Loving Your Mother Tongue and Being Parochial

Recently my wife and I were travelling from Bengaluru to Bhubaneswar by a flight operated by a leading private airline in India. While flight took off, we were told by an announcement that the Pilot, Co-Pilot, and three of the cabin crew (out of the four cabin crew on that flight) were from Bengaluru. Then we were told that flight crew can speak in three languages i.e., English, Hindi and Punjabi! So all those who hailed from Bengaluru did not speak ‘Kannada’!!!!

This put me off a bit. But it is a true that many of the Bangaloreans do not speak Kannada. Go to any shop in a Mall in Bengaluru, you may have to converse in Hindi to communicate with the salesperson there (who is most likely from one of the North Eastern or Eastern States). Even many of the eating joints in these Malls, including those serving ‘Udupi’ dishes will have staff hailing from Nepal or from North Eastern or Eastern states.

Then, is it too much to expect people of Bengaluru to speak in Kannada? Then, is it not a fact that Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city? Language, in a cosmopolitan environment, often takes a back seat and what becomes important is the act of communication with the sole purpose of getting the things done or to do business! As long as the person at the other end understands what you want to convey, it’s OK.

I am a Kannadiga but have spent most of my working life outside Karnataka. While I was in the North East, I was posted in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. I did not pick-up any Assamese, Khasi, Bengalee and Mizo while being there. Then I was posted at Kolkatta (it was Calcutta at that time) and managed well without learning Bangla (Kolkatta residents really love South Indians and go extra mile to make them comfortable!). Thereafter, I was posted in Hong Kong and then in Mauritius. In Mauritius, my kids picked up the local dialect, but not me. Next came my posting at Mumbai and in seven years I spent in Mumbai, I hardly picked up any Marathi.

Then I moved to Middleast, first Kuwait and then Qatar. I am yet to learn Arabic, though I did seriously try.  I am not proud of this fact but I am in good company, as most of the expats here do not understand or speak Arabic.

While learning the local language is very much desirable for outsiders, being parochial in this aspect may not be desirable at all. This is mainly because insistence on local language dealings might bring in obstacles in getting needed talents, in integrating with the global economy and ultimately in achieving progress. World is fast moving towards transacting in languages such as English, which is a foreign language to many. Yet, people learn English as it is the medium for higher education, language for computers and mobile handsets!

Let’s learn as many languages as possible but let’s also not force our language on others!

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