Macauley’s Legacy- I

[Note:- I write about India, or Bharat if you may. Bharat’s politics, culture, society, revolutionaries, I have written everything, about India, for Indians. But It’s ironical that i have to use a foreign language- English, to share my thoughts with my fellow countrymen! I thought about it, but could not find single good reason. More i think, deeper i get into the complexities and after effects of Slavery which we faced and still face. Writer in me would not allow me to stop with a short post and my readers would hate me if i carry on my rant. So, i will break it into parts. Special thanks to my blog-buddy Tikuli Dogra who coaxed me into writing something which i wanted to since a long time.]

I was traveling in Delhi Metro and reading a Hindi Newspaper. The college going girl sitting besides me gives a glance, first to the newspaper, then at me and i see pure disgust on her face. And why not! She was reading Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series which she considered was infinitely better than reading a hindi daily! The incident was an eye-opener. Images of people sitting in a plush office in a conference appeared in front of my eyes. Proceedings are in pure English, or what people can pass for pure English! It also reminded me of my countless visits to the various book-shops just because i love to read Hindi written by Narendra Kohli or Sharatchandra. When inquired, shopkeeper sheepishly said, “Sahab, ab Hindi padhta hi kaun hai? Shayd Purani dilli me kitaab mil jaaye.” And why should i accuse others when even i am guilty! If, by god’s grace, some unknown girl asks me for directions, i would obviously reply in English! Talking in fluent English is the hallmark which emphatically states I am literate! But am i?

I do not even know any of the Indian languages. Hindi was taught to me in school but even upon forcing myself i cannot recall anything about संज्ञा or सर्वनाम today! I am sure that 70% of the people reading this post would even not remember क ख ग घ till the end. And i bet 90% of youngsters living in metropolitan cites would consider १९४७ as something alien! . We do not have good command over any of the Indian languages! I am a Hindustani for god’s sake! And that too a proud one! I should have known my language if not anything else!

By discarding our native languages, i state native because of the deepest respect for all Indian languages which have 1000′s of years of development behind them, we choose to mimic an alien civilization try to associate with them. To reject your cultural inheritance out of genuine conviction after being shown its flaws and argued about them , is one thing, and to blindly follow an alien culture out of a sense of inferiority is quite another. Former is the act of courage but the latter is just being a mere caricature of what somebody else wants you to be.

I need to know why Indian elite speaks English and people who don’t know English are considered bloody fools? I need to understand why in a nation whose only 23% population speaks English, has all its important road signs, directions or vehicular numbers written in English? Are they not meant for being read by so called non-elite ‘intellectuals’? Why a man in his good senses can not read Dainik Jagran instead of Times of India? Why cannot i proudly speak my own language which majority of my people speak? Why do people judge others educational qualification based on how well can he speak English? And finally, why are we so crazy about a language which is spoken only in a handful of nations namely USA, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada? The search for answer takes us back in time.

Lord Macauley sailed for Bharat in February 1834 on a ship called ‘The Asia‘. On the ship he did not talk to anybody and tried very hard not to come close to the ‘Dark-Skinned’ people. Above all he was also proud of his scholarly abilities, and why wouldn’t he? He did write a remarkably well-argued essay on the desirability to convert heathens to Christianity! It was not very surprising considering the fact that his father, Zachary Macaulay, was the editor of the evangelical magazine, The christian Observer, and wanted his son to serve the Church. A great orator, he impressed the house of commons and in 1932 gained entry into the ‘Board of Control for India’ as one of the commissioners. In 1833 he was appointed as the Member of the Supreme Council to govern India with a princely package of 10,000 Pounds annually. Now, as the Asia sailed towards a people who, according to him, were sunk in the depths of slavery and superstition, Macauley sat down laying a plan to civilize the land of savages with English and Christianity. Little did he know his legacy would be continued 176 years after he set foot in India.

The future of India’s linguistic destiny fell into Macauley’s lap as soon as he arrived in India. In Calcutta, The committee of Public Instruction, set by the British to prescribe an education system to civilize Indians was deadlocked five against five. One set of people, The Orientalists, wanted education in India to be based on classical languages, Sanskrit, Persian etc. ; The others wanted the elementary education to be based on English. The Supreme council appointed Macauley as the president of this Committee in January 1835 to break the deadlock and he took very little time to do so. On 2nd February 1835, he recorded his infamous minute rubbishing everything and anything Indian.

“The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound Philosophy and true History, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English farrier [note: a horse shoe] -Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, History, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long, and Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter.”

Lord Bentinck, instantly approved Macauley’s ideas and hypothesis of whites being far more superior race than the Browns and Blacks.

All public funds henceforth would be used in spreading English: no new students seeking admissions in any oriental schools or colleges would be provided stipend or scholarship, no govt. money would be used in printing anything in the native languages. Five new English medium schools were to be immediately started in Bengal.

This was the start of various ‘English Medium Schools’ you see in almost every town and village of India.


(To be continued.)