Of What’s Actually Being Spoken in India Today

The following quote is out of this highly illuminating discussion: http://www.bangalorenotes.com/dakhni.htm. This explains all of my experience with Indian languages. It arrives that virtually everything you actually hear in India today, in every context, is none of the languages that you find in books, including travel guides, about India. What’s universally still spoken in India today is Dakhni, the lingua franca of the medieval Deccan, because that’s what all the official languages have in common, and if you want to communicate, rather than to represent yourself as the partisan of a particular ethnic group, that’s what you speak. Today’s official Hindi is just not spoken, even by those who claim it as their mother tongue, because its rococo grammar makes real-world communication impossible.

The ‘Ugly’ North Indian

Visitors from north India’s Hindi belt are often puzzled by the contradictory signals they get about Hindi in south India. On the one hand, they feel that every one understands them in the street–rikshawalas, shopkeepers, bus conductors and so on. Some of these visitors, like the Ugly American, patronizingly approve that the natives are speaking a tolerably understandable Hindi!

On the other hand, they find strong anti-Hindi feelings among the middle-class educated people. They conclude that actually Hindi is understood and ‘accepted’ by the common man in the south but it is being opposed by the ‘vested‘ interests who want to keep English alive for a better edge in the job market. So English, and for the leftists among them ‘imperialism’, is the enemy and they try the ‘Angrezi Hatao’ movement. Of course none of these ‘movements’ make a dent in the non-Hindi regions.

The problem with these people is that they think that Hindi is ‘their’ language, which is inherently so good that the rest of India has accepted it as the national language. They endlessly quote Rajgopalachari or Acharya Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay for this purpose. In fact they are again puzzled that these stalwarts of Hindi later denounced Hindi chauvinism.

They fail to understand that the ‘Hindi’ that they hear in the South is actually Dakhni and that it has a much older literary history and in fact was the source of inspiration for modern Hindi to emerge as a literary language. The ‘lingua franca’ of India is not ‘their’ Hindi but the street Hindi that evolved from Dakhni and reached the Indian masses, through the Parsi theatre and the Bombay film industry. It is ‘their’ highly Sanskritized Hindi that is opposed all over the non-Hindi region. In fact, Acharya Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, in his article ‘Bharater Rashtra Bhasha Chalti Hindi’ even proposed Bombay Hindi as a national language whose ‘grammar can be written on a post card’! ((“Bombay Hindi” = Marathi with three Hindi roots added on, and yes, grammar that you can actually speak does have its advantages. Marathi is the most direct descendant of Sanskrit spoken in India today, and if India’s cultural leadership had any shakti (balls) about itself, this would be the official language of India. -vshr))

The Inheritors of Dakhni Language and Cultural Tradition

In the final analysis, it is not the modern Urdu and Hindi that have inherited the tradition of Dakhni. As Dr. Veer Bharat Talwar has shown in his book ‘Rassakashi’, Muslim and Hindu upper-class people fought with each other for getting jobs in colonial India in western U.P. For this they used the struggle for use of Hindi (written in Devanagari script) in government work replacing Persian (written in Persian script). This resulted in the Hindu-Muslim divide with its tragic consequences. It also led to Urdu becoming a language of the Muslims with Persian and Arabic words, and Hindi as a language of Hindus with Sanskrit words replacing the commonly spoken words. Hindi and Urdu have become the standard language, and therefore the language of power or as some linguists call the standard language, the language with a gun! These standardized languages have carried power, sectarianism, hate and violence! This Hindi has grown at the cost of more than a dozen languages in the “Hindi Commonwealth” (a term used by Acharya Kishoridas Bajpai) making their speakers second-class citizens in their own land. How can such a language serve as a national language to unite Indians?

The true inheritor of Dakhni is the language of the common people, often called Hindustani, which the vast majority of the working people, particularly in urban India, understand. Its literary tradition continued in modern India through Parsi theatre, Hindi theatre in general, and the Bombay cinema and Hindi film lyrics. Some authors in Hindi still write in people’s language and the ‘chap’ literature (religious tracts like Kabir Ke Dohe) sold on the pavement and rural weekly markets and popular magazines still use this language. This language carries the common composite cultural tradition of India, a culture of love, assimilation and tolerance.

What’s important here is that it tells us where to find the written forms of what we hear in India today – it’s in the junk literature you find on the street, political propaganda, popular religious tracts (like some of those comic books that are in the reading rooms at MPR), and the subtitles of Indian movies, and it will almost invariably be in Devanagari script, because that is the most widely used script in India, and that script is authentically official, because, don’t you know, it is actually “from the gods.”

Avatar Meher Baba ki Jai,
Vishveshwar

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