Words speak louder than actions in Bihar

A language is neither good nor bad; superior or inferior. Language is an evolving cultural experience, which is connected to experience through memory.

Published: 02nd April 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st April 2023 08:51 PM   |  A+A-


Bihar Chief Minister and JDU leader Nitish Kumar. (File Photo | ANI)

The BJP has competition from a new Anglophobe. Last week, when his eyes fell on the harmless words ‘honourable’ and ‘speaking time’ on a notice board inside Bihar’s Legislative Council, chief minister Nitish Kumar became apoplectic: “Hindi ko khatm kar dijiyega kya (Do you intend to finish off Hindi)?” he shouted.

A month ago, mushroom farmer Amit Kumar said “government schemes” and got it in the neck. “What is this? Can you not say sarkari yojana?” snapped the professional political peregrinator whose own sarkari yojana included travelling from party to party without rising from the chair for 15 years.

The hapless Amit was only sucking up as is the normal practice of neophytes on a public stage, lauding Nitish’s governance juice that allowed a management graduate like him to throw up a cool corporate job for a career in farming in Bihar. Instead of beaming brightly as any neta does when praised, Nitish grabbed the mike and yelled at the brownnoser, “Aapko yahan bulaya gaya hai sujhav dene ke liye aur aap aadhi angrezi bol rahe hain. England hai yeh? Arre yeh Bharat hai na ji? Aur yeh Bihar hai (You have been called here to offer your suggestions, but you are speaking half the things in English. Is this England? This is India, and we are in Bihar).”

Then came the googly, “Jab se Corona aaya hai… sab mobile pe jo dekhne laga hai…Apni purani bhasha ko bhool jaa raha hai.. Naya naya shabd bol raha hai (Since Coronavirus came, people have taken to mobile phones and are starting to forget their language…they are speaking new words).” Who would have thought a politician will blame the Coronavirus for people talking in English and forgetting Hindi?

A language is neither good nor bad; superior or inferior. Language is an evolving cultural experience, which is connected to experience through memory. Speaking in English or Greek or Tamil doesn’t mean other tongues are secondary.

Had Amit spoken in Maithili, Bhojpuri or Magadhi, would it make him less Bihari; like talking in English has made him less Bharatiya by inference? Maybe Nitish is hoisting the BJP on its own petard by playing Lingo Lego -- it has been the saffron prerogative to try and impose Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking Indians.

Or he is an entity in search of an identity: like Naveen Patnaik, he belongs neither in the Opposition nor in the country’s ruling party. While Patnaik is happy in Bhubaneswar tending to his state, Nitish is a regional politician with national recall. When coalition politics became a thing in India, it made him a pan-Indian player. Now, he is using language politics to reincarnate as a regional nationalist.

The burden of leaders is to find new enemies or find new ways to slingshot old enemies. Kumar’s fertile brain did both. This is what happened: as Amit began talking during his five minutes of fame, Nitish’s Broca’s area, located in the front part of the left hemisphere of his brain, passed on the information to its motor cortex, thereby bringing into play Wernicke’s area placed in his temporal lobe just behind his ears to understand and process Amit’s syco(phant)-babble.

Using a nerve cluster called arcuate fasciculus that connects both ‘areas’, Nitish understood Amit’s concept in English. Then his motor cortex reacted, taking the info from Broca’s area and ordering the muscles of his face, mouth, tongue, lips and throat to move together to fulminate in Hindi. The brains of both men reacted in the same manner even though the languages spoken were different. Go figure.

Ravi Shankar can be reached at ravi@newindianexpress.com


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