Christian cultures. Therefore he represented India in the fulness of truth, and this truth is based, not upon rejection, but on perfect comprehension.
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I can multiply instances. Was Guru govind a product of English education? Is there a single English-knowing Indian who is general a match for Nanak, the founder of a sect second to assignment none in point of valour and sacrifice? If the race has even to be revived it is to be revived not by English education. A friend, reading the press reports of this talk in Orissa, asked Gandhi to explain his views further. Writing in his own newspaper, the mahatma clarified that it is my considered opinion that English education in the manner it has been given has emasculated the English-educated Indian, it has put a severe strain on the Indian students nervous energy, and has made. The process of displacing the vernaculars has been one of the saddest chapters in the British connection. Rammohan rai would have been a greater reformer, claimed the mahatma, and lokmanya tilak would have been a greater scholar, if they had not to start with the handicap of having to think in English and transmit their thoughts chiefly in English.
And neither of us can pretend to a third language at all. Ii, let me move now from the personal to the historical, to an argument on the question of language between two great modern Indians. In the month of April 1921, mahatma gandhi launched a broadside against English education. First, in a speech in Orissa, he described it as an unmitigated evil. Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Rammohan roy would, said Gandhi, have been far greater men had they not the contagion of English learning. In Gandhis opinion, these two influential and admired Indians review were so many pygmies who had no hold upon the people compared with Chaitanya, sanker, kabir, and Nanak. Warming to the theme, gandhi insisted that what Sanker alone was able to do, the whole army of English-knowing men cant.
of the national Library, his nurturing of a national information system, and his pioneering histories of publishing and printing. However, his taste for languages was shared by many other Indians of his generation who did not necessarily require those skills in their jobs or careers. My own father, for instance, who was a paper technologist by profession, speaks English and Tamil well, and Kannada and Hindi passably. He also has a reading knowledge of French and German. On the other hand, mukul Kesavan and i are essentially comfortable in English alone. We can speak hindi conversationally, and use documents written in Hindi for research purposes. But we cannot write scholarly books or essays in Hindi.
At periodic intervals he would turn to me, otherwise a silent spectator, and pointing to his son, say: makku! Those were words that mukul, born in Delhi of a hindi-speaking mother, did not himself understand. They meant, roughly and respectively, imbecile and lunatic. Kesavan knew that I lived in Bangalore, that both my parents were tamil, and that one of my great-uncles had been a tamil scholar. Thus, when his sons stupidity (real or alleged) could not be adequately conveyed in their shared language, namely, english, he took recourse to his mother-tongue, which was also theoretically mine. The emphasis must be on summary theoretically. My great-uncle the tamil scholar used to write postcards asking me to learn Tamil and lead a simple life. I failed him wholly in the second respect, but have down the years managed to pick up a few dozen words of Tamil, among them makku and paithyam.
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Source: ml (downloaded July 2014 very slightly edited for clarity, typos corrected, etc., by fwp. Economic and Political weekly, january 23, supermarket 2010. The rise and Fall of the bilingual Intellectual. Ramachandra guha, this essay is inspired by an argument between the scholar-libarian. Kesavan and his son mukul that I was once privy. I forget what they were fighting about. But I recall that the father, then past ninety years of age, was giving as good as he got.