While India is free from British rule, it is yet to be free from the hegemony of angrezi.
Angrezi, that is English, is more than a language of words in India. It is a language of status.
As old hierarchies dissolve, angrezi is a fine moat to build. In a country where it is easy to be disappointed, every kid learns that without angrezi they can’t be smart. After all, angrezi writers are more successful, angrezi medium schools are better, restaurants with waiters who can say “good evening” can charge more and life is better if you call your boss “sir” instead of “sahib”.
Adoption of angrezi costs more than one generation. The first generation in a family to learn angrezi, finds an impersonal professional tool. This generation learns to appreciate good grammar and uses a limited vocabulary for predictable situations.
The generation that follows, knows angrezi well enough to ignore its grammar, read books, write essays and letters in it. They are encouraged by family members to do so. They will be asked to recite angrezi poetry as a sign of culture.
The generation that comes next finds a step-mother tongue in angrezi. Even to read traditional Indian stories and history, this generation prefers the angrezi version. It takes time to grasp the accent of shows and movies. Here it learns about houses with attics, weekend hobbies, overpriced coffee and beneficial friends via dating apps. This generation grows up feeling they can compensate for effort with their fluency of language. They will call themselves a shade of “modern” as they mimic trends of newly fashionable english.
Indian angrezi thrives on superfluousness. Since english is a language of global sales and pretentious job interviews, it manufactures plenty of bullshit. Whether it is in finance or fashion, sophisticated words are found to describe simple things. It is not just the words, but also the accent with which it is spoken. All advertising for exotic vacations, diet supplements are created with an english accent.
Due to globalization, non-english speaking nations sold cheap products to build a solid economy and bring people out of poverty. The angrezi speaking India sold cheap labor to build a shaky economy and keep people in poverty. A western customer buys Asian products while a western employer employs Indian angrez. Only the products have improved with time.
While considered to be a land of great thought and grand ideals, the foremost sector of economic activity in India is software. It is incorrectly referred to as “technology”. The model is to go to an english speaking nation and use angrezi to win projects to be completed by fellow countrymen. This enables translation of angrezi into a fat profit margin.
This is called “outsourcing” in english while it is called “innovation” in angrezi.
Angrezi software is dependent on the leftovers of high wages in the english speaking world. The economy is going to get a rude shock as professionals from further disadvantaged countries pick up english. Similar things happened to angrezi call centers. Millionaires were created from the call center boom and bust, billionaires have been created by the software boom.
People think that angrezi should grow because it is a language with a global economic incentive. This reduces national identity to a matter of economic calculation. If Japan replaces the english speaking economic hegemony, will angrezi medium schools teach Japanese ?
Like yesterday’s newspaper, religion generates no current interest. Today’s spirituality is spread by angrezi yoga gurus.
The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. Whether they were sincere in seeking knowledge of yoga is not certain, but one thing became clear: spirituality is good for music sales. Another discovery was that Indians, while having shunned their own culture, will pay well to hear it praised from a low melanin foreigner. Especially with a sanskrit garnish. After all, regular english sounds good to those who are used to the ankush of angrezi Indians. New age Indian gurus, like Bollywood music producers, got inspired to use angrezi.
These gurus are usually ignorant of ancient Indian texts but they know getting a low melanin follower increases popularity among countrymen. They do not bother learning regional or national languages since these languages have low ROI. But they are constantly telling audiences of the greatness of indigenous books which they can’t read.
Gurus commodify Hindu spirituality for an audience abroad and stupefy a domestic audience with angrezi. All the while saying that their preaching is agnostic. They grow long beards for additional effects.
Even in monotheistic circles, angrezi preachers are in vogue. They develop a following abroad due to the patronization of skin deep diversity and then set up shop in India as ignorant scholars with certified international recognition.
The Indian constitution (like this piece) awkwardly begins as “India, that is Bharat…”. Such phrasing reflects the internal conflict to describe an ancient civilization with leaders bred in a foreign tongue. The tongue is not the language of the masses. But India’s lawmakers and lawyers usually owe a lot of their reputation to its reverence.
This is the country of Shakuntala. A lady who argues for her rights accusing the most powerful person in the land in front of his own court. In such a country, the highest court of India conducts all business in angrezi. Can such courts judge every Indian as equals, ever ?
Language is the expression of culture. We process the world in the words we learn to use. Angrezi is a headache from the colonial hangover. It needs to be brought down to become english. We don’t need to do dramatic steps like removing it or cutting it.
In older times, privileged groups would display their status with visible tokens. Now, they do the same with audible angrezi.
What they don’t realize is that angrezi atyachar is not an act of murder, rather an attempt to suicide.
No tyrannical language lasts forever. We need to make angrezi less tyrannical by removing institutional barriers for people of Indian languages. Like democracy, languages should be of the people, by the people and for the people.