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Speak the mother tongue? What about your father’s tongue? Won’t matter either way if the cat’s got your tongue


The new National Education Policy emphasises primary education in the mother tongue. The medium of instruction up to Class 5 should preferably be the mother tongue. In our country where all things female are generally not given much priority, it’s good to see mother take priority over father for once.

But citizens are now plunged into a quandary over what exactly is their mother tongue. In an India where marriages are increasingly inter-state, where mom and dad could be from south and north, if mother prefers ‘Vanakkam’ and dad is yelling ‘Ki farak painda’ is one’s mother tongue Tamil or Punjabi? Also, if one is living in Mumbai and speaking the language of the Mumbaikar, isn’t it more likely that instead of either Tamil or Punjabi, we will invariably ask, ‘Aati kya Khandala?’ Even in cosmopolitan Bengaluru, it still makes sense to break language barriers and speak Kannada with locals. IT experts from Bihar, Bengal and Kashmir are therefore asking, ‘Hegiddira?’

We desis speak in many tongues. So many of us are living in a default English universe, with English on smartphones, on social media and in sports. We’re evolving updated versions of Hinglish, Bonglish and Tamlish. Rajiv Gandhi said in famous Hinglish about general elections: “Hum jeetenge ya hum losenge.” The famous ad line about a variety of chips packets was: “Humko Binnies Mangta.” Given that English coaching classes are mushrooming across India, many are clearly demanding: Humko English mangta.

However, the misadventures of English in India are many. The sign, “Road Undering Work in Progress” has been seen for road repair work, not to mention the highly risque instruction seen in some homes, “Walk from backside only.” But these are only the birth pangs of a new language being born, in playgrounds, colleges, markets and malls. Films with Hinglish titles like Love Aaj Kal or English Vinglish are popular. In the 1981 hit film, Ek Duuje Ke Liye southerner Kamal Haasan fell in love with northerner Rati Agnihotri even though, alluding to the language divide, he sang “I don’t know what you say.”

In multilingual India, few of us really know what our mother tongue is anymore. Importantly, in times when free speech and open expression are being severely curtailed whether mother tongue or father tongue, it won’t really matter if the cat’s got your tongue. These days we’re mostly forced to remain tongue-tied.

DISCLAIMER : This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.



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Written by Owais Khan

I am an Artificial intelligence engineer and data scientist.

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